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June 30, 2011

The Mangyan Challenge: A Letter from Ian Fraser

Dear $300 House members,

I have followed with interest your design contest (even submitted an entry) and as the winners are announced I would request you consider an opportunity to field trial a/some most suitable designs in a real world situation.

I am trying to develop a self-help project to provide low cost, suitable housing, and a sustainable job/income for poor people particularly in the Philippines.

mangyan.jpgI am exploring working with a village of Mangyan people in the Puerto Galera area of Mindoro Island and I would ask you consider them as recipients of one or more of the successful design outcomes of the contest.

What I need is simply the design information and rights and a working relationship with the designers of a suitable $300 house that is worth investing over $20,000 to build 60 houses.

I advise that many outcomes could ride on the house design "working" and a lot of goodwill could be won or lost by the results achieved. The 60 houses I propose to build are only a small fraction of what is eventually required.

I am not working with the whole Mangyan population  The group I am working with is only one village and while they are 100% Mangyan people they are mostly in transition from their traditional hill-tribe culture into the today's life, culture and economy of the Philippines . They are maintaining many of their traditional values such as strong village group bonding, sense of culture and community, sharing, hard work and passive nature.

They struggle because of limited educational opportunities in the past but are trying hard to ensure their children receive education, health care and other benefits.

Some are share farming, some making handicrafts for sale in nearby tourist areas and some working as guides and labourers for the resorts and in the town. But, they do it very tough. Their houses are frankly very sub-standard and on a recent visit I was shocked. The photos I have included here are some of the better examples.

Their community is in many other ways very functional - they have a primary school and resident teacher; a church and resident minister/teacher; a community meeting place; limited town water-supply and some solar power.

They appear to have a well organized community management structure - it has respect, authority and is consultative and involving.

The leaders are currently having preliminary discussions regarding my proposal to build low cost houses for each of the 60 families in the village.

I stress this is not a headlong crash into a delicate sociological situation.  The project I propose addresses an immediate needs of a village that is well into cultural transition but struggling with very poor housing. The project treads carefully and only after wide consultation - especially it is lead by the people themselves. They have many advisers as well and I envisage the project will be ongoing for at least three years. The houses however could be built within 6 months - according to the level of local participation. A slower build rate would be desirable to enable training and high levels of villager involvement..

The village is located near an easily accessed major town and in reasonable proximity to Manila the capitol of the Philippines. I am confident that one or other of the major universities located in Manila - such as University of The Philippines, Ateneo De Manila, De La Salle or other would be interested to participate in this project from an advisory and academic point of view.

I have almost certainly secured financial support to build 60 houses with an average cost of $300 i.e. approximately US$20,000. I believe strongly that  other support programs are needed by this community all aimed at creating employment, land ownership and economic sustainability of this group. I am also working on these aspects. For example the villagers needs land to which they have clear title before the houses can be built. This is a priority matter at the moment.

There are many possibilities that can spring from this housing project for this village and in general I can see some very interesting possibilities if there was a house for $300.

About me: I am an Australian and semi-retired; briefly my back ground is as a businessman involved in R&D and manufacture of very advanced scientific components. At the same time I was a senior member of a consortium of Australian businesses that did many small development projects in S E Asia over 15 years (total value ~$150 million) - mainly in Indonesia - such as establishing/upgrading Environmental Monitoring Laboratories, Agricultural Science teaching and research laboratories, Occupational Health and Safety Laboratories.

I am a past Chairman of the Australian Scientific Industry Association, a founding director of the Technology Industry Exporters Group as well as various roles in commercialization committees interacting with universities etc.

Thank you for your time regarding this matter

I look forward to hearing from you.

Ian Fraser
Sydney
Australia

IanFraser [ at ] sydney [dot] net