Sakina the breadwinner

As the main breadwinner, Sakina could start building a better life for her family after becoming a Habitat homeowner in Bangladesh.

Habitat homeowner Sakina catching up on work at home in Bangladesh

Sakina has come a long way since she was a young bride of 17. She took on the responsibility of providing for her family after her husband had a stroke in 2011. Now she earns about 3,500 Bangladeshi taka (US$40) a month as a community health worker in pregnancy and newborn care with a national development organization.

In the early days of her marriage, home was her parents-in-law’s house in Bhandarikathi, a village in Barisal district, south-central Bangladesh. When her two brothers-in-laws started their own families after marriage, the house became more crowded.

Sakina and her husband Alomgir were able to have their own living quarters before their first child was born. The traditional house was given by her husband’s family. It had bamboo pillars and walls made of elephant grass and corrugated galvanized iron sheets for its roof.

Sakina and her daughter Sadia in front of their old house in Bangladesh

When her family was living in their old house, Sakina had to send her son and daughter Sadia (right) to their neighbor’s house whenever it rained heavily.

The family’s income used to come from a tea stall that Alomgir ran in the local market. His business was doing well until he had a stroke and became partially paralyzed. Sakina struggled to pay for her husband’s medical bills while caring for their son Rakib, then aged 10, and their one-year-old daughter Sadia.

After a relatively long period of treatment, Alomgir, 48, has recovered to a certain extent but he can neither exert strength nor work for too long. By making or repairing fishing nets, he can make about 400 to 500 taka (US$5-$6) a month.

Sakina recalls: “We had quite a nice home for several years. However, as time went by, our home became worn out, rusty and broken in several places. We needed to repair the old home very often, especially during the monsoon, to stay dry.” During heavy rains, the couple had to cover all their belongings with polythene sheets and send their children to a neighbor’s house for safety.

Alomgir would also get colds and coughs and he was not the only one. “With a damp floor, poor air and inadequate light, the house was unhealthy and our kids would get sick,” says Sakina.

(Left) Alomgir repairing a fishing net; (right) Alomgir with his wife Sakina outside their house.

Alomgir makes and repairs fishing nets at the house that he shares with Sakina (right) and their two children. Photos (main and above): Habitat for Humanity Bangladesh/Pablo Amos Halder.

It was only after she became a Habitat homeowner in May 2019 that she could focus on the future. About three months after moving in, Sakina constructed a room at the back of the house for her son Rakib, now 19, who is studying sociology in a local college. Her daughter Sadia, 9, is a student in the third grade.

“This new home has improved our health and significantly reduced medical costs. My dream is for my kids to complete their education and be established in life,” Sakina shares. “This house has given me the foundation to build a better life for my family,” she says, adding that she is happy and confident about the future.

Sakina’s family is among five families in Bakerganj upazila, Barishal district, who built homes under the partnership between Habitat Bangladesh and the Ahmad Family Fund. That project also supported a total of 40 home renovations and installation of three deep tube-wells. Since October 2017, the partnership has enabled more than 380 families in five districts to improve their lives through decent housing and adequate water and electricity access.

In two decades of working in Bangladesh, Habitat for Humanity has partnered with over 1,200 families to build strength, stability and self-reliance through shelter. Visit habitatbangladesh.org for more information or follow facebook.com/HabitatBD

Habitat homeowner Sakina catching up on work at home in Bangladesh
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A person of substance

Meet our families

Across the Asia-Pacific region, families such as Naresh’s partner with Habitat for Humanity to build or improve a place they can call home.

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Meet our families

I continue to stand tall

Despite her difficulties and health issue, Kimchheng can build a better life with her son in a decent, secure home.

Habitat homeowner Kimchheng at home in Kandal province, Cambodia

Kimchheng knows how tough it is to be a single parent on low income. “When my husband died, I went through many difficulties,” the 40-year-old fruit seller recalls. “But I continue to stand tall.”

She has been raising her son Tibe on her own since he was two years old. He is now 18 and they live in a house that Kimchheng helped build in 2017. Since then, she has found refuge in her home in times of sickness. She is also more ready to welcome visitors to her home in Kandal province, Cambodia. This was not the case in the past.

