Volunteering is not just about gap-years and long-term
assignments. Over the past decade, we have facilitated a number of
volunteer house-building experiences for people from all
backgrounds. Through house building, Cambodians are
able to share their expertise with the volunteers that come.
They teach foreigners how to hammer and saw, they teach volunteers
the Cambodian ways and culture. Volunteers like to have a
meaningful experience. They feel like they have left something
Through house building, volunteers are dependent on the
Cambodians for instructions on how a house is finished, volunteers
play with the children and learn some Cambodian words, volunteers
leave with a deeper appreciation of the strength of the human
spirit under harsh living conditions.
The concept started in 1996 with time-short people contacting us
wishing to contribute and have a meaningful experience through
Tabitha. Since then the house-building programme has expanded to
include students, teachers, parents, individuals and corporate
groups. Currently, there are an average of six teams of volunteers
per month coming from Cambodia, Singapore, Taiwan, Indonesia, Hong
Kong, Australia, United States of America, United Kingdom and
Canada to build houses. To date we have seen well over 8,034 houses
constructed by over 15,000 volunteers. In the year ended August
2013, 72 teams went to Cambodia (2,160 volunteers that built 1,140
houses). An additional 1,537 Cambodian families
built sturdy homes. Our oldest builder this year
was 76 years of age and our youngest builder was 5 years of
A typical house-building trip will begin with an insightful
orientation session from our founder Janne Ritskes that usually
takes place in Phnom Penh and includes an opportunity to visit some
of Cambodia's sites of interest. Volunteers will have the chance to
learn first hand about the causes of, the results of and, most
importantly, the solutions to poverty. The team will then travel to
a project site to carry out the work. Each team must raise US$980
per house for materials plus US$1,500, which will be applied to the
savings and development programme. Tabitha prepares the cement
posts and the frame and the teams finish the house under the
supervision of local Tabitha staff. Most teams can build four to
six houses per day.
The recipients are typically families from our programme who
have saved enough money to be able to buy a small piece of land and
some of the materials. But this programme is about so much more
than bricks and mortar. The impact is a shared experience of growth
and understanding between cultures. Long lasting friendships have
been formed with this work, and volunteers will leave Cambodia with
a real sense of achievement by helping Cambodian families become
role models for others.
We ask that volunteers form their own groups of 12 to 20 people
independently, and then contact Tabitha Cambodia well in advance to
arrange a time. The volunteers must cover their own travel and
accommodation costs, but we can help arrange the booking of hotels
and buses for the teams. As can be seen from our Corporate Support
section, our house-building programme can also add a whole new
dimension to corporate team-building activities, adding not just to
the performance of your team, but to your whole organisation's
corporate social responsibility priorities.
For more information, please click here.
© Tabitha Foundation (Singapore) 2011 All rights reserved.