Shelter stories

Today, more than 1.1 billion people live in slums and other informal settlements where they have limited access to basic services such as clean water, sanitation and electricity.

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Shelter stories

Creating a positive impact

Youth supporters of Habitat Young Leaders Build share what motivates them to take meaningful action.

MANILA (Feb. 5, 2024) — “I want to take meaningful action in helping build and strengthen the community, leaving behind a positive impact on those who are less privileged,” said Jerhuy Shen-Puoy, a volunteer student from the International School of Phnom Penh. He was among more than 13,000 people in eight countries who supported Habitat for Humanity’s largest youth movement in the Asia-Pacific region in 2023. About 470 families were served through the construction of 95 new homes and the repair of three community facilities. Supporters also raised a total of more than US$257,000. During the multi-month Habitat Young Leaders Build, Jerhuy helped Habitat for Humanity Cambodia in rallying other young volunteers in fundraising and constructing decent homes.

Youth volunteer Jerhuy Shen-Puoy in Cambodia

Jerhuy Shen-Puoy, pictured on a build in Cambodia, has the community in mind when he extended a helping hand.

Helping neighbors
Local volunteering remains a strong component of the campaign that is currently in its 13th year. Students and young professionals work alongside community members to construct new houses, declutter, deep clean or repair orphanages and homes of families in vulnerable conditions.

In India, Habitat’s youth ambassador and Miss India 2019 Muskan Lund led fellow youth in supporting the campaign. A volunteer with Habitat since 2015, she speaks up and raises funds for the cause of affordable housing in India.

Others showed support in different ways. The Canadian International School of Hong Kong donated HK$45,000 (more than US$5,700) and their students helped older people to improve their living conditions through Habitat for Humanity Hong Kong’s Project Homeworks.

International impact
The 2023 campaign also marked the return of international youth volunteering in select countries since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Habitat for Humanity Japan sent more than 270 youth volunteers to Cambodia and Vietnam through the Global Village program. Besides building homes alongside local families, the volunteers also learned of the country’s housing need and the impact of inadequate housing on a family’s safety, health and financial stability and children’s educational opportunities.

Juntoku Koda with other Japanese volunteers on a build in Cambodia

Juntoku Koda (bottom left) with other Japanese volunteers on a build in Cambodia

“I was shocked by the reality that some families cannot live together because they do not have a decent home. At the same time, I realized that even we, as students, could help so that the family could live under one roof,” said Juntoku Koda, a student at Hosei University who worked on homes in Cambodia. He quoted a future homeowner saying to the volunteers on the last day of their build, “Thank you for coming from Japan to build our home. Now we can live with our children. It’s like a dream come true.”

Ryusei Masuda (third from left) with his certificate of participation in a build in Vietnam

Ryusei Masuda (third from left) with his certificate of participation in a build in Vietnam.

Ryusei Masuda, from another Japanese team, shared about his experience in Vietnam. “Building a house means building a future.”

2024 campaign

The latest campaign was launched on International Volunteer Day on December 5, 2023, with a social media activation. In February 2024, Habitat will turn the spotlight on the need for secure, affordable housing. The online event “Amplified,” an initiative of the 2024 Habitat Young Leaders Build campaign, will showcase the winning housing solutions of five young leaders and provide an opportunity for volunteers to virtually interact with other young leaders in the region. Please support the campaign by contacting the local Habitat office in your locality.

Habitat Young Leaders Build
Creating a positive impact
Japanese youth volunteers with future homeowners in Cambodia

Creating a positive impact

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Japanese volunteers with future homeowners on a build in Cambodia

Empowering women through housing finance

A report “Her Home II” outlines challenges and provides recommendations for women accessing housing finance in Ghana, Senegal and Indonesia.

INDONESIA (June 2023) — In Indonesia, only one in five women in rural areas could claim to own their homes, as a 2023 report on housing finance in select countries showed. Nurhayati, who lives in West Java province, had to put on hold her dream of building a new home though she already bought a plot of land. Due to the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, her husband’s weekly earnings dropped to one fifth of what he used to make. He had to take on construction jobs to make ends meet.

While Nurhayati stayed home to take care of their three children, she was determined to improve her family’s living condition. She took out loans totaling 20 million rupiah (about US$1,280) from Indonesian microfinance institution KOMIDA to build a two-bedroom house incrementally. Nurhayati succeeded despite the hurdles that Indonesian women faced in accessing housing finance. The challenges included lower participation in the workforce, greater likelihood of informal work, and lower incomes than men.

A report “Her Home II: Housing Finance for Women in Ghana, Senegal, and Indonesia” by the International Finance Corporation, launched in mid-2023, highlighted these challenges. Ghana and Senegal were the other countries featured. The report included data from research on Indonesia that were provided by Habitat for Humanity’s Terwilliger Center for Innovation in Shelter. The Terwilliger Center has been working in Indonesia with microfinance institutions to develop and grow the scope of housing finance products targeted at female-led households.

