Building Houses

We build traditional wooden Khmer-style houses for some of Cambodia’s poorest people. We are based in Siem Reap, in Cambodia’s north-west, and most of the homes we build are in rural areas surrounding the popular tourist city and famour Angkor Wat. We target the communes and villages with high poverty and where few other organisations operate. Much of our work is done about 25 kilometres outside the city.

Poverty rates are high in rural Cambodia, where many people are still living on less than $1 a day. In many cases the housing is rudimentary at best and many homes are fragile structures with palm frond walls and dirt floors. Many of these houses do not survive the severe rainstorms.

In contrast, our wooden houses are solid and designed to last at least 15 years. The houses we build are four metres by five metres, with concrete footings, wooden sides and floorboards and a tin roof. They include one enclosed room and one room with open sides. The space underneath the house is often used as a daily living and cooking area.

Costs for

Building Houses


Each house takes about four days to build and on the fifth day a Khmer house blessing ceremony is held before the family moves into it. We employ three builders, who work under the supervision of our founder, Sinn Meang, and all are capable at leading a build and instructing volunteers.

The impacts of inadequate housing can take its toll on families. We see children who don’t go to school and many health problems through lack of sanitation or secure housing and sleeping arrangements.

Our impact assessments have shown the difference a safe, dry and secure house can make to a family. People are given some hope, they sleep better and the children go to school.

We access the poorest families with the help of our social worker, RORM, who conducts thorough assessments before signing a family up for a new house. He works with village and commune chiefs and checks referrals from other NGOs. We require the families we support to own their own land and to be free of debt to ensure there is no chance they can be evicted by the landowner or have the house taken by debt collectors.

We could not do this important work without the help of our wonderful volunteers and donors. We cannot thank you enough for your support.

*Please note that house builds only start when there are enough volunteers and their combined fees make up the project costs. Builds/voluntary work will still go ahead with just one volunteer, but might include installing a well or building a toilet.

A typical week building with VBC

Monday - Day 1

Pick-up from your hotel at 7:00am. At the building site you will be introduced to the family and our builder. Volunteers will help to saw and chisel the support beams and cut floorboards and wall boards to size. We finish by 12:00pm and take you back to your hotel.

Tuesday - Day 2

Pick-up from your hotel at 7.00am. At the building site volunteers will help put the support beams together and raise the frame of the house. This is an exciting day and you will see the house start to take structure. Floor boards will be laid and volunteers will start constructing the stairs. At 12pm we finish and take you back to your hotel.

Wednesday - Day 3

Pick-up from your hotel at 7:00am. The roof will be finished when we arrive at the building site so volunteers will start to nail the wall boards to the frame, and build the door and the windows. We finish at 12pm and take you back to your hotel.

Thursday - Day 4

Pick-up from your hotel at 7:00am. Volunteers will finish nailing any wall boards not completed the previous day. The shutters will be made and attached. The doors, windows and stairs will be added. A cement base (which we’ll ask you to sign) will be added at the bottom of the stairs. Finishing touches are added to the house. We finish at 12pm and return to your hotel.

Friday - Day 5

On the final day the family will provide a house blessing ceremony. This is believed to be crucial before the family will move into the house. The house blessing ceremony is performed by local monks. Friends and family are invited to join. A meal is provided to all those who attend. People offer gifts to the family at the ceremony – usually a variety of household items and rice. Volunteers are welcome to donate money to buy gifts and our team will organise this for you. Please note, this donation is not included in the volunteer fees or the cost of the house build. Volunteers are welcome to join the family and villagers in the ceremony, which includes walking around the house three times to symbolise birth, life and death. Our team can explain what is happening. After the house blessing ceremony, volunteers will present the family with the keys. After the ceremony we will take you to experience a Buddhist water blessing at a local pagoda.

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