Living conditions in rural Cambodia can be extremely tough for the 80% of the country’s 16 million population that are living there. In rural Cambodia today, 3.9 million people live without access to clean water, 8 million people live without the use of adequate toilets and 6 million people live without electricity. That’s a lot of people who don’t have access to the bare basics.
Traditionally homes in Cambodia have been made out of timber, but these are often susceptible to rot and insect infestations over time. These homes last approximately 10 years, and without proper protection from Cambodia’s natural environment that hosts a 6-month rainy season every year, families are left living in homes that are low quality, unsafe & unhealthy.
On top of that, many rural families still lack access to formal lending systems. So, if their house needs renovations or improvements families don’t have access to finances and often rely on private loans that are not regulated or controlled, leading them into an even more dire financial situation than before.
Recognizing this, Mekong Homes was born.
Mekong Homes is a project of ISI GROUP, one of Cambodia’s leading group of companies that specialise in the building, construction and technology sectors. ISI GROUP Director, Sen Kang, said the “desire to create and build is in our DNA. We can see the problems that face rural Cambodians and recognise our responsibility to use our expertise in ways that benefit everyone, including rural families.”
“We see there is a lot of attention and development to improve the living standards in the urban areas. However, there is little attention being paid to improving the living conditions of people living in rural Cambodia”.
Mekong Homes addresses these critical issues. As a project, Mekong Homes improves the lives of rural communities by elevating living standards through the construction of quality, affordable houses that are made from prefabricated materials and come with beauty, comfort and sustainability. By including bathrooms in the home, sanitation is improved and financial literacy is enhanced through responsible lending systems. Mekong Homes offer greater longevity, improved safety and better sustainability than traditional timber homes.
For every Mekong Home that is built, the MKH Team trains local constructors on how to build the homes, developing their skill set and capacity. Home-business owners can improve business conditions and activity in a better working environment.
Many families also choose to plant trees and gardens around their new home to add to environmental regeneration and improve the environmental state of the community.
The Mekong Homes team works together with the community as well as leading micro-finance institutes (MFIs), banks, NGOs and businesses that are renowned for their industry expertise to ensure that the project continues to grow and evolve to suit rural families’ needs. Already, the results are evident.
Home owner Mrs. Som Chana, from Takeo Province, said, “After I bought Mekong Homes, I can live better than before. Now we have a beautiful home, a clean bathroom as well as clean water. Mekong Homes helps my family … and my children are not often sick like before. Whenever people visit my home, they always admire that my home is beautiful.”
Mr. Phon Vorn, also from Takeo Province, said, “When I was living in my old home, it’s very hot. It’s also noisy when it rained and we had to remove our belongings from under leaks in the roof. Now with Mekong Homes, I don’t face those problems anymore and I can sleep very well”
Mekong Homes are changing the face of rural Cambodia and empowering communities as they do it. Through a collective effort of teams, individuals, NGOs, MFIs and businesses this project is leading the way on housing alternatives that truly improve the lives of rural Cambodians.
Sarah has spent a decade working for social change, leading international projects and teams in Australia, Asia and the Americas. She is a Rotary Global Grant Scholar, has been guest speaker at the United Nations and was awarded International Young Woman of the Year in 2018 for her work in global peace-building.