Co-op employee helps build houses in Vietnam

Scott Parsley and other Vietnam Veterans Build participants are shown here with the partnering family as construction nears completion. Parsley is in the back row, on the right side, wearing a white shirt.

Scott Parsley builds houses, but he’s not a contractor. He’s the assistant general manager at East River Electric Power Cooperative, Madison, SD, and he’s a volunteer for Habitat for Humanity.

Since 1993, he has been actively involved in various Habitat projects that include taking a church youth group to Mexico as well as assisting with the Jimmy Carter “Blitz Build” where 30 homes were built in five days at Eagle Butte, SD. He’s also held several leadership positions including helping to develop the local Habitat for Humanity affiliate.

When the opportunity arose to venture halfway around the globe for a build, Parsley didn’t hesitate. He and 29 others, mostly Vietnam War-era veterans, traveled to the village of Binh Ninh, Vietnam, to construct three homes for partnering families through the Vietnam Veterans Build program. From 1970 to 1973, Parsley served in the U.S. Navy (Aviation Fuels) aboard the USS John F. Kennedy Aircraft Carrier.

The 280-square foot homes, which included concrete pillars, brick walls and metal roofs, were designed with ventilation as an essential component to mitigate the tropical weather.

With temperatures soaring to 120 degrees F, Parsley says the heat, coupled with the lack of power equipment, made for physically challenging days. Parsley and crew transported all materials to the job site a quarter mile into the jungle on a narrow path. “At the road were 8,000 bricks, two truckloads of sand and a truckload of rock. We used two wheelbarrows to move all of this.”

Parsley says the most rewarding aspect of the experience occurred when the keys were turned over to the homeowners, the Tran Van Phuong family. With the average annual Vietnamese household income of $1,000, Habitat workers also saw the need to put finishing touches on the home, so collected enough money and presented it to the families.

Likely attributed to the country’s cultural norms, Tran’s wife, who worked at the job site every day, had very little interaction with the workers throughout the build. However, with tears of joy and appreciation after the closing ceremony on the final day, she hugged every worker.

“That’s why I do Habitat,” Parsley says. “If you haven’t been to a Habitat closing to see the new homeowner’s reaction, it’s one of the most emotional experiences you’ll have.”

Updated: May 11, 9:37 a.m.

Here is a video which aired on Vietnam Television, focusing on the project Parsley worked on. Though he doesn’t speak in the video, you can see Parsley at 11:19 in.


  1. Dawn Moore says:

    Having gone to El Salvador to build homes with Habitat for Humanity and Thrivent Builds three separate times, I TOTALLY understand Scott’s comments. Even tho it’s hard work and hot weather, it is SO worth the reward of seeing the new owners presented with their keys to their new home. Those are memories I’ll have with me for the rest of my life.

  2. basinelectric says:

    Thanks for your comment, Dawn!

    If readers would like to see some pictures from one of Dawn’s trips, the story is here: Basin Electric employee makes a connection in El Salvador

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