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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Australian students build homes for evicted families

Australian students build homes for evicted families

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090130_05.jpg

Aussie team moved mountains of sand as part of Habitat for Humanity program to erect houses using volunteer labour.

Photo by:

SOVANN PHILONG

Australian Geelong Grammar students take a break from hauling sand on Tuesday.  

PROVIDING SHELTER 

Habitat for Humanity says that over the next few years it aims to assist some 5,000 familes across the provinces of Kampong Spey, Kampong Cham, Siem Reap, Banteay Meanchey and Phnom Penh in building and renovating their homes and water systems.

Five students and two teachers visiting Cambodia from Australia's Geelong Grammar School spent the last week hauling mountains of sand - 90 tonnes to be precise, they say.

The team, from the state of Victoria, have been constructing two homes for recently evicted families. The project was organised by the NGO Habitat for Humanity to provide homes for families relocated to Phnom Penh's Samaki village.

Nimol Kive, Habitat's project manager, said his organisation plans to construct 30 homes for families in Samaki village by November with the help of around 500 volunteers.

For the visiting students, the labour has come with unexpected perks.

The students were visited on their work site by Deputy Prime Minister Nhek Bun Chhay and opposition leader Sam Rainsy, and Prince Norodom Ranariddh hosted them for lunch.  

Hands-on help

"We've had a really rewarding stay." said Justin Corfield, the supervising teacher.

"A benefit of this program has been the practical side, where the students get to actually see where the money is going rather than writing a blank cheque," he said.

"The students also wanted to fund a project they could contribute to with their own time and efforts."

Students from the school independently raised more than US$8,000 during the year to fund the trip and building project.

"The students approached me with the idea to fund a community organised by Habitat for Humanity about a year ago. Cambodia was geographically the closest country for us to partner with, and we have had several dignitary visits to our school, with Sam Rainsy paying over three visits during the past 10 years," said Corfield.  

The students were also drawn to Cambodia after hearing broadcasts aired on Australian radio programs about evicted families.

Sam Aull, 17, called the experience "challenging but rewarding".

"I have never been to Asia before, and the absence of a middle class has astounded me," he added.  

Student Sabrina Tee saw the trip as the first of many.

"I hope this program continues to grow and students can again come over next year to help these families," said the 17-year-old.

"It's been such a rewarding experience, but definitely hard work."

Corfield said he planned to institutionalise the trip to make it a mainstay for successive classes at the school. 

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