HOUSE BUILDING IN CAMBODIA
Cambodian family can take years to raise the funds to buy the land but
once they get to this stage, a small team of able bodied travellers can
make their dreams come true by supplying labour and fundraising $860 US
for building materials for each house. Enthusiasm not experience is what
is needed. Tabitha’s Cambodian site supervisors ensure that the work is
carried out according to spec. Arriving as early in the morning as
possible, the team sets about dividing up the work. Walls must be
constructed, and hundreds of bamboo strips nailed to joists to make the
floor. The air is filled with hammering sounds, and children and
families come to watch the show. By afternoon the house is finished, and
the team hands over the house to the new homeowner. There is rarely a
dry eye among the group.
Leaving your tourist dollars behind is one thing, but leaving behind
a home is an experience you never forget.
Interested individuals are encouraged to form their own team, or join
an existing team if the timing is suitable. Lead time is approximately
7-9 months to allow for fundraising for the houses and scheduling. Teams
are expected to build 3-4 houses over a two day period. Working in 37C+
heat and humidity requires builders to be reasonably fit and tolerant of
heat. Ideal team size is 10 – 16.
For more information about house building contact us at email@example.com.
Pictures from the October 2004 trip are
house building photo gallery
A team from Lotus Relief Charitable Foundation
traveled in November 2004 to Cambodia from the UK. Their daily diary is
This link will take you to an article written by Robin Pascoe which
appeared in the December 22/04 edition of the Weekly Telegraph://w
By Yolanda Henry
Janne Ritskes has a win-win formula. Her
charity, Tabitha-Cambodia, works with the poorest Cambodian families.
She offers interest-free loans for business start up. Each participant
must submit a business plan and attend regular meetings to discuss
progress. As their income grows
from less than US$15.00/month to as much as US$150/month, they start to
save money for a proper house.
Contributions go directly into the hands of the most needy, without
being siphoned off in large portions to run the charity. Groups are
invited to come to Cambodia and build. Individuals must pay their own
way, and the group must also raise enough money for building materials.
Any extra will be used to fund business loans.
Anyone can build. No experience is necessary; it’s a question of
having the right attitude. Our eclectic group was organized by Joe
Lingle, a teacher at the Singapore American School, who has been working
with Tabitha for the past 3 years. We had a combination of backgrounds
and nationalities: 4 Canadians, 1 Singaporean and 6 Americans. Ages
ranged from 15 to 50-something.
Our building began early on a Monday morning. We were a little
anxious about what would be expected of us. We did not want to
Janne starts off with her instructions about safety, and keeping
cool. Our heads will be dunked in water at least every hour. Then she
breaks us up into teams. One to do the floorboards, two to work on the
walls, and Joe takes the roof.
Janne has her own work crew who supervise us. Joe says the guys
helping with the roof let him hammer a few token nails, and then take
over. They have little confidence in us.
Making walls is easy, and not too uncomfortable as long as we have
shade. As the morning wears on, we get better, faster and hotter. No one
hesitates to walk over to the water to dunk their own head. It is so refreshing. Our lunch break at 11 consists of peanut butter and jam
sandwiches, and a treat of Fig Newtons.
There is no electricity or running water. We learn to be efficient
with hammers and saws. The work is not difficult, but as the morning
wears on and the shade disappears, our pace starts to slow. We envy the
floor crew who have shade now from the finished roof. By 1:00 pm the
first house is finished, and we elated. The family poses in front of
their new home. Then we all gather into the picture and Janne takes a group photo with our cameras.
Tuesday morning we’re off again to the village of Boh Angkang,
about 20km outside Phnom Penh. We are excited because this morning we
know what we’re doing! It’s hotter, and there is no breeze to cool us,
so it actually takes longer to finish. We need more dunking and more
Sok Deang is 60 years old, and will live there with her son, and his
large family. We can only imagine what she has seen and experienced in
They are moving from a rickety house made of grass, thatch and thin
poles. Approximately 6 feet x 6 feet, they are built with the cheapest
of materials, and do not provide a shaded area to live and cook in
underneath. It also doesn’t keep them well above water levels in the
rainy season (May to November). It takes about 10 minutes to move their
The new homes are built on cement posts, which will withstand the
rainy season and dampness. They are high to provide a full "floor"
underneath. The cooking and eating and socializing are done below.
During the dry season, the house is used primarily for sleeping, and now
everyone can fit inside at night. Our two are the first houses to be
completed with a door.
The happiness we are able to bring to these people is immeasurable.
It takes so little on our part to make their dreams come true.
Wednesday morning we return with the American Ambassador.
Cameras and newspaper reporters are already there. Janne hopes to get
lots of press to let other poor families in Cambodia know about her
programs and gets great coverage on Thursday’s television news
One of the families has invited a Buddhist monk to bless the home and
bless the workers. We feel honoured…tears are hard to keep back.
Have a look at this well written account of Richard Russell's House
Building experience from one of the more recent trips to leave from