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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Aussie charity helps house Khmer Krom

Aussie charity helps house Khmer Krom

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Kampuchea Krom landholders undergoing verification during the drawing of the lots for their land allocation.

An anonymous Australian private charitable foundation is funding a $582,000 project

to provide simple, decent, affordable homes for hundreds of poor families in Cambodia.

Habitat for Humanity International in Cambodia, a non-profit Christian ministry devoted

to eliminating substandard housing, has secured funding worth more than $400,000

from the foundation, which does not wish to be identified, to build new homes for

264 Kampuchea Krom families, most of whom left Vietnam in the early 1980s.

The Kampuchea Krom project, which will use Habitat's Save and Build model, is located

in Kok Kleang village, Russey Keo district. The project will run for four years and

started on April 1, 2004. It is the first Habitat for Humanity project to be implemented

since Habitat Cambodia was registered with the Cambodian Foreign Affairs Ministry

in January 16, 2003.

"We are delighted to have such a generous supporter to help us help some of

the poorest families in one of the poorest countries in Asia," said Michael

Pailthorpe, director of Habitat for Humanity Australia. "The foundation funding

helps Habitat's work in Cambodia to get off to a flying start, just one year after

starting in the country".

The "Save and Build" model is an innovative way for low-income families

to own their own homes. It brings together low-income families in a community to

form a savings group. The group, usually 10 to 12 families, saves money and materials

together; when a group has sufficient savings to build one house, Habitat normally

provides matching loans to build two more, and construction on the three houses commences.

In the Cambodian project, the Australian foundation is to provide all the matching

funds.

Construction and saving continues until all group families are housed. A cycle normally

take about two years. Groups elect their own leaders, often women, to manage and

monitor members' savings, decide which families are housed in which order, and provide

sweat equity volunteer labor for construction.

After the group has built all their houses they continue to pay off their outstanding

no-profit, no-interest loan to Habitat. The repaid moneys become part of a revolving

fund to assist future "Save and Build" groups.

The 264 Kampuchea Krom families that will be assisted have already begun to be formed

into some 22 saving groups to save for core housing loans. The families previously

saved towards the acquisition of their own land.

"The Save and Build program is relatively new in Cambodia and is challenging

to implement. The Kampuchea Krom community should be commended for taking on the

opportunity to be part of a worldwide effort in eliminating poverty housing"

said Enrica Aquino, Cambodia country representative of Habitat for Humanity International.

Habitat Cambodia is active with the launch of the save and build program and partnership

with other NGOs. It is also partnering with Bileg Community Outreach International,

which is working in Anlong Kngan resettlement area of Sen Sok village, Russey Keo

district, Phnom Penh. Three saving groups or 36 families are being assisted to buy

back land ownership documents from moneylenders. Simultaneously while paying back

their Habitat loans, they will be saving an amount toward house renovations.

Habitat for Humanity Cambodia plans to establish a building and training center to

provide practical technical assistance for home owners and groups interested in eliminating

substandard housing.

Habitat for Humanity International has a presence in 92 countries and territories

and has built more than 150,000 houses around the world, providing more than 750,000

people in more than 3,000 communities with safe, decent, affordable shelter.

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