This page contains all of the information that was provided to members of the Cambodia team. Now that the trip is complete, it has been condensed to one very long page, for the sake of website design.
HFH IN CAMBODIA:
As I mentioned to some of you during your interview, the house that we will be working on is for a family that has been affected by HIV. I will post more specific info about what we’ll be doing as soon as I know!
The information below was sent to me by the staff in Cambodia:
Habitat for Humanity Cambodia History
Habitat for Humanity International in Cambodia (HFHI-C) was established in 2003 and believes that, “every Cambodian has a right to a simple decent home”. HFHI-C has worked over these past years to make affordable home ownership a reality for poor families in three communities of suburban Phnom Penh.
These are indeed challenging times for low-income families who are trying to obtain affordable shelter in Cambodia. In Phnom Penh there are 564 slum areas housing 300,000 people, one quarter of the city’s population. Only ten years ago 30,000 people lived in 187 slum areas. The need for affordable housing is an urgent matter which is why HFH Cambodia has the vision to ensure that all people in Cambodia have a decent place to live.
Habitat in Cambodia is not operating its operations through the affiliate model, but through Project Model. It began its first Project, Phnom Penh Urban Housing Development Initiative (PPUHDI) in 2004. This project is funded by The Australian Charitable Foundation (TCF) through HFH Australia. The Project’s life is a 4-year Project and aims to build, renovate and repair 324 houses in 4 years. The PPUHDI mainly focuses on the 4 slum relocation communities in suburban Phnom Penh City; namely – Kampuchea Krom, Samaki, Krang Ang Krong and Sen Sok communities. Three hundred and twenty four homes have now been built through this project.
Facts about HFH Cambodia Construction
Number of houses built: 360
Houses size: 4m x 6m, 5m x 9m, 4m x 7m and 4m x 8m.
Construction methods and material used: bricks, cement block, corrugated metal roof, reinforced concrete.
House costs: US$ 1500 – $ 1,900
Building Activities: GV teams assist local volunteers and home partners with a variety of unskilled tasks such as mixing and passing cement, carrying and laying blocks, digging and landscaping.
How are the partner families selected?
Families are selected by the local Affiliate Committee and Board Members on a non-discriminatory basis. Families must meet selection criteria such as:
- Presently living in sub-standard conditions
- Fits within Habitat’s low-income range (established locally)
- Willingness to partner with Habitat (work on their home and other homes)
- Willingness to repay an interest-free house loan to Habitat over a set period of time.
Families in need of decent shelter apply to local Habitat affiliates. The affiliate’s family selection committee chooses homeowners based on their level of need, their willingness to become partners in the program, their ability to repay the no-interest loan & Habitat’s ability to build a home for the applicant family. Neither race nor religion is a factor in choosing the families who receive Habitat houses. When a new family is selected to participate in Habitat’s program the family is required to complete a certain number of hours of labor (sweat equity) on Habitat work-sites helping to construct homes for others as well as their own home.
What type of construction will we be using on the HFH homes?
The HFH homes the team will be working on during our GV trip will be masonry construction style.
What will the toilets be like at the worksites?
They will more than likely be very basic outdoor toilets. Public water is not available at the worksite some places. Habitat will try to coordinate for using toilets in the house close by or the community toilets.
Will there be experienced supervisors with us on the worksite?
Yes, there will be a construction supervisor and some skilled workers at the work site each day.
What level of English proficiency will the homeowners and the other workers on the work site have, if any?
The site manager and most of the staff have a fairly good command of English but not enough to avoid any misunderstandings. So we will all have to try and learn each others language. The homeowners don’t speak any English.
Will there be a dedication ceremony on the last day?
Yes, the affiliate will organize a dedication ceremony near the end of our build even if the homes are not 100% complete. This will allow the team to bid farewell to their new Cambodian friends and to recognize the happy and grateful families who will be living in the homes you have built.
Will Cambodian volunteers other than the families be working with the team on the work site?
Yes, sometimes, local volunteers will more than likely be working along side the team at the work site on and off. There also some students volunteer come to help in translation too.
Security on and off the work site
Never bring valuables to the work site as there will not be a secure place to store them. It is recommended you carry personal items in a waist bag and keep them with you as you work. Personal tools can be taken back to the hotel each day. The construction manager will in most cases secure these items over night, if you like. It is a good idea to mark personal tools with an ID mark.
The team will be housed in a private hotel while in Phnom Penh. While we will do our best to provide a safe environment for your personal belongings, we can’t guarantee the safe keeping of your personal items. Again we strongly recommend that you do NOT bring items with any significant monetary and/or sentimental value.
