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Bit by bit, a family’s fortunes rise -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

Bit by bit, a family’s fortunes rise

There are few better examples of the Habitat model of incremental home building through sensible saving than Vatsana and Bounliane Kettavong, one of the home partners at the Laos site of the Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project 2009.

On day 1 of the Carter project, the Kettavongs were joined by the U.S. ambassador to Laos, Ravic Huso, and a mix of local and international staff and volunteers from Thailand, Australia, Korea and the United States. Ambassador Huso (left) talks with his fellow volunteers about the pains, toils and successes of the day.

 


When their first child was born in 1999, Vatsana and Bounliane knew they needed a secure home for their growing family. Vatsana, then a junior security guard in the village of Ban Chansavang—about 10 miles outside the Laos capital, Vientiane—and Bounliane, a kitchen assistant in a city hotel catering to an international business clientele, began saving a little money each month.

By 2002, the Kettavongs had put away enough to buy a small plot of land close to schools, a health clinic and hospital. They started building in 2003, beginning with a single room with a bamboo and thatch roof. The next year, they doubled the size of the room and replaced the bamboo with corrugated iron sheeting, which is more weather-resilient but poorly insulated. In 2005, the Kettavongs were able to buy roofing tiles, and the corrugated iron was reused for their next project: a well-ventilated kitchen and a sanitary bathroom and toilet. When their son was born in 2006, the couple set about building internal walls for a proper bedroom.

Now, with their son in preschool and their daughter attending primary year 5, the Kettavongs are ready to expand again to give their children a place to study and play. Vatsana is now head guard for the village security service, and Bounliane is assistant chef at Taipan Hotel.

When the Kettavongs sought out Habitat’s technical expertise for their front-room addition, Habitat Laos and and its partner organization, the Community Development and Environment Association, recognized that the Kettavongs had a special “something,” and they became the project’s feature family.

On Day 1 of the Carter project, the Kettavongs were joined by the U.S. ambassador to Laos, Ravic Huso, and a mix of local and international staff and volunteers from Thailand, Australia, Korea and the United States. With the entire Kettavong family working alongside the volunteers, the ambassador organized the workers into bucket lines that delivered more than 2 meters of fill to the foundation of the home’s extension.

By the end of the day, the family and their co-workers were smiling, shaking hands and embracing, struck by what they had achieved.