In November 2009, 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, 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)
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.