Approximately 40 percent of Cambodian schools lack access to clean water, according to Radio Free Asia. To improve a school that lacks electricity and sanitary facilities, 16 members of Habitat for Humanity (HFH) visited Cambodia from Nov. 26-30. Along with advisers Peter Beckway and Cheryl Renwick, members collaborated with local workers to provide better conditions for the children in Siem Reap, a rural region in Cambodia.
The bathrooms in which HFH members worked were in poor condition due to the inaccessibility of running water. Hoping to minimize the sanitary problems that would arise from such inhospitable facilities, HFH members decided to build an additional bathroom. Moreover, members helped paint and decorate the fences around a new hand-washing facility.
“Cambodia was completely different from Korea,” said Jennifer Kim (10), HFH member. “Since it is not a developed country, I had a hard time adjusting to the sanitation conditions, but I eventually coped with the situation. Members with more physical strength assisted building the toilet while other members helped paint the fences.”
Members worked with local laborers, as building the toilets was a labor-intensive task. Local workers taught members the fundamentals about the construction process such as laying down bricks, mixing the cement, digging holes and so forth.
“Although we could not communicate verbally, we were able to get our ideas across using body language,” said Augustine Kim (11), member. “A worker would smile if a task was done correctly and cross his fingers if it was not done right. The workers were genuinely trying their hardest, and that motivated us to work harder.”
Despite the limited time and resources, which led to members leaving without finishing the project, members were able to fully interact with the local students and workers.
“The project was not finished when we left, but our two days contributed greatly to the local workers’ efforts,” Mr. Beckway said. “Members also had a chance to exchange words, take pictures and ride bikes with the local students. The trip allowed students to understand the dignity of hard work and learn about impoverished communities.”
To further its service efforts, HFH is planning to visit Bangkok over spring break for five days.
“We are currently in the process of finding new sites that are in need of our help,” said Ryan Choi (11), HFH secretary. “We are also planning to go on a build within Korea during winter break. We have already gone on local builds to Hwahae Town, and we are trying to organize it again this break.”
Photo by Augustine Kim