One of the houses Van Hanh parish built for poor people
Marie Nguyen Thi Binh and her two children, both of them paralyzed from birth, lived in a small, ramshackle house which afforded little shelter. With no money for a permanent roof, she had to patch it up with anything she could find - old iron sheeting, even old clothes.
As a result, when the rains came, every single one of the family’s possessions would be thoroughly soaked.
Her smallholding produces 350 kilograms of rice a year, which provides nothing more than subsistence. The prospect of moving to a better place was never realistic.
But now, thanks to a project run by Van Hanh parish in Ha Tinh province, she and her children have moved into a brand new, 40 sq m house.
“We moved here in July,” she says. “We’re deeply grateful to local Catholics who built us this house. It’s a dream come true.”
Over the past two years, the project has built 14 houses for poor families like Marie’s, regardless of their faiths. Over the course of this year, it aims to replace a total of around 40 houses in the parish, with plans to build 10 more in 2012.
Parishioners donate between 1,500 and 5,000 dong (US$0.07-0.24) each a month towards the cost. Some of them also volunteer to work on the construction or build furniture for the new dwellings, which typically cost 60 million dong.
“Most of the local villagers are farmers and they live in very poor conditions,” says Peter Nguyen Chieu, a lay leader in Van Hanh parish. “Three to six tropical storms strike the area every year, damaging or even destroying their houses and crops.”
“Families who have a lot of children or relatives with physical disabilities simply can’t afford to build new houses.”
He added that the problem is worsened by the general exodus of young people, who are leaving the rural communities to seek work in the cities.
Help from the parish does not end with housing. “We also give free medicine to poor patients, financial support for people to raise poultry and cattle and free basic education for people who are illiterate,” says parish pastor Father Peter Nguyen Van Vinh.
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