When we were contacted to help repair 22 homes in Cambodia, we decided to start with the four homes most in need of repair. The homes in this area are on wooden stilts, are made of bamboo, and have thatched siding. The repairs will include replacing the thatched siding with pleated metal siding to increase durability. Like many of our other projects, we have been contracting with local companies to repair the homes.
The first home housed a family of three. Both the father, who is in a wheelchair, and mother have AIDS, and their young daughter is HIV positive. Because of their poor health, making the repairs on their own would have been challenging for them.
When we arrived at their home, we went inside to get photos and measurements. The house was one room, which measured 10 feet by 13 feet. As I descended the bamboo steps after coming back outside, I rested on the bamboo handrail, and my weight caused it to snap in half! The home had certainly been in need of repair, but even more so after that!
When we visited the second house, the old woman who lived there was sitting in the shade underneath her home. She never came out from under the house while we were there. It seemed like she didn’t believe we were really going to help her repair her home, and that was humbling.
The third house we visited was home to a blind man and his family. He had been injured in the Vietnam War and was now too old to repair his home. His oldest son has been helping us get the details on the repairs needed and promised to use the materials we remove from the old metal roof to improve the home in other ways. It was so inspiring to see them doing what they could to help.
The elderly couple at the fourth house asked us for a door. Currently, they just have some type of cloth hung in the doorway. They have so little, yet when the monks came by to collect offerings for the poor, they donated some of their rice.
So far, we’ve been able to complete the work on the first two homes. For the first, we also added a rain gutter and large jars on the side of the house that will capture clean rainwater for the family to use. The family warmly thanked us for the renovation. They were smiling from ear to ear.
The woman at the second house, who initially wouldn’t come out from under her home, was out and about showing the house to everyone after her home was finished. She had a huge smile on her face when we took our picture together.
It is enchanting to see how happy the families are when we finish their homes. We are meeting with ministry officials soon to see an additional 14 houses that are on the list for reconstruction services.
It is so easy for us to take for granted the nice insulated walls, electricity, and clean running water so many of us are accustomed to. This experience has made me more thankful for all we have.
*Story from Lori Thurston, an LDS Charities representative serving in Cambodia.