Over 150 volunteers join Habitat for Humanity Cambodia to build homes with families relocating from Steung Meanchey dumpsite

by Heron Holloway | @HeronHolloway | Habitat for Humanity International
Friday, 1 November 2013 08:49 GMT

Huot Pheoung, Sam Sophy and their family in front of their current home near Steung Meanchey dumpsite. They will be amongst the first 12 families to move in to Smile Village.

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Phnom Penh, 1 November 2013: Habitat for Humanity Cambodia’s Mekong Big Build starts this weekend, bringing together over 150 volunteers from Cambodia and around the world to build houses at Phum Kdey Nhor Nhem (Smile Village) in Dangkor district, Phnom Penh.

Volunteers will work alongside families that lost their homes and livelihood source when the Steung Meanchey municipal dumpsite closed. Over the five days of Mekong Big Build, 3-8 November, volunteers will help construct the first 12 housing units in Smile Village.

“The recent rains have highlighted just how perilous living in substandard housing is – homes made with old steel sheeting and plastic let in water and provide no insulation, standing water spreads disease, illness means parents aren’t able to earn an income and children fall behind at school. Moving a family to a decent, safe house breaks this cycle of poverty.” said Don Boring, Habitat for Humanity Cambodia’s country director.

“Over five days, more than 150 local and international volunteers will kick start construction of Smile Village. Working alongside them will be many of the families set to occupy the first homes”, continued Don Boring.

Amongst the families set to move in to the first 12 housing units at Smile Village is Huot Pheoung, 53, his wife Som Sophy, 53, and four of their children. The family currently lives in a 3x4.5 meter house in Phoum Reousey, a community that has grown up behind Steung Meanchey dumpsite.

“We are living in such an unhealthy and unsafe environment”, says Som Sophy. “Every time it rains, water leaks everywhere from the walls and roof, quickly followed by flooding. Our house is surrounded by dirty mud and mosquitos are everywhere. The smell and the chemicals used in the dumpsite bring us and other villagers many problems. This is on top of the usual diarrhea and stomach conditions we regularly experience and have to get treatment and medication for.”

Huot Pheoung added: “I’m very happy and excited to know that soon we will be moving to a safe and convenient place, where we have access to private toilets, water and electricity, with proper drainage and no more holes in our roof and walls. My children will live healthily and be able to focus on their studies.”

The Mekong Big Build marks the start of construction on the 2.2 hectare site that will ultimately consist of 270 housing units, a vocational school, market and community center.

About Smile Village
The Smile Village project is one of many Habitat for Humanity Cambodia projects. Working in partnership with another non-profit organization, Pour un Sourire d’Enfant (PSE), the project aims to support families displaced from a municipal dumpsite in Phnom Penh that was both their home and source of income.

PSE are already supporting many of the families moving in to Smile Village in various ways, like assisting children to attend school, negotiating with landowners to prevent eviction or providing financial support for land rental or microenterprise.

Smile Village offers low-income families the opportunity to rent decent, affordable housing units while their children attend school, and are supported with financial education and vocational training. The project aims to help families find jobs and save money so they are then able to build or buy their own home.

About Habitat for Humanity Cambodia
Since January 2003, Habitat for Humanity Cambodia’s housing and community development programs in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Prey Veng and Kandal have helped to reduce poverty by empowering communities to improve their access to better living conditions.

HFH Cambodia has a five-year strategic initiative to assist 10,000 low-income families while inspiring individ¬uals, groups, organizations and the government to champion innovative housing solutions for Cambodians in need. For more information, please visit habitatcambodia.org.