New Life Village

Details of the first housing community (New Life Village)

The Inspiration

During our first visit to Cambodia, we took rice and vegetables to the people searching for plastic and recyclables in the Steung Meanchey rubbish dump. What we witnessed there will stay in our memories forever - seeing fellow human beings - adults and children alike - forced to spend their days breathing in dangerous methane gas and digging through rubbish that contained human body parts, rotting food waste and syringes, all in an effort to earn around $1.50 USD a day.

On one of these trips we came across a community of 21 families living on the e dge of the dump. We were equally amazed by their friendliness and dignity as we were appalled at their living conditions (read the full story here). We knew we had to help them and it was as we considered different ways of doing so that the idea of building a housing community came about.

new village plans

Taking Action

Back in Adelaide we began to raise funds by speaking to Rotary, Lions and Church groups. Using the money we raised and part of Paul's superannuation, we returned to Cambodia and purchased 3000sqm of land at Ou Dong that the village leaders had chosen themselves. With the help of a solicitor we gave 100sqm plots to each family, getting the thumb prints to make it official.

We then partnered with Habitat for Humanity Cambodia to help build 21 brick/cement homes. Paul and I paid the 25% deposit on each home to get the project started. The heads of the families then put in 250 hours of sweat equity to make the bricks for the homes and help build them. On the 16th November 2009 over 200 volunteers from many countries came to help build. It was part of the Jimmy Carter Mekong Build 2009. Jimmy (past President of America) and Rosalyn Carter came to officially open the homes to the 21 Families.

new village people waving in half built village

Moving In

They moved in before the end of November and Paul and I hold this as the most joyful occasion of our time time in Cambodia. Each home consists of a living area, one bedroom, it’s own bathroom & toilet, and a lean-to kitchen with a stainless steel sink. We also installed solar panels on the rooves for lighting and security, and a pump that feeds water into each home, for the bathroom & kitchen. In addition, the New Life Village has a well and a community centre.

We will never forget the delight of seeing these beautiful people, who came from the worst squalor people could live in, entering their clean and secure homes.

I remember Marady who had Polio at 3 months of age, the same as Paul, being overjoyed to know that his family would always have a nice roof over their heads. And seeing Simon, the Pastor of the New Life Village delighted that he could carry out worship in the community centre. Yes we can go on... Chandy the chief, with his head held high. Srey Hak with her corner shop selling household items to village members. Samnang growing and selling vegetables to people outside the New Life Village... and so many more.

All these beautiful people have been empowered to live a new life.

Without a doubt, each village member’s life has changed for the better. No longer do they spend their days breathing in toxic fumes and picking through mountains of garbage. Instead they live in clean and secure homes, away from the pollution, with new viable ways of earning a living.

keys in hand

We would like to give special thanks to:

  • Bernadette Bolo-Duthy the Country Director of Habitat for Humanity in Cambodia. She was the spark and connector of this wonder in Ou Dong.
  • Melissa her assistant who showed so much love and encouragement to us and the villagers.
  • Pastor Simon and chief Chandy of the community - for mediating and assisting the whole village group who are now fulfilling lives of love and integrity.
  • The many many people who have chipped in with their time, their talents or their resources - without each of you it wouldn’t have been possible.
  • And may all glory go to God, for bringing us all together and giving these beautiful families a chance at new life.