The estimated housing finance market size for female-headed households in Indonesia totals US$51.88 billion. Of this figure, nearly 80% is for new housing demand while home renovations and extensions make up the rest of the housing finance loans.

Some of the key findings for Indonesia in the report are:

  • A majority of women in Indonesia, both in rural and urban areas, do not have the title to their property. Formally, the percentage of female rural dwellers owning their home drops to less than 4%. This lack of assets (which could be used as collateral), limits women’s capacity to apply for loans on their own.
  • Less than half of working-age women are employed. Based on the cultural norm, women are expected to manage the household and raise children. Lower participation in the workforce, greater likelihood of informal work and lower incomes than men hamper women’s to formal lending.
  • A significantly higher proportion of women saved money compared with men in Indonesia. However, men were more likely to use banks, while women tended to save more outside of the financial system, which makes underwriting women’s savings much more difficult when they request loans.

Recommendations for Indonesia, which overlap with those for Ghana and Senegal, include the following:

  • Provide new business models that rapidly and efficiently expand housing finance access for women who work in both informal and formal sectors.
  • The use of gender disaggregated data can help financial institutions to develop customized solutions for women.
  • Gender-based targets can help ensure equitable distribution of government funding in the housing sector.
  • Develop incentives for land tenure and property registration in women’s names so women can pledge property title as a collateral for housing loans.
  • Increase access to housing finance for women. Not only does this grow the economy but it also improves women’s financial resilience. Housing finance is also a largely untapped market for financial institutions in developing countries.
Empowering women through housing finance
Nurhayati standing in front of her new home in Indonesia that she built with housing finance loans

Empowering women through housing finance

A report “Her Home II” outlines challenges and provides recommendations for women accessing housing finance in Ghana, Senegal and Indonesia

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Nurhayati at her home in Indonesia's West Java province

Lifetime achievement

It took 10 years but Sreang helped ensure that his family and other residents of an informal settlement in Cambodia’s Battambang city could access secure tenure.

This story is part of a series marking Habitat for Humanity’s 40 years of building homes and building solutions in Asia and the Pacific.

BATTAMBANG, Cambodia (October 2023)
— After a decade of fighting for secure tenure for his community, Sreang is satisfied with the outcome. “My big achievement is the success of getting the land certificate, I own the land. I am happy to get the land and build a house,” said Sreang, 74, a community leader who lives in Battambang, one of Cambodia’s most populous provinces. According to an ESCAP report, rapid migration and urbanization has resulted in the formation of more than 60 informal settlements in Battambang city. Like Sreang, many informal settlement residents live along roads, or riverbanks, railway tracks and private land.

Since 1985, Sreang’s family and more than 60 other families have been living on a public road in Battambang city in northwest Cambodia. These families are under constant threat of forced eviction and often live in precarious conditions. Their lack of land titles deters the government from authorizing any upgrades to the informal settlements such as access to water, drainage, road, waste management and other housing conditions.

Led by Sreang as head of the residents’ committee, the Ponler Prek Preah Sdach informal settlement community took 10 years to reach an agreement with the local government to be allocated land. It involved long hours of numerous meetings and discussions between the residents’ committee and community members, and the committee with government representatives.

Ponler Prek Preah Sdach informal settlement in Battambang, Cambodia

It took a decade before Sreang and other families in his community, who live along a public road in Cambodia’s Battambang city, could be allocated land. Photos: Habitat for Humanity International/Raymond McCrea Jones.

Unanimously, 55 of the families agreed to move to one side of the road. In return, each family received a 32-square-meter plot of land from the Battambang provincial government in 2015. Some families were living on more land before the allotment, others on less land. Those with more land were willing to share their land to receive their land certificates that provided security of tenure and protection against forced eviction. The project requires Sreang and other community residents to live 10 years on the allocated plots of land before the Battambang provincial government will grant land titles to the families.

With his land certificate as a proof of secure tenure, Sreang was able to get a loan of up to US$10,000 from Habitat’s microfinance institution partner, KREDIT and CBIRD. The money was used to buy a small truck which Sreang’s son-in-law refurbished to become a mobile ice cream store.

The following year in 2017, the families partnered with Habitat for Humanity Cambodia to construct their homes together with more than 250 volunteers in a weeklong build. “I remember the volunteers who came to help me build, I still have a photo of them in front of my new house,” Sreang shared. His eyes welled up when he described the dilapidated condition of his old house. In the rainy season, it would be flooded due to the lack of a proper drainage system. Sometime dangerous insects and venomous snakes would come into the house.