For more than a decade, they had lived in a small house with mud floor and a leaky roof. A light rain would turn the floor into a muddy puddle. When it rained heavily, water would seep in and rose knee-high. Both mother and son also suffered from diarrhea.

Kimchheng says: “In our old house, I felt fearful whenever I had to leave my son and our possessions behind to go to the market. The old house wasn’t secure because we didn’t have a proper door and the walls had holes.”

Despite such living conditions, Kimchheng could not afford to build a new house. Most of her US$25 monthly earnings from selling fruit in a nearby market went to Tibe’s education and their daily needs including food.

(Left) Kimchheng and her son Tibe in front of their Habitat house; (right) their old house that leaked during heavy rains

(Left) Kimchheng and her son Tibe in front of their Habitat house; (right) their old house that leaked during heavy rains. Main and left photos: Habitat for Humanity Cambodia/Soung Bunna.

Her opportunity for change came when she partnered with Habitat for Humanity Cambodia to build a new home. Together with Habitat volunteers and local skilled workers, Kimchheng constructed a wooden house on stilts, in the traditional style.

She also learned about ways to improve her family’s health through the water, sanitation and hygiene training by Habitat Cambodia. With access to grid electricity, she no longer has to use her motorbike’s battery for power.

Kimchheng, who is living with AIDS, gets her medicine from the local health authorities. Her neighbors would bring her food whenever she is too sick to work. “With this house, we feel more secure. I don’t have to worry about our belongings or about my son’s safety,” she explains. “When it rains, we know we’re in a safe place.”

Tibe has chosen to study English after school. Both mother and son smiled as they looked at each other. Kimchheng says: “Having our own home has eased my burden. I’m able to save money now so I could set up a fruit stall near our house. As for my son, he can focus on his studies. He can be a mechanic or an electrician.”

“When it rains, we know we're in a safe place.”
— Kimchheng, Cambodian homeowner

Kimchheng and Tibe are among 578 vulnerable families who partnered with Habitat for Humanity Cambodia to build safe, decent homes in the “Chapadem Chivet Thmey” (Khmer for New Start, New Life) project in Phnom Penh and Kandal, Siem Reap and Battambang.

Homeowners also improved their awareness of water, sanitation and hygiene standards, learned about home maintenance, and received livelihood skills training. Funding support for the project that ended in June 2019 came from Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade through Habitat Australia.

Since 2003, Habitat Cambodia has enabled over 90,000 families to build strength, stability, and self-reliance through shelter. Find out more at habitatcambodia.org or follow facebook.com/HabitatCambodia1/

Kimchheng feeding chicken in front of her house in Siem Reap, Camnbodia
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Standing tall

Embracing self-reliance

Shirin is actively creating a better life for her family by rearing goats and tending to her fruit garden. “Even at home, I can do some work and raise my family.”

Shirin on the porch of her home in Taragai village, Mymensingh district, Bangladesh

Shirin, 38, remembered the first time her family of four entered their new home in January 2019. “I cleaned the room, brought in our clothes stand and belongings, and offered prayers and thanksgiving to the Almighty for this happy moment.”

Shirin, her husband and her younger children live in Taragai village, Mymensingh district, north of Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka. Her previous house was made of thatch and bamboo and salvaged tin sheets. During the annual monsoon season, rainwater would leak through the roof and walls, making the earth floor muddy.

In a safe and secure home, Shirin is actively creating a better life for her family. While her husband Mostofa, 45, goes to work as a bus conductor, she is busy tending to her fruit garden around her house. In summer, she can harvest jackfruit, mango and pomelos.

At the back of her house, she keeps two goats and a pair of pigeons that will eventually be sold in the local market. A goat can fetch up to 750 taka (U$9) while a pair of pigeons can be sold for up to 300 taka. After moving in, her family income has increased to 8,000 taka a month from 6,000 taka previously. “Even at home, I can do some work and raise my family,” Shirin shares.
 
“I want my children to get education and have full lives,” she adds. Her sons Mobaraq, 8 and Akbar, 12, are studying in local schools. Her daughters Tashlima, 18, and Tanjila, 21, are already married and live in other villages in Mymensingh with their own families.

