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  • Writer's pictureNicola Smart

Interview with Kelly Kombra Peng from Vision for Homes

Updated: Apr 5

In our final post on Vision for Homes, read all about Kelly's career path that led him to work in partnership with PHA.

How did you come to join Vision for Homes (previously Habitat for Humanity PNG)?

Briefly, before I joined Habitat for Humanity I was working with Coffee Industry Corporation Ltd (CIC) for 13 years after graduating with a Diploma in Tropical Agriculture in 1991 at Vudal Agricultural College in Rabaul, East New Britian Province, PNG. CIC was my first employer and is one of the corporate bodies of the government of PNG. This is the sole body that exists to control the affairs of the coffee industry in the country today. I joined Habitat for Humanity in 2004 as I had other ambitions in life with a view to gaining more experience in other agriculture related fields and even other fields outside of my profession.

While there I helped develop Western Highlands Provincial Affiliate in 2006 with funding assistance from Western Highlands Provincial Government (WHPG), We established the first four Building Communities and built four community offices. In 2007, we sought assistance from AusAid under its community aid program called Community Development Scheme in the country. They were able to funds us with sawmills and matched 11 houses. Because the program was new in the province at the time, we were able to conduct more awareness in most communities and people were interested. We began to build few other houses as well apart from the 11 donor funded projects.

Unfortunately, in early 2009, Habitat announced its withdrawal from the country and ceased its operations in mid 2009. I was then appointed by Habitat to oversee all its donor liability projects and complete them. During this time, the Western Highlands Affiliate board (including myself) was advised by Julienne McKay, the consultant engaged by Habitat for Humanity International to oversee its transition, that we change the name of Habitat For Humanity to another name and continue the program. During that time Julienne realized that Western Highlands Affiliate was outstanding as compared to other affiliates meaning our affiliate board was strong and enthusiastic, homeowner repayments were coming in very well and homeowner interest were overwhelming. The board took the advice and each board member was tasked to come up with a name. I came up with Vision For Homes - in a view to build decent and affordable homes in the country, which was chosen as the name.

We started the new program as Vision for Homes in July, 2010. Interestingly, my last daughter was born on the 13th of September, 2010 and we gave her name Vision. Vision will turn 10 in September, just a month after Vision for Homes as an organization turned 10 years old last July since we started the program in July, 2010.

Our partnership with Partner Housing started in October, 2010 when Rod Johnston and Julienne McKay came and met with Vision for Homes Board and Rod has announced for first three houses to start with.

What is the most fulfilling aspect of the work? Family? Working with the Board? Working with Partner Housing?

The most fulfilling aspect of the work is job satisfaction. I am totally satisfied when a homeowner receives the keys to his/her new home during dedication days and talks with tears of joy coming down from the eyes. That gives me a sense of feeling that someone's never ending need has been met. And to them its a miracle of a life time but to me its a job satisfaction - my management has made a family unit product and happy in a moment of time that will never be forgotten. It also begins to fulfil our organizational motto of," Building Homes - Building Lives". We are not just building homes, we are building lives of a family unit.

With Family - Vision for Homes is our brand name. My four other children were very young when I joined Habitat and now Vision for Homes. They grew with this program and know what is all about - building homes and lives of the people we are involved with.

Working with the Board - It's awesome. Our volunteer board is strong and enthusiastic. Although most board members did not go through formal education, they easily caught the program vision and we are running together with it to seeing lives of people changed through improved housing. They are all hard working individuals who usually come up with innovative ideas and produces good leadership. They always have the mentality of people first and I always feel excited to work with them.

Working with Partner Housing - Its pretty awesome. I personally thought this is God Almighty's divine plan for the two organization to partner in such a time as this to contribute towards the development of this young developing country - PNG. I had the privilege and honor to working with some of the prominent Australians like Rod Johnston, Ian Volke and of course the Partner Housing Board members who support Vision For Homes program in PNG by providing finance, technical expertise in designs, governance and doing annual program audits. I also would like to mentioned the former Partner Housing board members in the likes of Grant Wood and Julienne McKay and her husband David Campell. Partner Housing's partnership with Vision for Homes has, is and will continue to create impact in the lives of many unprivileged individuals, families and communities in the country by building homes, health and education infrastructures like classrooms, clinics and the like.O ur partnership is beginning to open doors to other parts of the country and I highly value Partner Housing's partnership with Vision for Homes - only time will tell.

Are there any challenges you've found?

Being a person with a different professional background, it is so challenging to work in an environment where I was not trained to perform. But it is quiet fitting now as the phrase - "On-the-job-training" took precedence. I am now able to know and understand some aspects of the building industry by reading the designs (basics), understanding technical descriptive words used and some trouble shooting experience to conform to standards of a building design. The other major challenge is to come up with the exact costing to fully complete the designated building - there is a big fear as there would be repercussions from homeowners/donors especially when encountering shortage of materials due to under costing and the building is incomplete. In other instances, our organization is client driven and when we don't build for nearly 12 months is more challenging in terms of the general management of the organization in terms of meeting the operational costs. This is a big challenge as a manager to think critically and making sure that there is adequate funds available to bring forward for the following year's operations.

What does the future hold for you? What are you excited about in the work being done with Vision for Homes and Partner Housing?

From the lessons learned in all aspects of life and my involvement with Vision for Homes as a manager partnering with Partner Housing, I would say that the future is bright for me especially when new doors opened up and we continue to build all year round. I am happy and exited about what we have achieved thus far as it created impact in the lives of many that we have touched. The communities that we have connected with are beginning to tell good stories about our partnership. The typical one is the construction of the recent Umi Health Post - people are still talking about this building that popped up like mushroom in to time without the knowledge of the larger population of the community and without government involvement. The building just stood up ready to serve them. Finally, what excites me most is when Partner Housing comes to our aid when we needed most in matching grants when Vision for Homes doesn't have adequate funds to matching the client's request for a new project.

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