Habitat also supported Sreang and other community members to get access to basic services such as water and electricity. Community Empowerment and Development, a local nongovernmental organization that partnered with Habitat Cambodia, trained the community to build proper drainage systems.

Sreang (center) and his wife Vanna look after their grandchildren

Sreang (center) and his wife Vanna looking after their grandchildren.

Without having to relocate, the residents could build adequate housing on land that will belong to them. Residents in the community could continue working close to the city as cooks, barbers, drivers, welders and carpenters. Their children go to a school nearby. The families can buy fresh food from a local market and go to a local hospital for medical services.

Currently, Sreang lives with his family of 12 in Battambang city. He and his wife Vanna, 71, are taking care of their grandchildren whose parents have gone to Thailand for work. The COVID-19 pandemic had taken a toll with some of his children losing their jobs. His sons who are working abroad send him money for living expenses.

This community is one of four existing communities of Sangkat Prek Preah Sdach, where Habitat works to build awareness on land rights; provide land tenure security; strengthen partnership in social land concession; and provide housing solutions and support services.

Sreang continues to be active as the community leader. “My committee worked closely together, cooperating, not finding fault of putting blame on others when things go wrong, we find ways to bring people together.” He helps to maintain unity in the community by mediating between neighbors who may have conflicts over division of land, sharing of resources, relationships and financial matters.

In 2025, Sreang and his neighbors will finally receive land titles that give them and the future generations secure tenure. “My neighbors are grateful to me, I’m very grateful to them, we supported each other to get the land,” he said. Sreang shared that he has asked his children not to sell the house and land after his passing.

Lifetime achievement
Sreang and his wife Vanna at home in Cambodia's Battambang province

Lifetime achievement

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Sreang and his wife Vanna at home in Battambang, Cambodia

Asia-Pacific Urban Dialogues

Learn more about policy solutions for adequate housing in informal settlements from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Indonesia, the Philippines and Cambodia.

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Asia-Pacific Urban Dialogues

Journey to homeownership

“No one should be deprived of a home,” says Mohan, a former informal worker who is now a teacher and an advocate.

This story is part of a series marking Habitat for Humanity’s 40 years of building homes and building solutions in Asia and the Pacific.

DHANGADHI, Nepal (September 2023)
— Without a secure and affordable home, Mohan might have remained as an agricultural worker. Low wages, poor working conditions and a lack of social security would have been his lot, like the millions of people employed in Nepal’s informal sector.

A key conversation, however, opened the door to lasting change. Now Mohan teaches in a government school and advocates for the rights of marginalized communities. Home is a two-story house that he shares with his wife and two of his children.

Mohan recalled meeting a staff member of Habitat for Humanity Nepal in February 2001. He learned about Habitat’s partnership with low-income families to build decent homes. “It was as if the field had spoken to me, and the wind had delivered a message.”

Together with several families, his family worked with Habitat Nepal to build new homes in Dhangandi, a sub-metropolitan city in the far western Sudurpaschim province. During the five-month construction process, Mohan and the other future homeowners encouraged and supported one another.

Mohan’s two-room home was built on a 3-feet, solid stone foundation that was considered ambitious in those days. The brick walls were plastered with cement with timber beams supporting the house’s structure.

Mohan expanded his one-story house in Nepal by another story

Mohan retained the original wooden windows while expanding his home. Photos: Habitat for Humanity Nepal/Abisek Bista.

More than two decades after moving in, their house is now two-story high with eight rooms and two kitchens. “As our family grew, we added more rooms while keeping the original wooden windows,” says Mohan. His family rents out the ground floor and uses the rooftop for storing grains, drying laundry and taking in sunshine during the winter months.

There are other areas of growth. “Despite belonging to a marginalized community, I have earned the respect of others over time, thanks to those who gave me the courage to pursue my dreams.” Mohan beamed when he spoke about his children Khagendra, 20, and Dichha, 12. His eldest son Nirmal Kumar lives on his own due to his job.

While Mohan is a teacher, he is passionate about advocating for the rights of vulnerable people such as former bonded laborers. “No one should be deprived of a home,” he declares. He also calls for improved access to health services and vocational training for these communities.

Sharing about his homeownership experience, he says, “It was a challenging journey, but the support and guidance of Habitat for Humanity Nepal gave me the strength to persevere. Today, I am proud to stand in front of my own home and marvel at how far I have come.”

Habitat for Humanity has been working in Nepal since 1997. In fiscal year 2022, more than 230,000 Nepali individuals have partnered with Habitat Nepal to build or improve a place they call home. Visit or connect on

Journey to homeownership
Mohan and his family have lived for over 20 years in their house in Nepal

Journey to homeownership

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Mohan (third from left) and family at their house in Dhangadhi, Nepal
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