Gift giving policy
HFH Cambodia graciously accepts donations. However, remember that we are an organization that gives opportunities not charity. We ask that every team member respect this fundamental principle and not give personal gifts to any Habitat employee, family or construction workers. Keep in mind that even a small gift may cause jealousy: usually the gift-giver never knows it. Also, giving gifts reinforces an attitude of passivity and dependence, which is counterproductive with our mission of self-help and sweat-equity.
Near the end of the trip, HFH Cambodia would like for you to take time out to discuss how the trip went. HFH Cambodia would greatly appreciate your helping us improve. We would appreciate your opinion and comments on your time with us. PLEASE take a few minutes to complete the evaluation form we will be giving you. The benefits to us and future teams are immeasurable. Don’t hold back. Please, “say it like it is” we value your opinion.
BASICS: FOOD, WATER, SHELTER, MONEY
Breakfast will be eaten at the hotel before we depart for the worksite each day; there will be a lunch break every day at the worksite, with lunch provided on site. Tea and snacks will also be available daily at the worksite. The evening meals will be eaten at local restaurants- get ready for some yummy Cambodian cuisine!
Food on site is generally simple. If you have any special dietary needs (allergies, diabetic requirements, vegetarian/vegan, etc.) please let me know so that provisions can be made to assure your needs are met. Vegetarians can find suitable food in restaurants throughout the country. Arrangements can also be made for vegetarian lunches on request. Vegetarian selections should be available at each of the restaurants.
Visitors generally should not drink tap water in Cambodia; bottled water is very accessible and will be provided.
We will be staying at the Goldiana Hotel- check it out at http://www.goldiana.com/pp/goldiana_hotel.htm
Our hotel has all of the luxuries you might usually expect- there is wifi, a swimming pool, etc. The hotel has a safety deposit box, but it is best to leave valuables such as expensive jewelry at home.
Electric outlets are 220-240 volts (50Hz cycles). If you plan to bring any electrical appliance, please make sure it can handle a 220V outlet. If not, you will need a transformer. Cambodia has round (as opposed to flat) prongs, so you may need a converter depending on what country you are coming from.
Your trip cost covers your housing, transportation, food, and cultural activities; the only money you need to bring is for entry and exit fees ($20 USD in and $25 USD out), and for any personal souvenirs or extra purchases you may wish to make. This amount will vary from person to person; in general, $150-200 should be more than enough. (Per Habitat policy, alcohol cannot be covered by trip funds, so if you wish to have a beer with dinner, you will need to pay for that separately.)
Credit cards are rarely accepted except for at large businesses, but ATMs are widely accessible. If you plan to withdraw money from an ATM, it is suggested that you contact your bank before departure to alert them that you will be using your card while in Cambodia. Some banks will block withdrawals unless you forewarn them of your travel plans.
Cambodian currency is called “Riel,” and is abbreviated KHR. Currently, 1 USD is about 4000 KHR, and 1 euro is about 5700 KHR. Riel paper notes are available in the following denominations: 100, 500, 1000 & 10,000. The Riel is divided into Sen, with 100 Sen in a Riel. Coins are not used in Cambodia.
LOGISTICS: FLIGHTS, VISAS, SCHEDULING
Arrival: our orientation with the Habitat for Humanity staff in Cambodia will be held on the afternoon/evening of Sunday, July 3rd. Thus, please plan your arrival so that you arrive by the morning of the 3rd to insure that you are there in time! (Note that in the itinerary there are 2 days for travel time.)
A meeting point will be coordinated as the time of the trip draws closer and I have everyone’s flight information. We will meet at the airport, and you will be provided with transportation to the hotel. If there are widely different arrival times, two separate meeting times may be arranged so that those who arrive first are not stuck at the airport all day! I’ll be in touch with you about specifics in the weeks directly before the trip.
If you miss your flight: be in touch as soon as possible! Email, call, text… [phone numbers available soon].
Departure: The last day of the trip will be July 9th, and we will all part ways on July 10th. You may schedule your flight for any time on the 10th. There is a departure tax of $25 USD.
Many participants choose to arrive early or stay late to explore the country on their own. Please note that the trip cost covers expenses (food, lodging, etc.) for the dates of the trip only- anything beyond that is up to you as an individual. (As per the itinerary, the hotel room is from the night of the 3rd through checkout the morning of the 10th.)
I am happy to look over your itinerary before you book it to make sure that it falls on the correct dates/times.
Please send me your full itinerary once you have booked it!
