In Tien’s mind, she does not know how to pronounce Grant Thornton correctly; however, she is mindful of holding every good memory she had got with the volunteers from “Gờ-Tê” (*the way she pronounced GT in Vietnamese).
When first encountered the new house built by her own hands and the volunteers, she found a sheer bliss. The new house has heralded a new page of life with the likelihood of stability. “I work endlessly without thinking that we would have a nice house like this. The only thing I could think of is how to make ends meet for daily living,” shares Tien, 33. With the mason’s monthly income of around 3 million VND (127 USD), a house at that time was beyond her reach. Now her income rises up to 4,5 million VND (191 USD) per month.
In her memory, an owned house she has been living for years was dilapidated of improper roof and floor. The house covering around 20m2 consisted of rotted materials while the floor was soiled. The substandard roof with holes allowed for raindrops to enter causing high humidity and a favorable environment for mosquitoes. Tien recounts that the highest peak of the rainy season could be daunting for finding any better places to sleep, especially when the flood submerged up to 1m tall. That is why hardly does Tien think those kind of difficulties happened a year earlier, before Grant Thornton team volunteered to build the new house with her family.
According to Tien, she is impressed by the proactive acts and fast-moving integration from the volunteers. Thanks to Habitat’s engagement, she could communicate with the team and become close to them even though their stay in the build did not last longer than 4 days. “I wandered around with them very frequently. I knew some construction techniques so I could work with them. We were a close-knit team,” says Tien. “When they began to depart, I also began to cry. Seeing them work harmoniously and willing to live under our living conditions makes me feel emotional”.
For her, it was the period worth reminiscing. And now, new settlement still awaits her. Thanks to the new house, she feels less worried a bit as it is a disaster-resilient house. This nicely-painted one is covered with concrete walls, new iron sheets roof sustained by steel-made frames. There also has a solid attic, which can protect the family from heavy storms and floods happening frequently as this is a disaster-prone area. “Owning a house like this means significantly to us. I am no longer scare of anything else because now my children Toan, 11, and Y, 3, can stay indoors and feel warm. I used to feel deplored seeing mother and kids being cold because of big wind and torrential rain,” tells Tien.
At the moment, they have not yet installed the learning corners for her children but roomy space comforts her a lot. Her mother Ngung, 65, can also have a relaxing place to rest and prevent from the chronic bronchitis resulted in the inclement weather and the previous living conditions. Tien is currently the only breadwinner of the family and thus, she is still coping with financial difficulties. However, having a sturdy house weighs down her burdens a lot. After a hard-working day, she can come back home and see her children smile happily in a spacious, clean house. Her family is all her life, she shares. Watching her children grow and playing with them is the only thing she has ever wanted to see on the daily basis no matter what a tiring and doomed day is.
“At the moment, we feel nothing completely satisfied but this beautiful house. We are still struggling with the unstable livelihood. We are using our own usable water and sanitation facility detached from the house, but we are planning to have the indoors bathroom in the future. The house is what we need but if with a bathroom, it would perfectly reflect a house I dreamt about,” she says.
Before we close the conversation with her, she wants to message endless thanks to the volunteers who visit Vietnam and build her wonderful house. She still keeps many souvenirs given by some members of the team and the group photo, framed and hanged nearby the stairs.
“I feel extremely thankful and grateful to have a cozy shelter like this. Thank you so much for such a wonderful dedication,” Tien smiles.