Heavy lifting for new homes
Rotaractors from the University of New South Wales, Australia traveled to Cambodia in 2007 to help needy residents build new homes. Photo courtesy of the Rotaract Club of the University of New South Wales.
Rotaractors from the University of New South Wales in Australia will travel to India and Mongolia in July as part of Habitat for Humanity’s Global Village Youth Program, which sends volunteers ages 14-25 to other countries to help needy people build new homes.
Since 2004, the Rotaractors have traveled on the program to Cambodia, Fiji, the Philippines, and Thailand. They’ve paid their own travel and lodging expenses with help from corporate donations and eight Rotary clubs in New South Wales.
Rotaractor Yiling Cheah went on the Philippines trip in 2005 and led another trip in 2007 to Cambodia. There, she and 10 others built two houses in six days and donated money to build a home for a blind elderly woman and her grandson.
Covered with mud and sweat, the volunteers in Cambodia mixed cement, laid bricks, and hauled soil in wicker baskets. The work was exhausting, but the bigger problem was the ankle-deep water caused by flooding. “The soil we carried was wet, meaning that it was a lot heavier to carry. It also meant that we had to work with things hidden in the water, whether it was our tools or parasites,” Cheah recalls.
The hard work seemed worthwhile when the homes were presented to their new owners in a special ceremony. “The homeowners were in tears of joy. They were also in tears of sadness because we were about to leave, and they never really got to know us due to language barriers,” Cheah says. “The homeowners didn’t know how to thank us for what we had given them, and we didn’t know what to say. It was only then that our team members realized what a huge contribution we had made to two families’ lives in a matter of six days.”