World Habitat Day 2015

Habitat for Humanity Cambodia raising housing need awareness and building civil society support in Cambodia

Since 1986 the first Monday of October every year has been designated by the United Nations as World Habitat Day. The aim of the day is for organizations and communities to reflect on the state of towns and cities and on the basic right of all to adequate shelter. The campaign ties directly with Habitat for Humanity Cambodia’s core strategy, and as an organization we have been enthusiastically implementing the campaign for several years. This year, HFH Cambodia aimed to gather increasing numbers of people to join together to raise awareness on the needs of vulnerable families in Cambodia and the need for affordable and safe housing for all.

Habitat for Humanity Cambodia launched a widespread awareness raising campaign on October 5, which involved partnership with various stakeholders, including the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports.   Habitat for Humanity Cambodia teamed up with private companies like SMART Axiata, a champion partner, that sent out eight million SMS broadcast message promoting World Habitat Day and the need for adequate housing to Smart subscribers across the country; this kicked-off the campaign.  Companies like Grant Thornton Cambodia and Ly and Fung, Coca-cola also provided financial and in-kind support together with Smart.

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A university/school road show and television and radio interviews followed throughout the week.   The HFH Cambodia resource development team visited sites across Phnom Penh including; Royal University of Phnom Penh, Cambodia International School, Royal University of Law and Economics, Build Bright University, and International School of Phnom Penh. During the road show the team gave talks about the need for increased support towards promotion of adequate housing in Cambodia, among hundreds of Cambodian and international students and encouraged them to support HFH Cambodia programs and volunteer for the World Habitat Day Community Build and other upcoming mobilization events.

A series of television and radio interviews also provided HFH Cambodia a platform to raise awareness across all levels of society.

HFH Cambodia social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter also served as effective means of coordinating efforts with youth groups and networks prior to and after the weeklong campaign.

3The campaign culminated on October 9th with a Community Build at Bek Chan community. In the early morning, as a large crowd of young and enthusiastic Cambodian and foreign volunteers began streaming down the road towards the Habitat for Humanity homes it was clear that all the campus presentations, meetings with students, fundraising, media events and logistic planning had paid off.  In total 470 volunteers from student groups, schools, colleges, universities, and private companies had worked together to support vulnerable families and the surrounding community.

With volunteers working together with home partners and community members the site soon became a hive of activity; there were groups painting, picking up litter, conducting WASH (water, sanitation, hygiene) education, as well as working together on an arduous back filling tasks, and interacting with home partners to understand more about their needs and aspirations.

Over the course of the day volunteers painted 31 homes, held a community-wide clean up and conducted a water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) education among over 500 young students.

At the end of the event, the WHD partners and student volunteers were hot, sweaty and tired, but still smiling. Habitat for Humanity Cambodia National Director Kif Nguyen said during the brief welcome program, “A house is not just a house.  For us a house is combination of many things. Today is a day to remind all of us to think of the importance of a house and to think about many families that need our support.”

In celebrating World Habitat Day through social networks, raising awareness and by physically repairing homes and cleaning communities, HFH Cambodia,  in partnership with the private sector and local and international volunteers are taking action to make a difference to the lives of low-income families in Cambodia and highlighting housing need in the country.

It is our sincere hope that all of this year’s volunteers return in 2016 and bring along their friends too!