Ulrik Nehammer is not fond of the limelight and shied away from interviews.
But he did tell us how much he enjoyed his time with VBC and summed his week up with these words: “Life is made up of magic moments and we’ve had so many magic moments this week.”
It was a gruelling week for Ulrik, his wife Andrea and their group of friends. Most of them flew in on Sunday and started building on Monday. And they headed off again on Saturday, their week complete and full of accomplishments, memories and “magic moments”.
It’s not how most people choose to celebrate a milestone birthday – getting sweaty and dirty in a Cambodian village. But this is what Ulrik wanted to do and his 50th celebration has had a huge impact on VBC.
Ulrik, Andrea and their friends built 10 houses in one week. They also provided funding for 10 toilets, 10 wells and solar panels for all 10 houses.
It was no mean feat – not just for them but also for the VBC team, including founder Sinn Meang who seems to have turned grey in the last month, pulling it all together.
In addition, an 11th house was built, thanks to Ann Brownlie and her team of friends from Australia. Their group included Bob and they were building this house in honour of Bob’s late wife. It’s such a lovely gesture, to help someone else in memory of someone you love.
“All the houses and all our builders were great,” Sinn says.
And he says the family members receiving the houses were also very helpful. They worked with VBC in the lead-up to the big build, helping to pre-cut the timber and prepare everything and learning some of the building skills required to assemble the houses.
“All our team nearly died,” Sinn jokes.
He is relieved the team got through the week and happy with how everything came together and the houses were all finished in a week and ahead of schedule.
He threw a party for the builders to show his appreciation for their efforts because it couldn’t have been done without them and showed great teamwork.
Andrea Nehammer says the week was “absolutely amazing”.
She says on the first few days they were tired, jet lagged and busy so didn’t really have time to think about what they were doing. But on the fourth and fifth day they started to realise what they had done and the impact it has for families here in Cambodia.
She says working with the families they were building for helped give them understanding.
“They let us be a part of the experience as well and we got to know them,” she says.
“I think everyone is extremely touched and overwhelmed at what we have seen and experienced.”
She was amazed that despite the living conditions people were still content.
“These people just come out with a gorgeous, positive attitude and a big smile on their face every day,” she says.
“It definitely made us think about how we take things for granted.”
For Andrea the last few days were the highlights, seeing the houses complete and handing over the keys to the family and seeing the expression on their faces is something she says she will never forget.
Their group also visited the VBC Community Centre and Andrea says that helped them put everything into perspective.
“We were able to connect the dots. It’s not just about building houses, but it’s an entire community.”
We would also like to say thank you to the wonderful young volunteers who helped out on these 10 houses. Coca Cola Cambodia offered support and helped provide a group of young students who all pitched in and worked hard on the various house sites. It is wonderful to have young Cambodians getting involved in their local communities and helping Khmer people. Thank you all so much.
Ulrik’s JustGiving page raised nearly $63,000 for VBC.
Can you believe it? We’re still in shock. It is the biggest single donation VBC has ever received and we are thrilled and so incredibly grateful.
There was money left over after funding the 10 houses, 10 wells, 10 toilets and solar for the 10 houses.
Ulrik and his group have agreed to use the additional funds to buy a truck for VBC.
And Sinn is very excited about this.
Those who have volunteered recently know that our existing truck is on its last legs – umm, wheels. It constantly needs repairs and costs VBC money. It is no longer suitable for transporting volunteers and that is also a burden for VBC.
But the cost of a replacement truck has been out of reach for VBC. Until now.
“It’s a very important truck,” Sinn says. “No truck means no building.
“The truck is used to deliver all the tools to the building site and to pick up volunteers from their accommodation and take them to the building site,” he says.
“At the moment we need to spend more money on alternative transportation. For me, I don’t want to waste that money on hire vehicles.”
Replacing the truck is a big relief for Sinn and for the ongoing operation of VBC.
VBCCC IT classroom
Andrea and Ulrik were impressed with VBC’s Community Centre and how it gives more to the local community through education. They saw how this holistic approach has benefits for everyone, not just individual families and it is providing opportunities to the next generation to improve their education, job prospects and ultimately their quality of life.
This very generous couple has offered to fund an IT classroom at the Community Centre.
This classroom needs to be more secure and air-conditioned so it will be different to our other classrooms. It will be a brick building instead of timber.
An IT classroom is an exciting improvement for VBCCC. So many people in rural areas do not have access to computers and in a day and age where jobs require computer knowledge this classroom will give them essential skills to help them research and study for school and to give them better job opportunities.
Thank you so much Ulrik for choosing to celebrate your birthday with VBC. Usually people receive gifts on their birthday but you have chosen to give so many wonderful gifts. Your birthday celebration has changed the lives of 10 families. And will have an ongoing impact on an entire community with the addition of a new classroom and the new truck. We are truly grateful for your generosity. In the week you were here, you’ve also given us many magic moments.