The cost of the visa for Cambodia is $20 USD; this is one of the only things NOT included in the trip cost- so please make sure to bring $20 USD with you for this purpose! (I believe that the payment must be in USD and cannot be made in any other currency.) Visas are available on arrival at the airport, but you must bring a passport photo with you. This means you do not need to arrange anything beforehand, you just need to show up with your passport, one passport photo, and $20 USD, and you will be granted a visa.
Although it is not necessary, if you would like to arrange your visa in advance, you can apply for an e-visa online at http://www.mfaic.gov.kh/evisa/. The cost is $20 + a $5 processing fee, and you can print out your visa and bring it with you.
If you are traveling to Cambodia overland (e.g. from Vietnam, Thailand), some border locations grant visas on arrival, while others do not- please look into this in advance! You may need to arrange your visa in advance with the Cambodian embassy in your country of citizenship, or apply for the visa online.
Please look up the requirements from your country of citizenship to make sure that nothing additional is required for you. If you have any questions or problems finding information, please be in touch!
Our trip begins with a welcome and orientation on Sunday afternoon. In general, our work-week schedule will be as such:
7:30-8:15 Leave hotel and travel to worksite
8:15-8:40 Arrive at build site and receive instructions for the day
12:00-13:00 Lunch break
16:30- on Travel back to hotel, shower, evening meal and team activities
Please note that the times are not exact, this is just to give you a general outline. Flexibility is key!
On the afternoon of the final building day (Friday) we will have a farewell party with the homeowners, and on Saturday, we’ll have the opportunity to engage in some cultural activities- as of now, the plan is to visit the Genocide Museum and Killing Fields to learn more about Cambodian history, and also to visit a local market.
HEALTH & SAFETY
Medical insurance is included in your trip cost and is provided by MEDEX. Please see the information in your orientation packet for details. The medical insurance covers you beginning 5 days before the start day of the trip and until 5 days post-trip. If you plan to extend your trip any longer, you are of course responsible for your own medical insurance.
Though it is not required, I would encourage you to register with your country’s embassy to inform them of your trip to Cambodia. In the event of an emergency, this helps your embassy to know that you are in the country and to provide you with any assistance you may need. This is also helpful in more minor cases, such as a lost passport.
US citizens can register their trip plans online at https://travelregistration.state.gov/ibrs/ui/
Australian citizens can register online at https://www.orao.dfat.gov.au/orao/weborao.nsf/homepage?Openpage
Canadian citizens can register online at https://www.voyage2.gc.ca/Registration_inscription/Register_Inscrire/Login_ouvrir-une-session-eng.aspx
Habitat for Humanity cannot make medical recommendations, so please visit the CDC website (http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/cambodia.htm) to make yourself aware of the recommended vaccines, malaria prophylactics, and other medical considerations involved in traveling to Cambodia. Discuss your travel plans and personal health with a health care provider to determine which vaccines and/or medications you will need.
I will have a well-stocked first aid kit with us for the trip. Our hosts will also have contacts for doctors, dentists, and hospitals should the need arise.
Participants should not carry valuables or large amounts of money. There will be a safety deposit box at the hotel, but valuables are generally better left at home.
PACKING: WHAT TO BRING
In general, bring clothing that you don’t mind getting very dirty! Please note that it will be quite hot, so wear light clothing that is breathable. Only closed-toe shoes may be worn on the worksite. Make sure to bring a hat and sunscreen!
Below is some information on dress code given to me by the Cambodia affiliate, as well as general packing info. Conservative dress is best!
From the affiliate in Cambodia:
Generally speaking, most of the Cambodian people with whom you will have contact have never been out of the country or experienced any other cultures. Therefore, please remain sensitive to how you present yourselves as guests.
As for women: To avoid complications or misinterpretation of what is culturally appropriate, women are urged to wear long pants at the work site (“Capri” pants will be fine). Women must avoid any garments which do not cover the buttock and thighs. Tank tops are fine as long as the straps are wide and no undergarment is showing; ladies may wear T-shirts as an upper garment.
As for men: Traditionally, it is common for Cambodian men to wear shorts. Therefore, it is not considered insensitive for the men on the Global Village team to wear them. T-shirts may be worn as an upper garment.
Church visits: The team may be invited to attend a community church. Women should wear long skirt (below the knees) and blouse or a long dress. Sleeveless is inappropriate. Men should wear long pants and a dress shirt.
Work Clothes: Sandals and other “open toed shoes” are not permitted on the work site. Old work boots or other sturdy shoes with closed toes (no sandals) for the building site. A comfortable outdoor/athletic shoe or lightweight hiking shoe/boot is suggested. A bandana or face cloth is recommended. Long trousers are recommended for your protection and safety, as we will be working on a construction worksite. Your safety is the first priority. T-shirts will be fine.
