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International Women’s Day Global Village, Q&A with a volunteer!

Deb recently joined Habitat for Humanity Australia on a Global Village in Siem Reap, Cambodia, for International Women’s Day! Deb was one of 38 volunteers who fundraised and built four safe and secure homes alongside deserving homeowners in the local community.

We caught up with Deb to ask her experiences.

Tell us about yourself, Deb!

I live in Airlie Beach Queensland, I’m a mum to three boys (well men now) and attended the International Women’s Day build with my husband, Shane. I’m a photographer in the Whitsundays for Tropix Photography – I offer services in wedding, portrait, event and commercial photography.

What inspired you to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity Australia? 

I’ve just turned 50 and it’s an interesting time. It’s a period where you assess where you’re at in life and where you want to be. For me it’s a sweet spot, my kids are mostly independent and I’m not yet caring for my parents. I’m committing to travelling and volunteering, prioritising physical and mental health and seeking personal growth. A Global Village with Habitat for Humanity Australia aligns with this stage in my life, and my goals, perfectly.

How did you find out about Habitat Australia’s Global Village program? 

A girlfriend told me about a Global Village build she took part in in Fiji, it sounded like an amazing experience! An hour later I was on your website where I noticed the International Women’s Day build and requested some information! It was such an easy process, and the rest is history – I signed up!

What activities have you been doing throughout the week?

A bit of everything! It’s been an amazing mix of building, socialising, eating and exploration! It’s probably easier if I break it down by activity…

Building: There was so much to learn here! Global Village was the first time I had ever laid bricks, chopped and sawed wood, rendered walls and mixed both cement and concrete! I also nailed flooring and the roofing support, helped build stairs, dug holes, carried sand/water/rocks, pre-drilled holes, painted the outside of the house, planted trees and just generally tidied up! It was physically demanding, but so rewarding!

Socialising: The building site itself was very sociable! The site was blasting music throughout the day and consisted of everything from heavy metal, Korean pop, Aussie classics and old school anthems – needless to say there was a lot of dancing. Our “Purple Rain” team was encouraging and motivating, we worked well with each other and spent a lot of time dancing and laughing! Lunchtime soccer matches and ‘monkey-took-the-leaves’ (aka sva dandaem sloekchheu) were the games of choice throughout the week with the local children. They provided excellent opportunities to connect with the local community and they got pretty competitive! At dinner we mixed with the other volunteers who were building different houses.  It would be remiss of me to leave out the fabulous sunrise yoga sessions put on by one of our bubbly crew members Brony – what a highlight! My body also felt so much better for it after the long build days!



Cultural immersion & learning the history of Cambodia:

There were lots of opportunities to learn more about, and experience, Cambodia. On our first day we explored the Angkor Wat temples, as well as Angkor Thom, Ta Prohm, the Bayon Temple and Banteay Srei. We were guided around the temples by local tour guide and friend of Habitat, Mr. Sam, who was incredibly knowledgeable and clear in communicating. These temples were awe inspiring.

One lunchtime Mr. Sam visited us and shared his story: growing up under the Khmer Rouge regime. We all felt very emotional and teary as we listened, Mr Sam was very kind and gentle as he shared what life was like between 1975 and 1979. He calmly told us about the loss of his loved ones under the regime, and the devastating impact the Khmer Rouge had in Cambodia, which is still apparent decades after.

We also visited a women’s group who formed a cooperative to weave and sell ratan products. We were fortunate enough to have a lesson in weaving ratan. Despite no common language, one woman was able to show me what to do with kindness and patience – she was also very forgiving when I kept breaking the ratan! (It’s more difficult than it looks…)

We met with the NGO’s who partner with Habitat for Humanity, and other organisations who are a part of the program. These organisations help identify the vulnerable families we work with in the community and offer ongoing support to lift them out of the poverty cycle. We visited previous partner families, and it was incredibly emotional to hear about their journey and see how much their circumstances had changed since they’d moved into their new homes. It was admirable to see how they had both created and seized opportunity for growth, and how their lives had been impacted positively. I so desperately want these outcomes for the families we were building with, a few of them work as scavengers and I find that heartbreaking. I want them to have better opportunities as well as housing security in their new safe and stable home.

What has been the best thing about the build?

Definitely the handover. Handing over a house with four walls, a roof, steps and a working toilet that you can actually sit on was by far the most meaningful part of the week. Being a part of this build has brought me so much joy and a true sense of accomplishment.

Would you recommend Habitat’s Global Village to others?

Yes, absolutely. I’ve already shared links on my social channels about the program and I’m sure it’ll be a reoccurring conversation for many, many months.

How many builds have you been on?

This is my first, and I can’t wait for the next one! My intention is to do one every year, and I have The Philippines, Vietnam, Fiji, Indonesia and Nepal on my list!

And finally, Deb, what does home mean to you?

Home is my sanctuary. It’s a safe and private place, where my loved ones and I can close the door on the world and spend time together. We share love, time, food and laughter. 


Would you like to hear more about our Global Village programs? Please head on over to our website to hear more information and view our upcoming builds!