Photos & Words: Habitat for Humanity Cambodia

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In November 2009, adiposity Stephanie and I embarked on an adventure to Cambodia in Southeast Asia to participate in the annual Habitat for Humanity Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project.  The Carters selected the Mekong region for their 2009 project, erectile with work sites in Vietnam, Laos, China, Thailand and Cambodia all occurring during the same week of November.  It is a very unique project that differs greatly from domestic US Habitat builds and even the smaller Global Village trips through Habitat International in the sense that approximately 300 hundred volunteers from all over the world gathered at each work site to help build homes from the ground up for families in need.  We were lodged in Phnom Penh, and every morning caught a 7AM charter bus that took us 90 minutes outside of the city to Oudong, the location of the former capital of Cambodia and where our build site was.

See a Habitat Cambodia video created by Jason Asteros HERE.

Building materials and techniques differed depending on what country you were building in, but in Cambodia, we were working with soy-based bricks weighing around 20 pounds each.  The process was basically dipping bricks into a bucket of water to wash them, and then using trowels to slather mortar on the preceding foundation to build up.  It was tough work, both physically and sometimes mentally since we were working with Cambodians, most of whom didn’t speak much English.  But like any other difficult project, this one was well worth it in the end, seeing as 300 volunteers built 21 homes in one week.  We were even visited by the Carters during the housing dedication ceremony, which was definitely a once in a lifetime experience.

The Team. (courtesy of Don & Maggie Irwin)

Welcome ceremony


The process…dipping and laying bricks.

Mortar, or as we called it, “mud.”

Toilet with a manual flush comprised of a bucket and your arms.

Teamwork. Everything was done by hand.

We always put safety first.

Lunch. The same thing every day. The water company was called “Steve.” Each person drank about 10 Steves a day, since it was in the 90s.

Jay hard at work.

Cute kids sold crafts every day, hounding us on the way to the bus.

It wasn’t all hard work, as Andy and Phillip demonstrate. Happiness was had after dinner every night.

All pau!

The New Life Community.

The recipients of the home we built.

The Carters even stopped by to say thanks!

But perhaps the best part of all, we were invited to view the transitional living quarters of the family whose home we were building. It was just up the street, not far from the build site, and it was a definite step up from the garbage dump site they had previously been living in.

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Transitional home.

Baby Daniel (named after the Australian project sponsor) and his father Hok.

The eldest daughter (age 7).

Maggie and the matriarch of the home compound (she was in her 70s).

The family’s adoptive son and mother in the background.

Suzi Pratt is a Seattle event, food, and travel photographer available for hire. She is also a contributing writer at Digital Photography School and runs a blog teaching others how to start a photography business.


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