By Alistair Coulstock
Back from a second successful trip to Cambodia, this time to build one of the UNSW student’s designs of a Community Hub with RAWimpact.
As with all fundraising activities it is a nail-biting experience. Only with this type of project, it is fundamental that a financial milestone is achieved or the project does not get off the ground.
At the end of October 2014, a core group of professional architects, engineers (including Cundall) and UNSW Lecturers deliberated over a winning design. The winner, Camtopia, a design from UNSW undergrad and post grad students in an elective Sustainable Energy in Developing Countries course was selected (pictured above). It takes into account both building and surrounding area which makes the proposal quite unique. The design features including their functions were introduced and presented in a logical and detailed way. Much emphasis was placed on explaining the design features considering external factors (wind/sun/shadow) and were categorised and interpreted against the background of the context issues, and link to the theoretical framework. This was what we were going to build.
Since that competition win in October, a team of 15 volunteers assembled and fundraised in various ways in order to see the project through. We had office chocolate boxes, sausage sizzles and even a new music track written by PLINI called Ko Ki. Sufficient funds were raised due to the overwhelming generosity of friends, colleagues and family and we set off on 1st January 2015 to Cambodia.
Why Cambodia needs our help
The first day of these trips involves a cultural and historical journey to gain perspective on the ‘why’ we are there. Cambodia’s recent history is shocking especially when we understand that it all happened within the last 30-40 years and that the international community did nothing to prevent the tragedy. Pol Pot who led the Khmer Rouge systematically killed and tortured huge number of his own people and including the impact of starvation it is estimated up to 3 million out of a total population of eight million died during his reign. Now, with the educated people wiped out, Cambodia is a nation trying to rebuild itself. Unfortunately it is preyed upon by human trafficking rings exploiting children and selling them in sex trafficking syndicates. The purpose for RAWimpact is to raise awareness Worldwide and eliminate child trafficking.
The work being done by RAWImpact
After this sombre day we headed out to Gunty’s Island (Ta Skor Village) to see the progress on RAWimpact’s SALT School and then to assist in a Hydroponics apparatus build for a family. The hydroponics support families in the generation of sustainable livelihoods via innovative growing techniques in recycled plastic bottles. Seeing the positive work the various projects RAWImpact is implementing gave out team the positive boost we needed.
Ko Ki Village
After a day’s toil in the sun, the next day we ventured six hours north East to the Kratie Province where the village of Ko Ki is situated. This village comprises approximately 400 people who have been relocated through government land acquisitions. They have been given land but nothing else. The UN built a school but there are no teachers. The families live in boxes on stilts, some only 3m x3m. Adults and teenagers would be working, often going away for weeks at a time. With a teacher-less school and no adults, the children would play throughout the day. The noticeable thing was that for children with nothing, they still always had smiles on faces.
The following day saw an early rise, breakfast of fried rice and noodles and a 40-minute bus trip from the town of Kratie out to the village. The local builders had cleared the land and started the community hub project by setting foundations, bearers, floor joists and some floorboards. We proceeded to split into teams to focus on building the studs and wall sections, whilst a handful of curious children looked on.
On the second day the final wall studs were built and fixed in place. Building to accuracy is always a challenge and even more so when the wood is still green and cut roughly in the sawmill. Needless to say there were a few slight adjustments that needed to take place before some elements found their final resting place in the building.
The third and fourth day saw the wall panels, windows and doors being constructed by the team whilst the local builders finalised the installation of the roof and pergola.
Thank you for helping us create a positive community
The handover of this building was attended by approximately 250 villagers, showing the interest and the need for this building. It is hoped that this community building will be a catalyst for a better future as it will assist RAWImpact in its education programmes of agriculture, goat breeding, teaching English and healthcare. The community will also use the hub for ceremonies, celebrations and weddings.
Once a again a huge thank you to all who donated towards this cause. The village of Ko Ki and its community were extremely appreciative and humbled that a group of mad westerners could want to come in and help them out of poverty in such a way.
What is next?
I will be working again with RawImpact, UNSW and various construction professionals on what we can do next to help Cambodians rebuild their country.
If you would like to get involved in any way please contact me.
Find out more about Cundall – http://www.cundall.com/