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Global Village Trip to Cambodia

May 16, 2016

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This spring, four of the Habitat Denver staff and seven AmeriCorps alumni traveled to Cambodia on a Global Village trip. Motivated by the country’s need, our intrepid group spent two weeks in the country with four days dedicated to building a Habitat home in the province of Battambang. 

I have always had good experiences on Global Village trips, it is a great way to get to know the people and the culture in another country, and an opportunity to support Habitat’s mission outside of my regular day-to-day. – Richelle, Habitat Denver

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What was the work site like?

The group split up to work on the second floor of house and make bricks to lay. At the brick making factory, a team sifted sand, mixed it with concrete and pressed out a couple hundred bricks in a day.

Day 1 - On the first day they laid and tied rebar together to make the floor.

Day 2 - The second day they poured the concrete for the floor. This meant creating an assembly line to pass buckets of concrete from the ground to the second floor of the house.

Day 3 - The third day they started laying bricks that were made by volunteers.

Day 4 - On the fourth day they continued building the walls up. 

I really enjoyed working as a team and with the local staff. Whether it was all of us sitting on the floor tying rebar or pairs of us working on a single wall… it is always so cool to see what a group of people can accomplish working together on the same goal.  – Trisha, Habitat Denver

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Every day the site had a mid-morning break with tropical fruits - some unfamiliar to our travelers. For lunch they would drive to a local Khmer restaurant. According to Trisha, “Everything was super tasty.”

How was this Global Village Experience for you?

Trisha: I really enjoyed working with the Habitat Cambodia staff and skilled workers.  There is a common thread of the mission of Habitat and working with volunteers and families for affordable housing.  The staff did a really good job of engaging our team and answers a lot of our questions.  I like GV trips because although you’re going to a new country and learning a new culture you can always find commonalities with local staff, workers and families.  Maybe it’s the food, seeing how kids play, or being able to communicate without knowing the same language.  Recognizing that humanity is the same no matter where you are. 

Richelle: Besides the language barrier (which was not an issue because of our awesome translators) and construction style, it didn’t feel that different than working on a Denver site. They had regular construction staff (masons) leading groups of volunteers to build the home for a family in need. 

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Who was the partner family?

Chea Saran and her family are the partner family of the house worked on by our Global Village group. She and her family have been living in an informal settlement since 1993. In October of 2015, Saran received a plot of land as part of a lottery from the Cambodian government. She partnered with Habitat Cambodia to finance and build the house on her land.

Though her income was so low that she was not able to afford even one day off to work to build with the Global Village group, she made sure to stop in and thank the volunteers for working. Saran works in a family business and makes approximately 130.00 USD per month. Her son-in-law was there helping every day, but she lived in such extreme poverty that she needed to work every single day for her income.

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What was traveling in Cambodia like?

Trisha: We did a lot of cultural activities when we were in Battambang. We rode on a bamboo train and saw the countryside and also went to a bat cave and saw thousands of bats at dusk. Towards the end of the trip we went to Angkor Wat. It was really impressive to see the temples.  There were lots of details and intricacies.

Richelle: We traveled to Siem Reap and Agkor Wat; Koh Rong Samloem off Siahnoukville; and Phnom Penh. My most memorable travel moment was spending two nights in a bungalow—reading, swimming in the ocean, and stand up paddle boarding—on what felt like a private island because there were very few tourists.

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Background on Habitat for Humanity Cambodia

Habitat Denver is proud to support Habitat Cambodia’s work by sponsoring the construction of homes in this country through a regular tithe partnership. Cambodia has a significant need for decent and affordable housing due to the high rate of poverty and prevalence of squatter settlements in urban areas. 

Habitat Cambodia began in 2003 and has built over 1,000 homes and served over 3,000 families through their housing and community development programs is working to reduce poverty in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Kandal and Battambang.

Taking a holistic approach to housing and development, Habitat Cambodia provides livelihood training, works with other NGOs to serve orphaned and vulnerable children, has a water sanitation and utilities connections programs, and is working with the World Bank to improve squatters rights.

A typical Habitat Cambodia house varies by province. In Battambang they typically build two story houses with concrete floors and brick walls. In other parts of Cambodia they build wood frame houses similar to construction in the US.