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Family case N°1 - Phan Thi Yem

Madam Phan Thi Yêm, Village of Thanh Thuy Chanh, Thuy Thanh commune

Married at the age of 17, Madame Yêm assures us that this was not considered young at the time, but life was really hard – difficult to express how hard. To begin with, the young couple were farmers, and were able to feed and bring up their children. Then her husband went off in 1963 to fight in the Resistance. He was killed in May 1963 in a ghastly massacre. This was a terrible blow, leaving her with 5 young children, the eldest 13 and the youngest only 3 years old. With meagre savings from making straw hats, like others in the village, she was able to pay for her children to attend school. But once basic needs were met, she could only afford to live in a poorly maintained bamboo shelter. Using savings scraped together and with manual help from cousins and neighbours, in 1974 she managed to build a cement block house with a tin roof, but no reinforcement. Only to find herself homeless in 1985, when the typhoon ripped off all the roofing and she was forced to purchase fibro-cement sheets to replace it. "That's why when I hear a typhoon warning, I'm absolutely terrified," she adds.

Asked about strengthening houses against storm damage, she says she had heard about this and was most interested. Which is why when the village meeting to decide which families should benefit from the damage prevention project was held, Madame Yêm took an active part. In the event she met all the conditions for becoming a beneficiary. She assures us that if the project can make her a loan, she will do everything she can to help improve her house as required by the Project.

Before strengthening, her house was built of cement blocks, with a tin roof and very rudimentary tin panel doors.

All her children are married and have work, but at some distance, except for her youngest daughter who still lives with her. So she hopes her house can be finished before the Têt [Vietnamese New Year] holiday so that she can celebrate with her neighbours. The total budget for the work is some 4 200 000 dôngs, of which Madame Yêm is contributing 200 000 dôngs, and the Project has agreed to loan her a further 1.5 million dôngs at an interest rate of 0.3% per month. She receives a State pension of 120 000 dôngs (as a Revolution widow) and this together with her income from raising animals will enable her to make the monthly repayments of 57 000 dôngs. Before, she used to borrow from the Women's Union for her farming activities, but until now no organisation used to provide loans for strengthening homes against storms. She is delighted with the new loan scheme and is determined to save and repay on time so that others can also benefit. At the time of writing, the walls of her house have been carefully rendered and eight iron reinforcements have been added to the roof, making it both attractive and strong!

Greatly moved, Madame Yêm tells us that although her children have grown up now, none of them are in a position to help her. Thanks to the help she has received from the Project as well as from her cousins and neighbours, her house is now comfortable and strong. She is grateful to the project and hopes that others like her will be able to benefit.