In early July of 2014 our team began raising funds in Australia and Japan for what would be our first sustainable housing project for a family living in sub par conditions in rural Vietnam. At the same time, part of our team was on the ground in Vietnam planning the logistics of the project; sourcing builders, creating blueprints for the house, meeting local authorities and finalising budgets for building, transportation and accommodation. Our founder, Anh Thu, has ties within the local region and she helped connect us with the right people who all contributed to the success of the first project. This was a great advantage to us as we were able to locate the people who were in need the most and ensure the money we raised went directly to the people we set out to support.
In early February our entire team was on the ground in Vietnam to oversee and help with the project, and three local volunteers and two international volunteers joined us bringing our total to ten. Our project was a lot like Vietnam itself, organised chaos. To say that everything ran smoothly would be a blatant lie as it was our first project, but having a lot of experience from previous work in Vietnam and knowledge of the culture allowed us to expect the unexpected and get the job done. We knew what could have gone wrong and were able to prepare for it. Sure enough we hit a minor roadblock before the project began when our original accommodation fell through, but thankfully we were able to acquire homestay accommodation.
Our labour throughout the project consisted of carrying bricks, stones, and sand, mixing cement and bending and cutting wire. We were able to learn some bricklaying skills, but our attempts were below average at best. If our team had had a greater role in the bricklaying, the project would not be completed till 2022. Part of the project budget was allocated to local labourers and we felt satisfied to provide local people with work and avoid any mishaps that might take place when people who know nothing of building, try to build.
During our stay we visited many farms and rice paddies, held a cultural exchange day where we cooked some of our favourite foods for the locals, gave scholarships to thirteen children to continue attending school and held a rather untraditional ‘sports day’.
We slept on mats on the floor for the entire stay, woke up very early thanks to boats, roosters and geese, and cooked our own food everyday. Some of us didn’t shower enough out of laziness or not wanting to use a bucket, and at some stage we blocked a toilet.
It was an experience.
The house took shape remarkably quickly and we are very impressed by the final result. A year of planning had finally become something real, a milestone for us. It was hard work, it had its ups and downs, but we are very content with the finished result.
Thank you to everyone who supported us and donated, and a special thank you to Chris, Paul and Alix for their efforts and contributions that made the project possible.
Stay tuned for information on our next housing project that will take place in December!