CHIANGRAI TIMES-Constructing Homes and Rebuilding lives in flood-affected Thailand, Wichlean Lumlha is used to living in a leaky house. In the rainy season, he and his wife, Lamyai Bunlead, would watch as water dripped on to the floor of the tiny metal-and-timber room they called home at Mahasorn in Ban Mee District, Lopburi.
But when the floods came to Thailand in September last year, the structure was defenceless against the rush of water that broke through containment lines and surged into their village.
Within a day Lumlha’s house was submerged and when the floodwaters receded it became apparent it had been washed away.
Lumlha was lucky to escape with his life. Paralysed from the waist down in an industrial accident 14 years ago, he had been unable to move himself to higher ground; his wife had to pay some villagers to carry him up the steep steps of his brother’s elevated house. Lumlha spent the next 2 1/2 months there, gazing out over the submerged village, watching motorboats bringing supplies to stranded villagers.
When the waters finally receded, he and Bunlead moved into a tent, and it was from there that Lumlha was able to sit and watch as his new home took shape. The dwelling is constructed from galvanised steel, timber and durable cement-board, and is elevated to a height of 2.5m. It was built by volunteers for Habitat for Humanity Thailand with the help of local villagers and members of the Royal Thai Army.
“Seeing this house being built is like a dream to us. If the water comes back again, we are very prepared,” Lumlha said when he and his wife were handed the keys.
“I love this house . . . I never thought we could have our own home that we could be proud of. [It] will give us hope we have not had in many years.”
The couple’s house is one of more than 50 built so far by Habitat for Humanity Thailand; the crew has also rehabilitated nine schools. It’s an invaluable service in the wake of the floods which, during their peak in mid-November, affected more than three million people in 28 provinces in central and northeast Thailand.
About 800 deaths were reported, and damage was estimated at more than 185 billion Thai baht — statistics that illustrate starkly the extent of the damage and the reconstruction work that lies ahead.
In response to this situation, Habitat for Humanity Thailand’s original emergency relief campaign has morphed into a long-term rebuilding project. “We’ve established the Rebuilding Thailand appeal to repair, rehabilitate and rebuild homes and restore schools,” says Chamnarn Wangtal, chief executive of Habitat for Humanity Thailand.
“We will be conducting repair work to houses with minor damage, or undertaking more extensive rehabilitation work on houses that were very badly damaged by the floodwater.
“And we continue to build homes for families whose homes were completely destroyed or washed away.”
Although most of the volunteers working on these projects are Thai nationals or foreigners living in Thailand, Habitat for Humanity Thailand welcomes assistance from people of all nationalities, including travellers and those who wish to donate to the Rebuilding Thailand appeal.
Habitat for Humanity Australia will launch its Hands and Hearts Build Project in Cambodia from March 24 to 31.
Volunteers, including media personality and Habitat for Humanity ambassador Angela Catterns, will initially build four houses in the Phnom Penh area. The ultimate aim is to provide 140 homes. More: habitat.org.au; habitatthailand.org