Kim Holmes is no stranger to our building sites – she’s been bringing volunteer groups to VBC for nine years. And she has hammered in more than a few nails in that time.
Kim is the program coordinator for Griffith Honours College, set up by Griffith University in Australia for high academic achieving students to offer leadership and community engagement skills.
The college aims to enhance the students’ degrees with skills valued by employers such as communication, the ability to work in different situations and critical thinking skills.
Each year the students have the opportunity to volunteer overseas and they have worked in Vietnam, Nepal, Peru and East Timor with a variety of different organisations.
“But every year when we come back from our volunteer abroad pursuits, we ask the students for their feedback and every year, this is the most popular program,” Kim says of the Cambodia trip.
They spend a week building a house with Volunteer Building Cambodia and a week working in another project.
The students have to fundraise and put in some money to the trip themselves. Their volunteer club also puts in some money and the university contributes some money to support them.
And she says this year, as well as fundraising, they received a big donation of tools from two hardware stores on the Gold Coast in Australia.
A huge thank you to Trade Tools Labrador and Thrifty Link Southport for the donation, which is very much appreciated by the VBC building team.
So what makes the Cambodia trip so popular?
Kim says it is a combination of factors. Siem Reap is a great location with lots of sightseeing opportunities, including World Heritage listed Angkor Wat, as well as the vibrant nightlife, shopping and so many restaurants to choose from.
And working with VBC they get to see the reality of life in rural Cambodia and they can meet the family they are building a house for. But importantly, they get to build the house.
“I think that’s the thing that resonates with the students – they physically get to build the house, physically see the family and see the progress of the house everyday.
“And it’s about, for them, learning new skills,” she says.
“It’s getting out of their comfort zone and I think, with VBC, they have it very well organised now. The students are always kept busy, there’s always enough work for everyone.
“VBC has very good builders with a good level of English, who are very patient.”
The Griffith team spent a week with VBC, building house number 143.
Thank you so much to Kim and all the volunteers from Griffith. We love having you and your support over nine years has been absolutely amazing. We look forward to seeing you again next year Kim!
Once again, we would like to say thank you so much to the two Gold Coast hardware shops that donated amazing tools for our team and volunteers to use.
Trade Tools Labrador and Thrifty Link Southport – we appreciate your support.
Testimonials from students in the Griffith ENACTUS volunteer Project, Cambodia
“When I first met Sinn, the founder and director of Volunteer Building Cambodia, I was impressed by his joyful spirit. Through his eyes, I could see the passion for his people and his desire to make an impact.”
“My worries soon subsided after meeting Sinn and his team of builders, who guided us every step of the construction process. Time and time over they removed our crooked nails and patiently taught us how to hammer.”
“It didn’t matter how many times things needed explaining or nails needed re-hammering they were patient with us because they wanted the house to be the best it could be. It made me realise that despite Cambodia being a country that has undergone great tragedy in their recent history, the people are generous with their time, kind and friendly.”
“Our week with Volunteer Building Cambodia (VBC) provided a unique opportunity to build a house for a young family in need: a 25-year-old mother, 26-year-old father and 1-year-old child. Meeting the family was a turning point for me when I realised how young they were and I was able to reflect and truly appreciate how fortunate my life is.”
“I feel very grateful toward VBC for taking us under their wing; with patience and persistence they have enabled 17 inexperienced builders to transform lumber to lodge, and provide Chum, Vet and 1 year old Chet with proper shelter.”
“Arriving at the work site every day at 7 am with Chum and Vet waiting for us with a hopeful and welcoming smile, was the highlight of each morning.”
“It’s amazing how we were able to build a home for a family in only 4 days. Not only will it provide shelter, but it will provide a precious place for little Chet to grow and for memories to be made. I felt honoured to be part of such a great collaborative group.”
“Even though the house was very basic, I could see how much the safety and ownership meant to them.”
“I was very impressed by the ability of the organization to get the volunteers involved very extensively in the building process no matter what the skill level and physical capacity.”
“Throughout the two weeks, I realised the complexity of constructing a simple building and how seemingly easy tasks such as nailing and rendering required so much technique.”
“I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the house building. Though I initially felt out of my depth, it was encouraging to see everyone help each other out and work together, knowing that we were all working towards a common goal. I found the building fun, challenging and satisfying.”
“After spending so much time studying, I loved being able to participate in manual labour where we could see our hand work materialise before us. I also appreciated working on the project with the Cambodian workers and members of the recipient family.”
“Not only was it awesome to see the change that was made in the family’s life, but it was also inspiring to see all of the students wanting to put in a genuine effort and as it was described by long-term volunteer ‘Russell’: ‘it doesn’t matter how much you know about using tools as long as you’re willing to have a decent shot at it’.”
“They worked so hard and paid attention to their tasks. These last few days have shown the group to be of the highest quality. I believe I have spoken to each and every one of them now and found them all to be so kind.”
“No job felt too large when we were working together with the Khmer family to build the house and the more progress we saw the more we were motivated to complete the home.”
“I was proud of the finished house that we were able to give to the local family and it was heart-warming to see how appreciative they were. I couldn’t imagine trying to support a family while earning only $5USD a day and so it must have been a relieving feeling to be receiving a new home and house-warming gifts.”
“The joy didn’t solely stem from the fact that we were able to build a house in four days. But rather because we worked with locals to achieve a life changing improvement to the family and one-year-old Chet has a home to grow in. The delight in the eyes of the parents was beyond explanatory!”
“The family’s gratitude was heartfelt and tangible, and led me to think: ‘if we were able to change a family’s life in just 4 days, how wisely am I using my time?’”
“I loved the atmosphere of VBC Community Centre – it was so spacious and cheerful. It was so heart-warming to see the students’ enthusiasm for learning and playing at VBCCC. I felt that the community centre balanced education and fun well, and that the teachers inspired the students. I found out that many of the students wanted to become teachers – a testament to the teachers of Cambodia.”
“This experience taught me that to really know someone, you’ll need to spend more time with them in person. This is hard to do because in the busy ‘connected’ world we live in, people just don’t value the need to spend quality time with each other, since you’re only one swipe or touch away from them. This trip taught me the importance of organising time to meet up with new friends and catch up with old friends – use of social media or texting won’t do it.”
“This trip has taught me that successful volunteering is not about your skill or ability, but more about your willingness to adapt to new environments, communicate effectively within a team and give everything your best effort. The joy and satisfaction of helping others in need far outweighs any temporary discomfort.”
“I believe this shows that just because things don’t operate in a way you think it should be, doesn’t mean it can’t work in a different way. Just because people do things differently, doesn’t mean it’s wrong and there are always multiple ways to achieve the same goal.”
“Since returning, I place much less value on materialistic possessions as I am gaining a greater understanding now that ultimately, these do not contribute to a sense of contentment. Instead, it is through community service that one can progress further on this path to a greater sense of fulfilment.”
“We come onto this earth with nothing and will return to the dust with nothing. At the end of the day, the only things that will really matter are the relationships with people we care about and love.”
“These new experiences have allowed me to discover more interests and learn more about myself. They’ve taught me of the importance to try new things and not be too afraid to release the brakes sometimes.”