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Habitat for Humanity Volunteers Prepare for a Day of Digging

In this photo taken November 21, 2009 released by Habitat for Humanity, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, right, holds the hand of his wife Rosalynn as they visit the Damnak Thom village where Habitat for Humanity volunteers built 21 houses.
PHNOM PENH - More than 500 Cambodian youths will join with a popular singer in a Habitat for Humanity campaign this weekend to raise awareness about inadequate housing in the country and to begin preparations for a housing development outside the capital.

The volunteers will gather on Saturday to dig a sewage system on an empty plot of land outside of Phnom Penh, as a first step toward a housing development for the poor.

They will be joined by Aok Sokunkanha, a popular singer who is the Cambodian goodwill ambassador for Habitat for Humanity.

She told VOA Khmer in an interview that the campaign seeks to promote more volunteer work among young Cambodians while also setting the stage for low-rent housing for the poor. She has created a short video clip and posted it to her Facebook page, allowing around 157,000 fans to know more about the project, she said.

The Habitat volunteers will work on a 2.2-hectare plot of land near Prey Sar prison, 11 kilometers outside the capital. The land was provided by the French NGO Pour un Sourire d’Enfant. The hope is to eventually build more than 300 housing units, three stories high, eventually housing 700 families.

Bells Regino-Borja, resource development manager at Habitat for Humanity Cambodia, said priority will be given to families who earn less than $1.25 per day, especially those living around the nearby Stung Meanchey dump or those facing the threat of forced eviction.

The project is part of a regional campaign by Habitat for Humanity across the Asia-Pacific. Pop stars from across Asia are taking part in the campaign to promote better housing for the poor.

Some 600,000 Cambodians nationwide do not have adequate housing, according to government figures.