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Habitat for Humanity’s Unveils Plans for Ambitious Five-Nation “Mekong Build” As 26th Annual Carter Work Project

BANGKOK, 16th May 2008: Habitat for Humanity International’s 26th annual Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project will be held in the Mekong River region in November 2009.

The Carters will join thousands of volunteers in building houses and bringing attention to the need for decent and affordable housing to countries along the Mekong River. The event will also launch a five-year Habitat for Humanity campaign to assist families across this part of Southeast Asia.

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Heading for the Mekong: Former US President Jimmy Carter hands over the symbolic trowel to the hosts of the 2009 Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project, Thailand’s Dr. Chainarong Monthienvichienchai, a member of Habitat’s international board of directors and vice chancellor of St. John’s University in Bangkok, and (far left) HFH Thailand’s chief executive Panida Panyangarm. The handover took place at the closing ceremony in the US Gulf Coast, site of the 25th Carter Work Project, on 15th May 2008.

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Coming to the Mekong: former US President Jimmy Carter and First Lady Rosalynn on a build site in Pascagoula, Mississippi, USA, one of the sites of this week’s Carter Work project.

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The Mekong region – defined to include Vietnam, Yunnan province in China, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia – has seen significant economic growth in the past 20 years. Yet it is still home to some of the poorest families in Asia. Nearly one third of the population of an estimated 250 million lives in poverty, many living on less than the equivalent of one US dollar a day.

“Rosalynn and I are pleased to travel to the Mekong region to join volunteers from around the world in 2009,” said President Carter, speaking at this week’s annual Carter Work Project, held in the US Gulf Coast. “Together during the week, we will help hundreds of families into decent housing and bring attention to a region where many people live in deplorable poverty.”

The week-long 2009 building project will secure homes in partnership with an estimated 300 families. It also will begin a five-year Habitat for Humanity initiative to assist 50,000 families across the five countries by engaging corporations, individuals and partner organizations in the fight to end poverty housing.

“The need for affordable housing is immense in the Mekong region,” said Jonathan Reckford, chief executive of Habitat for Humanity International.  “We look forward to bringing worldwide attention to this issue through the Carter Work Project and to working alongside these 300 families and assisting thousands more throughout the five-year campaign to improve lives through homeownership.”

Plans for the event include builds in northern Thailand, where Habitat for Humanity Thailand runs a successful program working with tribal families; in rural communities in Yunnan, southwestern China; in southern Laos; in slum areas of the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh, and in communities along the Mekong delta in southern Vietnam.

“Habitat for Humanity has a strong and growing presence in all the Mekong countries through a wide range of housing solutions,” said Richard Hathaway, vice president for Habitat for Humanity International’s Asia-Pacific region. “This project will provide a significant boost to those programs to serve even more families in need of decent shelter.”

The 2009 Carter Work Project will mark the fourth time the former US president and his wife have built with Habitat for Humanity in Asia.  Previous Carter Work Projects were held in India in 2006, in South Korea in 2001 and in The Philippines in 1999.

This year, the event – the 25th – was held in the US Gulf Coast to help with the ongoing recovery efforts after 2005’s hurricanes Katrina and Rita. 

The closing ceremony in Biloxi, Mississippi, USA, involved the traditional passing of the trowel to the hosts of the next Carter Work Project. Thailand’s Dr. Chainarong Monthienvichienchai, a member of Habitat’s international board of directors and vice chancellor of St. John’s University in Bangkok, and HFH Thailand’s chief executive Panida Panyangarm, were on hand to receive the trowel.

Habitat’s annual project also was renamed the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project to recognize the former first lady’s years of dedicated service.