Preparing the Ground in Cambodia for the Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project 2009

US Peace Corp Volunteers Test Build with Families Who Live on a Waste Dump Site

PHNOM PENH, 5th May 2009: Fifteen US Peace Corp volunteers this week worked in the extreme heat for five days to complete a test house in the village of Phoum Phnom Bat, site of the Cambodian phase of the forthcoming 2009 Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project.

Together with families, 15 US Peace Corps volunteers helped to build a house at the Cambodian site of the Carter Work Project. The house will be used as a community center.

Sun-dried soil clay, sand and cement blocks made on site were used to build the house. There are plans to strengthen the blocks and make them more uniform for the build in November.

The volunteers, all currently on assignment in Cambodia, came together to work alongside 21 future Habitat home owners. The families currently live among the waste and garbage of a dumpsite in Steung Meanchey, 60 kilometers north of the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh.

“This has been a great experience to be able to work on this house,” said 31-year-old team leader Tiffany Walker from Sacramento, California. Like the other Peace Corp members, she is spending two years living with Khmer families while teaching English and working on community projects.

“It has been a challenge working on this house as none of us has done any construction before, but it has been very satisfying knowing it will be part of this new community which will transform the lives of the people who will live here,” said Walker.

“This build represents a physical experience in seeing a house being constructed over a period of five days and being part of this has been very special.”

The leader of the 21-family community, Chea Chandy, was delighted with the experience. “I enjoyed working with the volunteers and feel the house design will provide safe new housing to my family and the other 20 families who have lived on the dumpsite for so long.

“We hope to work with the Habitat staff over the coming months on improving the design and feel that this community will offer hope to us and our children for the future. This project will transform families who have lived in very inadequate houses for most of their lives.”

The families have been living on the dump site for nine years.

Malvin Pagdanganan, Habitat for Humanity’s construction manager for the Carter Work Project, said: “This has been a technical exercise for us to determine how we will build the 21 houses. We learned a great deal and we plan to do things even better in November.”

The house was built with a new technique for Habitat for Humanity in Cambodia. It used sun-dried soil clay, sand and cement blocks made on site. One lesson for November: the blocks need to be stronger and more uniform so the plan is to add laterite to the mix for additional strength and use a machine to compress the mixture into more regular, sturdier blocks.

Habitat for Humanity Cambodia’s construction and block production manager Kent Kruse added: “Malvin and I were both amazed with the Peace Corp volunteers who worked very hard under the heat and completed the house on schedule.”

Though built as a house, complete with toilet, the structure will eventually become a community center for the 21 families.