Since October 2017, the Ahmad Family Fund and Habitat for Humanity Bangladesh have enabled 13 families including Shirin’s in Mymensingh to build strength, stability and self-reliance through shelter.

Habitat first began working in Bangladesh in 1999 with its first project in Mymensingh. Since then, more than 1,200 families have been supported with decent homes, housing renovations, community toilet and bathhouses, walkways and drainage systems and a series of capacity building and awareness raising training. Find out more at habitatbangladesh.org or connect via facebook.com/HabitatBD

“Even at home, I can do some work and raise my family.” — Shirin
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Shirin on the porch of her home in Taragai village, Mymensingh district, Bangladesh
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Ties that bind

Buddies Prangon and Dipu, who grew up in Habitat homes in Bangladesh, hope their children will continue the friendship.

Prangon and Dipu are good friends who live in Raghurampur village, Mymensingh, Bangladesh

Living next door to each other, Prangon, 17, and Dipu, 19, have been good friends since they were young. Their families were among the first homeowners in Mymensingh district when Habitat for Humanity Bangladesh started its first-ever housing project there in 1999.

Their mothers shared a bond in watching their sons grow up. “I was so happy to hear Prangon call me ‘mama’ for the first time. It was the first word he uttered here at home,” says Kamona, 36.

When she got married at 16 or 17 years old, she had to leave the comfort of her parents’ house. Both she and her husband, Apu, 42, had the same goal of building their own home. It was fulfilled when they moved into their Habitat home in January 2002.

Dipu’s family became Habitat homeowners slightly earlier, in November 2001. His mother Joyantee, 40, recalls: “In this room, I first taught Dipu how to write. It was a proud moment for me as a mother.”

(Left) Dipu with his mother Joyantee; (right) Prangon with his mother Kamona

(Left) Dipu with his mother Joyantee; (right) Prangon with his mother Kamona. All photos: Habitat for Humanity International/Ritwik Sawant.

In Raghurampur village, where Dipu’s and Prangon’s families live, houses are traditionally made of straw and tin sheets. When the weather was hot, the houses provided little comfort. During the rainy season, leaks caused other problems. Families had to spend money making annual repairs that did not last.

Partnering with Habitat Bangladesh, each family had repaid 450 taka (US$5.40) per month toward the 42,000-taka cost of their house. Typically, a family took an average of six years to repay the loan.

Prangon’s family repaid their loan in November 2011 with what his father earned from selling cosmetics, stationery and other products. “I felt relieved after completing the loan payment. I didn’t have debt any more. We could finally say that now we fully owned our home,” says Kamona, Prangon’s mother. 

Dipu’s mother Joyantee devotes her time to caring for her children while her husband Sanjib, 50, runs a tailoring business near the local market. She keeps the house spick and span and often cooks her children’s favorite food — sweet porridge and biryani rice.

“The sacrifice is all worth it. And it’s meaningful to have a house that our children will inherit as they establish their own families. That’s the ultimate happiness for us,” Joyantee says

Dipu playing with his nephew with his grandmother and mother Joyantee watching on

Dipu playing with his nephew with his grandmother and mother Joyantee watching on

In turn, their children have a lot of fond memories growing up in their homes. Dipu recalls: “When we were young, we would play hide-and-seek together with my brother and sister, and we would hide under the bed. We also enjoyed a game of carrom, when we were not busy with schoolwork.”

For Prangon, food held a special place in his heart. He says: “We enjoyed eating the pomelos and coconuts from nearby.”

Now in the twelfth grade in a local college, Dipu is studying to be a chemist. He likes exercising and does pull ups using steel rings suspended from a tree beside his home. An eighth grade student, Prangon enjoys reading books and playing the guitar.

“I hope to expand our home when I get a good job,” Dipu shares. “Our children will also grow up together as friends,” Prangon quips.

Habitat for Humanity Bangladesh continues to work with families to build strength, stability and self-reliance through housing. Find out more at habitatbangladesh.org or connect via facebook.com/HabitatBD

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Prangon (left) and Dipu are good friends and neighbors in Raghurampur village, Mymensingh district, Bangladesh
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