Family Moves Into First House Completed Under HFH Thailand’s Flood Response

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Habitat Will Build Over 250 Houses, Renovate More Than 700 Houses In Several Affected Provinces

BANGKOK, 16 January 2012 – A flood-affected family recently moved into the first house completed by Habitat for Humanity Thailand in response to the devastating floods of 2011.

Wichean Lumlha, 48, and his wife Lamyai Bunlead, 50, had to evacuate from the room they lived in when flood waters swamped their village in September 2011.

Three months later, Habitat handed over a new house to the couple at a dedication ceremony held in Mahasorn village, Ban Mee district, Lopburi province in central Thailand. Habitat representatives and Thai soldiers who volunteered to build the house were present at the ceremony.

Wichean, who was born and grew up in Mahasorn village, said: “Seeing this house being built is like a dream to us. I never imagined we could have our own house. If the water comes back again we are very prepared with this house.”

Wichean is paralyzed from the waist down after an accident 14 years ago. He had fallen down from scaffolding at the construction site where he worked. At the ceremony, he was carried up the stairs to the house by two of the soldier-volunteers.

The two-room house, made of cement wood particle board and corrugated metallic roof, measures 4.8 x 4.5 meters in size. The house is elevated on 10 cement pillars, each about 2.5 meters tall. The house is considerably taller than other houses in the village.

“This is the first house we have built using this design and we are pleased with the results of working with the army on this project,” said HFH Thailand CEO Chamnarn Wangtal. He was among members of an assessment team from HFH Thailand who went to numerous flood-affected areas between September and late October 2011 to determine Habitat’s response.

Thailand experienced its worst flooding in half a century in 2011 when heavy monsoon rains, floods and mudslides killed nearly 800 people. The floods began in late July 2011, swamping entire towns and affecting more than two-thirds of the country’s 77 provinces. Over 3.2 million people were affected in the four-month-long crisis.

HFH Thailand will build 252 houses, renovate 765 houses and renovate 25 schools in flood-affected communities. In addition to Lopburi province, Habitat will also help flood-affected people in Ayutthaya, Nonthaburi and Saraburi proivnces in the center of the country, in Phitsanulok further north as well as in communities in the vicinity of Bangkok. HFH Thailand expects to complete its flood response in late April or May 2012.

To date, about US$2.4 million has been committed to Habitat’s flood response. Corporate funding came from Coca-Cola, Government Housing Bank, Government Savings Bank, Siam Commercial Bank, Bank of America, CIMB Thai Bank, Cisco, The Boston Consulting Group, Krungthai Card, Schenker Thai, Watermark, and local publisher Ensign Media (Bangkok). Support was also provided by DuPont Thailand, local aluminium manufacturer Sanki Quality Products, Bangkok shopping mall Fashion Island, Government Pension Fund, Toyota Leasing Thailand and HSBC Thailand.

The support of Habitat donors helped affected families such as Wichean and Lamyai to start life afresh after the flooding. The couple said they were not prepared when the flood waters came to their village in September 2011. They were living in a small room built next to Wichean’s brother’s house. Their room was completely under water the next day. Lamyai paid for some villagers to carry Wichean to his brother’s house which was elevated.

Before the flooding, Lamyai took on odd jobs in the community, earning up to 100 baht (US$3) per day. Wichean used a hand-operated tricycle to move about, collecting plastic and metal scrap to sell to recycling companies.

After evacuating to Wichean’s brother’s house, the couple stayed there for more than two months. They relied on donations of food packs and help from Wichean’s brother. “Everyone had a difficult time and we got by as best we could,” said Lamyai. “There was enough food through donations so we were ok.”

The food packs were distributed to villagers by the Royal Thai Army Special Forces Unit in Lopburi. Soldiers reached remote villages in affected areas in a boat provided by a private donor through HFH Thailand.

The unit continued its strong support by sending nine soldiers to help build Wichean’s and Lamyai’s house over seven days in December 2011.

Their support was acknowledged by chairman of HFH Thailand’s board, Dr Chainarong Monthienvichienchai, who presented a symbolic key to Lamyai. “We wish to thank all the donors which provided funding for this house and the soldiers who came here out of the kindness of their hearts to help this family.”

Dr Chainarong highlighted the successful partnership between HFH Thailand and the Royal Thai Army Special Forces and said he looked forward to the military’s help in Habitat’s flood response over the next few months.

For Wichean and Lamyai, the future is looking up. “This is great, I love this house,” said Wichean. “All my life, I never thought we could have our own home that we could be proud of. This house will give us hope we have not had in many years.”

Under the ReBuilding Thailand disaster response program, Habitat distributed 50 emergency shelters to flood-affected Ayutthaya province and another 170 emergency shelter kits in Phitsanulok and Sukhothai provinces. In November 2011, Habitat mobilized more than 40 volunteers to clean up a kindergarten in Tha Wasukri district, Ayutthaya province.