Houses built during Habitat for Humanity Cambodia’s Mekong Big Build to be homes for families displaced from Steung Meanchey dumpsite

by Heron Holloway | @HeronHolloway | Habitat for Humanity International
Friday, 8 November 2013 07:02 GMT

"For me, the best thing for my life is to have my own home", said Nét Ny (pictured left), who is amongst the 12 families set to move into their new home in Smile Village.

Image Caption and Rights Information

* Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.


Phnom Penh, 8 November 2013: Over 150 volunteers put down their tools today, signaling the end of Habitat for Humanity Cambodia’s Mekong Big Build. The build event, which started on Sunday 3 November, involved volunteers from Cambodia and around the world building 12 houses at Phum Kdey Nhor Nhem (Smile Village) in Dangkor district, Phnom Penh. Volunteers worked alongside families that lost their homes and livelihood source when Steung Meanchey municipal dumpsite closed.

Nét Ny, 53, is amongst the families due to move to Smile Village. She is a widow looking after her two sons and three orphaned nephews, all living in a 5x6 meter home in Preak Toil Village near Steung Meanchey dumpsite. “For me, the best thing for my life is to have my own home. I will feel more fresh and alive here [at Smile Village]. It is always smelly and dirty where I live now, which makes me feel tired and sick,” says Ny.

Amongst the volunteers was Gillian Robinson from Worcester, England: “I didn’t expect the amount of poverty I have seen, and I think 99 per cent of people back home don’t realize it either.” Also volunteering were Joe and Sam Mayo, two brothers from Arizona, USA: “I’ve always wanted to do something humanitarian like this… I am loving the fact that I’m getting to know so many local people. The first day was hard but then we fell into a routine. It’s so much more rewarding than just doing tourist things,” said Joe.

“The Mekong Big Build has been a great success. The energy and enthusiasm of both the volunteers and partner families has been great every day, and I thank them for their commitment. This build event signals the first step in a new life for 12 marginalized and vulnerable families, helping them to break out of the cycle of poverty,” said Don Boring, Habitat for Humanity Cambodia’s country director.

The Mekong Big Build marked 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 individuals, groups, organizations and the government to champion innovative housing solutions for Cambodians in need. For more information, please visit