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Tabitha Cambodia Final Report – Housing 1994 – 2022

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The house building project had an immense impact on our families and on Tabitha Cambodia. It was the project that brought more than 30,000 volunteers from all over the world to come and experience Cambodia at a personal level. One of the major impacts was that our volunteer foundations in Canada, USA, UK, Singapore and Australia were all headed by volunteers who had come and continued to come to build houses for our families.

There are so many memories of housebuilding teams. Our first official team was headed by Andy Payne and fellow teachers of UWCSEA. It almost became our last team. Tabitha had not yet learned all the many lessons that we needed to learn. This team started building from scratch by carrying and installing the nine cement support posts for the house. It almost finished the team as the posts weighed about a ton each. The house was very unstable. We were beginning to put up our first wall, when this house of lessons, tumbled down around us, cracking a few ribs, lots of deep gashes and a great deal of shock. I give this team full credit for returning the next morning and rebuilding a very good house. I learned that we needed to do the foundations and the frames with local contractors and let teams finish the walls and floors of a house.

It was the beginning of building 13,266 houses from 2005 till our closing when our final task as Tabitha Cambodia is to build 90 houses with 140 volunteers and 20 staff. No better way to end!

Some of my favorite memories revolve around our youngest house builders – our adopted children from Cambodia House and their families. My daughter was just two. Over the years this team of young people returned a number of times, keeping our bonds strong. Now they are adults, of whom I am so very proud.

For a number of years, moving materials to our house building sites was a phenomenal challenge. Poor Heng spent endless nights moving wood to our villages just to avoid running through police blockades demanding increasing amount of money just to pass through. Eventually the Cambodian government through the Ministry of Agriculture came to our aid by providing a much-needed letter of permission to move our materials freely to the villages.

So very many teams, so very many friends, and memories which had a huge impact on Tabitha and the people of Cambodia.

And yet, the best of housebuilding were our families themselves. 482,526 families rebuilt their shacks of thatch and scrap into their dream homes, one savings cycle at time. That process continues even as we close our doors.

It remains one of my greatest pleasures to return to villages which were all in scrap materials turn into villages of substantial houses. It doesn’t happen overnight. It takes anywhere from 4 to 6 years to accomplish. It takes faith in themselves; it takes patience; it takes a remarkable fortitude to build one step at a time.

My deepest thanks go out to every house build volunteer who came and stood with Tabitha and the people of Cambodia.  I will never forget you! I thank my God for this great privilege of house building, both volunteers and home owners. I stand in awe of each of you. It is so very good!