Habitat for Humanity welcomes first regional volunteers to build homes in Asia-Pacific since the pandemic started

PHNOM PENH (March 2, 2023) — Habitat for Humanity welcomed 136 international volunteers to several locations in the Asia-Pacific region, where they worked alongside community members and local families building their own decent, affordable houses. They are the first volunteers from the AP region that the housing nonprofit has hosted since it suspended its Global Village volunteer program in early 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Phnom Penh - Japanese volunteers

Japanese volunteers at the build site in Phnom Penh.

“We are thrilled to welcome seven volunteer teams from Japan and Korea to various locations in Cambodia, Indonesia and Vietnam where they will help build or repair houses or work on communal facilities alongside future Habitat for Humanity homeowners. We are grateful for the volunteers’ faithfulness and energy as they support Habitat’s mission of building strength and stability through shelter,” said Luis Noda, Vice-President for Asia-Pacific, Habitat for Humanity International.

From March to June, Habitat will host regional volunteers from Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore and South Korea to build on one of its project sites in Cambodia, Fiji, Indonesia, and Vietnam. Habitat’s country programs in those locations underwent an accreditation process to ensure a safe, meaningful experience for volunteers, and local families and communities.

PHNOM PENH - Homeowner Sara

Sara, 56, welcomes a group of international volunteers from Japan. With the volunteers’ help, they are building a new, decent house for their family with help from Habitat for Humanity. This is the first regional build that the housing nonprofit has hosted in the Asia-Pacific since it suspended its Global Village program at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Photos: Habitat for Humanity Cambodia/Eric.

Than, 65, was among the people who worked with Habitat volunteers in Phnom Penh. A widow, she lived with three of her seven children in a small house. During the day, the family suffered from extreme heat in the house, which was built with wooden planks and a roof made of old tin and plastic sheeting. During the rainy season, rainwater dripped into the house. “I was most worried about being electrocuted when everything in the house was wet,” said Than, whose son died of electrocution many years ago.

With help from a team of Japanese volunteers, Than is confident that her house has become much safer for her family. “I feel the new house will be great for my family to live in. It is built high above the ground, so I no longer have to worry about flooding,” she said.

Phnom Penh - Homeowner Sara with Japanese volunteers

Sara (right) walking with Ayano and other Japanese volunteers.

Akira, a Japanese volunteer from Sapporo, Japan, first volunteered with Habitat in Siem Reap, Cambodia in 2019. Now a senior university student, he returned to Cambodia eager to help. He said “I realized that volunteering can be helpful to people. I may not be a big, famous person to save the world, but I can serve people little by little. This is my passion and my motivation.”

Phnom Penh - Japanese volunteers

Japanese volunteers sanding a timber frame in Phnom Penh.