Wotton + Kearney’s “Cambodian Footprint” and The Tabitha Foundation

Pro Bono Coordinator and member of Wotton + Kearney’s “Cambodian Footprint” housebuilding team Heidi Nash-Smith provides us with an insight into the team’s unforgettable experiences in Phnom Penh.

Day 1

Andrew Price, Nick Lux, Karen Pritchard, Angela Winkler, Aisha Lala and I have made the trip to Cambodia to build houses for impoverished Cambodian families in partnership with the Tabitha Foundation. The Tabitha Foundation is a non-profit organisation that seeks to help suffering families in Cambodia.

On Monday we met with Janne and Heng from the Tabitha Foundation for our induction. One of the key aspects of the induction is to ensure that everyone heading out to the Cambodian village knows about the recent history of Cambodia and the atrocities suffered by the Cambodian people at the hands of the Pol Pot regime. As part of our induction we visited the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and the Killing Fields.

It is difficult to describe the impact of visiting these places, and meeting Cambodian people who lived through that time and experienced such horror and loss. Our tour guide around Tuol Sleng told us how she lost 14 family members to the regime, including her 2 children and husband. It is disturbing how recently these events occurred “ everyone in Cambodia aged 40 and over experienced and lived through the Pol Pot regime. It is estimated that between 1 and 3 million Cambodians died at the hands of the Khmer Rouge during the 3 years, 8 months and 21 days of their rule.  It has been a very moving day.

Tomorrow morning we head out to the Kompong Chhnang region where the village we are building for is located – about a 2 hour bus trip out of Phnom Penh – and we start to build houses.  It’s going to be a tough, but very rewarding day.

Day 2

Day 2 saw us start house building.   It was an amazing day – exhausting but very very rewarding.  The villagers have an amazing sense of community which is demonstrated in so many ways with the house building project.  It is the villagers who collectively decide which families in the village are to receive a house, and when we actually started building, it didn’t matter which family will move into that house – they all came and helped and supported us.

We split into 2 teams and worked alongside Cambodian builders and the villagers to build the houses.  The Cambodian builders had already built the structure of the house and so our role is to nail on the floor boards and put up the walls.  It’s definitely not easy work, particularly in this heat and humidity, but it is so so rewarding.  The children in particular will get as close as they can while we are building and watch us hammering away, getting increasingly excited as they see their house nearing completion.

We had a very productive day, completing 7 houses and nailing on the floor of our 8th house.  On Day 3 we will complete the remaining houses and then there is a formal handover ceremony where the villagers receive their houses and can all move in!

It’s very humbling to see first hand the work that the Tabitha Foundation does here and to be able to contribute in some way.  The support you have all given to our fundraising efforts over the past year, which provides the means for Tabitha to buy the materials to build the houses, has made this happen.  Thank you.

19/11/2012