Hang Kan recalls the first time she helped her father build a house. She stood on the sandy earth while he perched on the rafters, passing him the long palm fronds that were to be their roof and walls. Since she was a girl, Hang has lived in houses made from leaf and timber, first with her parents, then with Chung Chea, her husband.
Hang’s latest house took her and her husband a month to build. Now, the 38-year-old, who lives near the city of Siem Reap in Cambodia, says she is more than happy to take it down over a weekend.
When I meet her and Chung on a Monday in October, the old house is laid out on the earth in its constituent parts: long thin logs, dried palm fronds and a dozen or so wooden planks. The pair are happy to see it dismantled because it is about to be replaced by a team of US volunteers with Habitat for Humanity, an international housing charity that has repaired and built houses and sanitation facilities for more than 70,000 households in the 15 years it has been operating in Cambodia.