The Habitat for Humanity (HFH) - Mekong Big Builds, Vietnam 2013 achieved its goal of 25 houses built for vulnerable families in Cho Gao District, Tien Giang province.
The event was kicked off by a welcome dinner on 4th August attended by about 250 people including the future homeowners, local government partners, HFH staff, local logistical volunteers and the190 international volunteers who flew to Vietnam from New Zealand, Australia, Japan, the US, Cambodia, Germany, Singapore and China.
Kelly Koch, HFH Vietnam’s country director, Tran Thi Thu Thuy, Deputy Director of People’s Aid Coordinating Committee (PACCOM) HCMC, Huynh Van Tinh, Vice Chairman of the Tien Giang Union of Friendship Organization (TUFO) and Member of the National Assembly and Le Minh Nhut one of the 25 future home owners formally welcomed the volunteers by taking turn on the stage amid a colorful dragon dance for good omen and a beautiful performance by Arabesque dance ensemble.
"Thank you for sharing our journey toward improved lives and a brighter future for this beautiful community." Kelly Koch, Country Director, Habitat for Humanity Vietnam
As young as 16 and as old as 81, the teams of international HFH Mekong Big Builds volunteers consisted of grandmothers, cancer survivors, students, professionals, retirees and life-long volunteers. They worked relentlessly side by side the future homeowners to help HFH Vietnam reach its goal of 1 week, 25 houses!
“It’s hot and it’s humid, but there is nowhere else I’d rather be”, said Jackie Hintz who through her organization, Thrivent Builds, has been involved with Habitat for Humanity for the last 15 years. Although her first time in Vietnam she participated in 9 HFH builds to date.
Japanese volunteers with home-partner and HFH Vietnam staff at the build site
Noriko Nakayama from Japan, on her third HFH build, is a 20 years student of International Relations and South East Asian Economics at Meiji-Gakuin University in Tokyo. She was the leader of a 32-student team from Japan who built 3 houses. She especially liked the opportunity to meet people from so many different countries and hopes to be able to educate people in Japan about Vietnam.
The grace of 81 years old Ngatuakana Wichman did not take away from her dynamic and diligent presence on the site. By far one of the most inspiring volunteers, she already built twice in New Zealand and once in Bangladesh and is planning to build in Nepal next. Ngatuakana felt comfortable in Cho Gao’s beautiful countryside which resembles that of her native Cook Island. She was impressed by how hardworking and resourceful the Vietnamese people are and hopes the new generation will keep up.
Dr. Nguyen The Son and Dr. Than Trong Loc from Family Medical Practice were on site as a precaution to provide medical services to anyone injured during the build. Fortunately the build proceeded without major incidents. Dr. Son was particularly impressed by the volunteers’ empathy for, and dedication to, helping communities so far away from them.
The U.S volunteers work hard at the site despite the unfavorable weather
Representatives of the People’s Aid Coordinating Committee (Paccom), Nghiem Tuan Anh, 23,from Hanoi and Dao Viet Dung, from HCMC joined build activities with the local and international volunteers, HFH Vietnam’s staff and future homeowners. “Learning first hand about the struggles some people face, makes me respect them even more. I feel I’m doing the right thing and I hope to build again in the future” said Mr. Tuan Anh at the end of a laborious build day.
Build activities came to a close after an emotional and intimate house dedication ceremony held by the individual teams at the respective homes and a closing ceremony at the Hoa Dinh Primary School in Hoa Dinh Commune which operated as a base-site throughout the week thanks to the support of School Principal Chau Hoang Nghiep and his management team. Among the event highlights were the handover of ownership titles to the now proud homeowners and acknowledgement speeches by government partners. Also the volunteer teams, and HFH Vietnam’s staff alternated each other on stage with songs, dance routines and an especially daunting Haka dance by the New Zealand team.
Ms. Huynh Nhi Ha expressed her happiness and appreciation to the volunteers, HFH Vietnam and local authorities
Huynh Nhi Ha, now a proud homeowner, took the stage to deliver a heartfelt and moving speech. She once again thanked the volunteers, HFH Vietnam and local authorities. She promised to do right by the kindness shown by providing a loving and nurturing environment to her children and by making sure they take full advantage of the opportunity received.
The Mekong Big Builds was carried out in partnership with the Tien Giang Union of Friendship Organization (TUFO), the People’s Aid Coordinating Committee (Paccom) and the People’s Committee of Cho Gao District.
To learn more about Habitat for Humanity Vietnam’s home partners and ongoing programs please visit us at:http://www.habitatvietnam.org