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Cambodia’s First Global Village Team Built Two Houses In Ten Days

Seventeen volunteers from Australia’s University of New South Wales lauded the productive experience

PHNOM PENH, 4th August 2006: Easy smiles and enthusiastic assistance greeted the first Global Village team of volunteer builders to Cambodia when they arrived in the Sen Sok community recently.

Well-done: efficient task delegation and guidance enabled the volunteers from Australia to complete building two houses in 10 days .

Big splash: the variety of tasks assigned kept the Australian volunteers going

Insights: the volunteers gained a better appreciation of the value of a house in Cambodia.

Co-operation: willing hands make a load lighter in Sek Son, west of the capital Phnom Penh

The relaxed atmosphere characterized the build for the team of 17 students from the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. They were accompanied by professional photographer Ewen Bell who took pictures of the team’s build.

Most of the 3,000-odd families in Sen Sok, about 20 km. west of the capital Phnom Penh, had been relocated from a slum near the river.

The team was divided into two groups and worked on two houses for the families of Keo Mop and Kong Rin. Under the guidance of experienced local builders, the team worked very productively, according to team leader Michael Hand.

Good task delegation played a key role too. “They gave us a variety of tasks that were challenging but not beyond our skill level. In this way we were able to help complete two houses in one week,” Michael added.

The volunteers undertook myriad tasks including bricklaying, cement mixing, some painting and carpentry. They also helped to install a roof on each of two houses by cutting and placing the wooden support beams. The core houses built have the potential for further expansion if the families choose to add a mezzanine level.

Contributing to the labor were the homepartner families who put in “sweat equity” and provided refreshments for the volunteers as well as washed their construction gloves.

“The mood at the building site was lightened by the Cambodian people’s easy laughter and gentle nature,” said team member Prue Freestone. Seeing how the Sen Sok community lived also made her appreciate the value of a house and the value of her team’s contribution.

It wasn’t all build and no fun for the team who took part in a cooking class during a break from the build. A visit to an orphanage to donate toys and sports equipment culminated in a soccer match between the orphans and volunteers. Barefoot and on their home ground, the orphans proved to be too formidable an opponent for the visitors.

The team finished construction of the two houses, 10 days after they began, in early July. They donated the construction tools that they used to the community and returned the following day for a dedication ceremony and farewell party.

Among those present at the dedication ceremony were Min Sor, HFH Cambodia’s national director and Sen Sok community leaders. The volunteers were thanked for their hard work and generosity.

On reflection, team member Madeline Sutton said: “The Habitat for Humanity build in Cambodia was an experience which allowed me to gain a valuable insight into the Cambodian way of life while contributing to the Sen Sok community and one family’s standard of living.” She added that seeing the thankfulness of the homepartner families at the dedication ceremony made all the hard work worthwhile.

After the build ended, the team stayed on in Cambodia to visit museums, temples, markets and Angkor Wat in Siem Reap. Recommending the Cambodia build, team leader Michael said: “We were really well looked after and thoroughly enjoyed our Habitat experience.”

Although the UNSW volunteers were the first Global Village team in Cambodia, Habitat had hosted a team of mostly international volunteers in February 2006. That group of volunteers, mostly employed in non-governmental organizations in Cambodia, helped to build a house in the community of Samaki, about 20 km. from Phnom Penh

HFH Cambodia was established in 2003 and has served more than 90 families. Since April 2006, Habitat in Cambodia has constructed 28 houses in Sen Sok with the help of local volunteers and Habitat homepartners. In the next five years, HFH Cambodia plans to build and renovate 1,500 homes, providing safe, affordable and decent shelter to more than 3,000 families living in the provinces of Kampong Speu, Kampong Cham, Siem Reap, Banteay Meanchey and Phnom Penh.