Volunteer Building Cambodia – Project background

One Week. One House. And a life changes forever for a family in need in Cambodia.

Some projects help in such a simple but substantial way that we are impressed how much they can make a change. The daily struggles and problems of communities in rural areas in Cambodia begin with not having a protective shelter and this has a massive impact on their whole life and how it can develop in the future for them. With the support of a great team and volunteers from all over the world this situation can be changed – that is what Sinn Meang thought and he set up Volunteer Building Cambodia. With this, his dream quickly became reality. The project is proof to us all that in just one week, it is possible to change the life of a family forever. How that works? Just have a read.

Project background:

A lot of people in rural areas, and kilometres away from the big cities, live from less than 1 US Dollar a day. 1 US Dollar, can you imagine? Their home is fragile, with palm leaves providing the frame, and dusty floors. A simple rainstorm can destroy a house or at least damage it substantially. And this is very likely to happen. Besides this, access to clean water and sanitary facilities is often non-existent, or at least insufficient (only 16% in rural areas have the privilege of an adequate standard). As a result, school education is suffering. A vicious circle, as one thing naturally causes the other. Sinn and his organization found a way to escape this circle. A key to do so is to build an adequate house for a family. Why this leads to better education? We will explain by comparing two kinds of living conditions – before and after moving into a new house.

This is a house a family living in poverty in Cambodia.

What do you think? Can you imagine living here? As an adventure holiday, it could be quite charming. But every day? Unimaginable, right? Besides the fact that the space is tiny and consists of just one room, it lacks everything. Protecting walls, sanitary facilities, interior, cooking area, beds, etc. Nothing is a given here. And privacy for each family member seems something even more far away. All these circumstances lead to increased illnesses, the fear of intruders, not enough or no recovering sleep at night, and unhygienic food storage and preparation. A life in dignity looks and feels different. All these circumstances lead to the fact that the situation in the future highly likely won`t change. But see what happens, when this situation changes by moving into a new house…

This is how a family can live after moving into a house built by volunteers.

This house was built in 1 week (!) and helped a family to get a whole new perspective in life. Houses are built in a Khmer-typical style and last for a minimum 15 years. They are 4 x 5 metres in size with a robust foundation, floorboards and a protecting wooden facade and a tin roof. It is that easy – the basis for a better future is done. This shelter not only is more comfortable, but primarily safe and meets basic requirements of each human being. For westerners, basic living quarters are often taken for granted. But a place to call home is so important, brining families:

  1. Protection against wind and bad weather rises the chances drastically to stay healthy. The family can save money they would spend for the doctor or medicine for other things in need.
  2. Money that has been saved can be spent for other purposes equally important for them – food that keeps them strong, clothes that keep them warm, school materials and much more.
  3. Healthy family members can go to school or work on a regular basis and only by this increase the chance to have a better future then they were born in.
  4. Increased sanitary facilities not only increase the chances to stay healthy but also have a massive impact on the self-esteem of people and the natural wish of a life in dignity.
  5. A protecting home makes it possible for a family member to travel to work, not having to worry about the safety of family members when gone. This helps to get more money and resources for his family in need.

Besides the house building, the organization also supports three more projects all aiming at increasing chances of a self-determined life and a better future:

  • Building wells
  • Access to clean water is not a given in the rural areas of Cambodia. The use of contaminated water leads to serious illnesses, and in worst cases, death.
  • Building sanitary facilities
  • Only 16% of the residents in rural areas have access to adequate sanitary facilities. The organization managed to design a concept that not only consists of toilets, but also a bathroom.
  • Building a community centre
  • Education is what it’s all about for an individual. It is a ticket to a self-determined life. People, and especially young children who have no chance of education, can learn in this centre. Families of children who are not in school are contacted directly from teachers. This encouragement and community leads to a better chance for education and increased prosperity. Right now, around 200 people are educated here.  More than 50% are girls. All participants show an above-average participation rate. It is clear this could turn around the lives of the youth substantially and forever.


The Community Centre.


Teaching children in the Community Centre.



This is how you build wells.


…and this is how a family can access clean water then.


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