Sous Kanika could not stop smiling. She carried a big smile on her face when she welcomed the second group of Hands and Hearts Build volunteers. She shared smiles with skilled workers when she passed a brick or a small pail of cement. She exchanged laughs with the team while sharing stories throughout the build. The November 12 to 16 Hands and Hearts Build brought her many different reasons to smile.
For 18-year old Kanika, wearing a smile helped her and her sisters a lot in overcoming their challenges. “Right after the death of my mother, I was so discouraged and felt so afraid. Besides losing my mother, the responsibility of taking care of my younger siblings and of earning for our daily expenses scared me. I wanted to give up school that time,” said Kanika “but I was fortunate to meet MaryknollThey encouraged me and supported me and my sisters with our education.”
Kanika is now already in grade twelve while 16-yeear old Veasna and 12-year old Kanha are in grade 11 and 7. “I want to continue with a higher education after finishing high school. I dream of becoming a doctor because I will be able to help other people in need just like my mother when she was very ill, but I also have a strong interest to become a secretary; I love organizing tasks and meeting lots of people. If only I have the ability, I will move forward to reach at least one of these two goals.” Veasna, who was listening intently to her sister excitedly added, “I’ve always wanted to be a designer! I want to design and decorate houses. I love to see and live in a nice and beautiful house, and I continuously dream of decorating my own home.” The thought of living in their own house drove the 3 sisters to wear huge smiles on their faces each and every day at the build.
Kath Rogers and Steve Laughton smiled each time they saw their home partner Kanika smile. They were both simply inspired by the resilience that the 3 sisters showed. Their smiles reminded Kath and Steve that all their hard work in raising funds just to be able to help Kanika and other families in need of adequate housing are all worth it.
Like Kanina, Steve and his wife Tas wanted to see genuine smiles from other people’s faces through their help. The husband and wife tandem raised more than enough funds to be able to join the second Hands and Hearts build. Steve got involved in Hands and Hearts because he just turned 40 this November, and he and his wife wanted to do something special for others. They wanted to serve families not just by donating a certain amount, but to get actually involvement in the activities. He then found out about Habitat for Humanity’s work and decided to volunteer, he and Tas ‘had their skates on’ and started to raise as much funds as possible. Steve proudly says his wife did so well and raised most, about 70% of their total funds. Tas was excited to join the build but in the end was unable to, because she soon found out that she was 2 months pregnant. Steve brought his sister, Liaine, along which turned out to be a fine bonding time for both of them.
“I really enjoyed the build work and very happy to see the progress of our work from day to day. The heat and our limited building skills were negligible. We had so much fun while building, and very proud that we were able to build a well-constructed house for Kanika despite us not having any construction background or experience. We had the support of very patient skilled workers and home partners. This is my very first build and I’m sure there will be next. My wife will be with me then, for sure,” Steve shared during the dedication.
Kath Rogers, on the other hand, could not stop smiling when she shared her “Walk for World” fundraising, which she simply did by walking for 20km in just a day. She and her four other friends walked a distance for certain pledges from their neighbors and friends. Kath could finally volunteer on a build with Habitat for Humanity. She heard about Hand and Hearts Build organized by Habitat for Humanity Australia which focused on helping PLWHA and OVC. She knew this was where she wanted the amount she raised to go to. “I feel generally humbled with everything I experienced here. What I did just now and what I received from the fundraising were beyond my expectation. Through this work, I can now see that the world is a combination of differences and everybody has the heart to help others,” Kath shared with a warm smile on her face.
The Hands and Hearts Build volunteers’ commitmentand passion are the ones that drove Kanika and her sisters and Kem Chhunheng and her sons to their happiness. Their presence and hard work reminded them to smile as they begin to embrace their new life in their new homes.
Sous Kanika and Kem Chhunheng are two of the many other families that the Hands and Hearts Build proceeds support through one of Habitat for Humanity Cambodia’s shelter and social welfare-based project for PLWHA and OVC, which is in partnership with Maryknoll.