For general dress outside of the worksite:
Men – Most men dress casually but modestly. Long shorts are fine. T-shirts or singlets are generally accepted. Shoes can also be casual such as open sandals (when not on the worksite). When attending church or more formal occasions, a long sleeve shirt and long dress trousers are expected. Ties are not generally worn.
Women – Conservative dress is suggested. Although many tourists are often seen briefly dressed it is tolerated but not considered polite. Short skirts, 2 piece bathing suits and short-shorts are generally not acceptable.
When packing for the trip, please keep in mind our daily activities: we will be working during the day (bring clothes you don’t mind getting dirty) and after showering, will be eating dinner at local restaurants and socializing in the evenings (bring clothes other than working clothes). On the final day, we will be visiting museums and local sites. Cambodians dress conservatively (no short skirts, no tank tops) and you are encouraged to do the same out of respect for the culture.
Bring a hat and/or a bandanna (it will be hot!). Bring sunglasses, bring chapstick with SPF, and bring sunscreen!
In addition to the obvious things like bathroom necessities, camera, etc., here are some other things you might want:
A personal journal, if you care to record the daily activities; a book to read in downtime
Small backpack or bag to carry your things to the worksite or when we go out for dinner
Hand sanitzer; Insect repellent
Small flashlight, just in case
Bathing suit (our hotel has a swimming pool)
Any medication you may need (prescription or otherwise). The most common illnesses travelers experience are stomach-related. Bring meds for both diarrhea and constipation.
Zip-lock bags for soiled clothing
Earplugs (you will be sharing a hotel room)
Tools (this is from the affiliate in Cambodia). Please note that it is not necessary to bring any tools whatsoever. However, if you wish to bring some, here is the info they provide:
What tools could we bring to use then donate to the affiliate?
If team members would like to bring their own tools to use and/or donate them to the affiliate when you go home that would be great. If the team would like to leave any tools or clothing behind the affiliate will see that they are used by the affiliate or given to one of the Habitat families. (You are under no obligation to bring a lot of tools, only what you may wish to donate and can easily carry in your baggage.)
Typical ‘tools’ the affiliate could use that will be easy to pack:
- metric and non-metric tape measures
- ‘claw’ hammer
- “cats claws” (used for removing nails)
- gloves (one pair for you and one or two pairs for homeowners)
- levels (any size that is small enough to pack)
- nylon string for layout
- builder’s nail apron (or tool belt)
- utility knife and extra blades
- carpenter pencils (several)
- ‘speed square’ (ask at Home Depot or Lowes)
- chalk line (with extra chalk)
- small trowel
- 15″ (tool box) hand saw
What kind of things might the team bring to donate to the affiliate when we leave?
Things the affiliate office has specifically requested:
- For the work site:
- Small trowels
- Metric measuring tapes
- Carpenter pencils
- Claw hammers
- For the office:
- Lap top computer
- Office soft ware
- Photo software
- English dictionary
- Picture dictionary
Donations to the local affiliate that benefit an entire community such as school supplies, small tools and clothing are welcome and appreciated and will be distributed by host affiliate personnel. We ask that your team leader always remain the first point of contact for this type of in-kind or monetary contribution.
Team members occasionally are approached by hosting community members about sponsoring a child in the community. This too is discouraged; Habitat strives to promote independence and personal capacity, not create dependence on others— especially those outside of their own community. Such acts of generosity also raise the community’s expectations of future GV teams. If you are interested in further supporting the host community, please contact your GV team leader.
GENERAL INFO ABOUT CAMBODIA
I suggest taking the time to read a little bit about Cambodia before our trip!
Here is the affiliate website (check out their newsletters): http://www.habitatcambodia.org/
Wikitravel has excellent information: http://wikitravel.org/en/Cambodia
You may also be interested in the CIA World Factbook: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/cb.html
The language of Cambodia is Khmer- learn some phrases here: http://thebodia.com/cambodia/info-u/learn-to-speark-khmer/useful-khmer-words-and-phrases/
Cambodian history: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Cambodia
Check out a video about Habitat’s work in Cambodia here.
Today was our fourth day on the working site, it is amazing how time flies.
And actually a bit sad that tomorrow will be our last day. Thanks to the help and patience of the skilled workers we all gradually improved our construction skills and it feels like a shame to stop when we just got started.
Working with the team is great, too! It feels strange and sad to know that we will all part ways again on sunday.
