Building a decent place to live

20 Aug

BUILDING A DECENT PLACE TO LIVE  I recently joined an American Global Village volunteer team at a Habitat for Humanity Vietnam build in My Tho City at the Mekong Delta. The group of volunteers were aged from 16 to 70 and travelled from all corners of the United States to contribute to the construction of a new home for a family in need.

Habitat for Humanity’s vision is: “A world where everyone has a decent place to live.” The organisation provides low-cost housing, renovations, water and sanitation and disaster response for poor families across the world. In Vietnam, Habitat has served over 7,000 families. There are still around four million Vietnamese families living in sub-standard and undignified housing.

Me and the beneficiaries of one of the houses built in My Tho City. The children now have a secure roof, strong walls and a sanitary toilet.

The volunteers laid foundations, bricks and painted window frames. It was hard work in sweltering heat and they contributed to the build for two weeks. It doesn’t seem like a long time, but it was long enough to see a house built from the ground up to the roof. It was  also more than enough time to become emotionally involved with the family and the community.

The beneficiary families contribute to the build alongside volunteers and neighbours often provide snacks and food during breaks. Volunteers are also encouraged to interact with children as cultural exchange is one of the highlights of the experience. The children pictured thanked volunteers by making them jewellery out of banana leaves. During one day, I received rings, necklaces and a series of bracelets which I always received with an enthusiastic “cam on” which means “thank you”.

At the end of two weeks, a hand-over ceremony marked the end of the volunteers’ contribution and the beginning of the last phase of the project. Local skilled labourers assumed responsibility for the construction of the house. It was an emotional ceremony for all parties involved – volunteers, beneficiary families, neighbours, Habitat construction supervisors and local authorities. Both the families and volunteers spoke about emotional bonds and memories that will last forever.

You can learn more about Habitat for Humanity International at http://www.hfhi.org or Google to locate your local branch of Habitat to learn how you can get involved.

By Marissa Toohey

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