Also the neighbors are just incredible. They always welcome us with a warm smile and thanks to our translator vasna we are able to have some verbal interaction with them.
It is simply a fantastic experience and I am so happy to participate in this.
Thank you all guys!
How to explain a day with Habitat for Humanity in Phnom Penh…
We’ve been here working on the site for 3 days and we already have so many unforgettable memories…
Since Monday, we’ve carried a lot of buckets of sand, we’ve laid a lot of bricks, and we’ve made tons of cement. We’ve drunk about 5 liters of water per day, and we have sweat that much as well…
And, little by little, our two houses are taking shape, with one nearly finished!
But Habitat is not only about bricks, cement and sweat…
During these last days, we’ve also tried to learn Khmer, with the patience of our kind coworkers, future homeowner families, and neighbours. We’ve been laughing about our way of doing things, we’ve been singing, taking Khmer dancing lessons (thanks to community members and coworkers), we’ve been playing with children, and we’ve made new friends.
Lots of smiles and lots of sparkles in the eyes.
The relationship between the community members and future homeowners with our team has gone from curiosity to trust, sympathy, kindness, and shared experiences.
Habitat for Humanity is a true learning and enriching experience. I can’t wait for another day of hard work, laughs, emotions, sweat, talks, cultural awareness, and fun. It is an amazing experience!
Merci a Habitat, au team et a cette population si chaleureuse et souriante pour cette incroyable experience !!!
More pictures are up today, be sure to check out the pictures page!
From Jonathan, Joyce, & Klara:
Sitting here having a few drinks and thought we would write about the day as we digest amazingly tasting tarantulas!! Today we continued construction on both houses, and got dancing lessons from the locals. Learning how to lay bricks is probably the hardest thing that we have done yet, but was made marginally easier after being taught the ice cream method (if you have ever layed bricks you will understand what we mean).
Unlike yesterday, the weather was improved as the sun was obscured by storm clouds meaning that it was less hot, yet we still managed to get soaked by a storm when making the trip back to the hotel after a quick visit to the supermarket for snacks and ice cream.
Once again, our good friend Raymond from Habitat Cambodia organized a shout out/song dedication on a local radio station where they specifically mentioned the Australians, but unfortunately, they did not have “men at work” which would have been a very fitting song!
Overall, today was a very productive, tiring and long day, but was certainly worth it to see the progress of the construction work 🙂
Highlight of the day:
– eating fried tarantulas for dinner (and yes, we have photographic proof!!)
A few pictures have been uploaded to the pictures page- check it out! More coming soon! (Apologies for the bad formatting, it will be fixed by tomorrow.)
Everyone made it in today! As the team leader I had some errands to run before everyone checked into the hotel this afternoon, and Jonathan accompanied me. I wanted to buy a large amount of bottled water from a store around just around the corner and one block down from our hotel. So, I checked with the store to see if I could borrow their shopping cart to take the water to the hotel, promising to return it right away. (We’re so close to the store that taking a tuk tuk just seemed silly.) I asked before I started shopping, and they agreed. After I checked out, I made sure once again- the security guard even helped us get the cart down the steps (there was no ramp) and then we set off, wheeling our shopping cart down the bumpy road with motorcycles and tuk tuks blazing by.
We almost made it. Just a few meters away from our hotel, a police officer came up to our cart, looked at us sternly, and demanded that we stop right there. The language barrier posed a serious obstacle to my attempts to explain that I had permission, and he unloaded our boxes of water onto the curb and went away with the shopping cart. (I tried to explain that I could take it back instead of making him do it, but no luck.)
Luckily we were so close to the hotel that it wasn’t a problem to just carry them in- a hotel staff member even helped us. So, thus concluded our water-buying adventure. Lesson learned: don’t borrow a shopping cart, even if you have permission. Jonathan and I had a good laugh!
By this afternoon everyone had checked into the hotel, so the whole team met up for the first time to go to an orientation on Habitat for Humanity in Cambodia with Vitey, our host volunteer coordinator. We’ll be working on two houses over the next week, and we got to learn a little about each of the families that we’ll be working with- very excited to meet them tomorrow! Vitey provided us with an excellent overview- we even got to practice our newfound Khmer language skills. We had a nice dinner and went over a few logistical details, and now it’s most definitely bedtime. We leave the hotel tomorrow morning at 7:30 am to head to the worksite!
Over the evening and dinner we started getting to know each other little by little- it’s really a fantastic group of people! I am so happy to be leading this particular group, and am looking forward to learning more about everyone over our next days together!
For photos from our trip, check our our group Flickr page:
A few highlights from the first building day (photos by Ikerne):