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Letter from Cambodia

Design Manager Thomas Griffin and Architect Michelle Barrett are the first team to travel to Cambodia to assist in the building of three new classrooms at Khyaung School.

“Arriving in Khyaung Village after 24 hours travelling door to door, we were welcomed with an empty site and a quiet school yard. Being a weekend, no children were around, and as it was 11.45am, all the workers were on lunch. It sounds a bit early, but when you wake at 5am, start work at 7am and want to avoid working in the hottest part of the day, we’ve learnt an 11am-1pm lunch break is a necessity.

We were given the teachers’ office in which to set up camp for the two months that Weston Williamson + Partners are on site. The original plan was to sleep on mattresses on the floor, but after seeing a rather large cockroach scuttle across the room, we decided to get creative. Using old broken school desks we fashioned some make-shift beds and have been sleeping comfortably since. The principal was amused and amazed by the transformation!

For most of our first week we have been mentored in the art of forming re-bar for the many columns and beams required. It’s been a good first job as we’ve been able to work in the shade while acclimatising, meet lots of the children who sit and watch us work, and show the builders we’re here to get stuck in. We’ve also helped construct the plinth and supervise the setting out of the central courtyard ellipse. The columns are now all complete and work is currently starting on the brick walls and ring beam above.

The village and the community have been amazing and really taken us in. The only local restaurant has agreed to stay open later to cook us dinner (7pm), and makes us special vegetarian meals, showing us the full variety of delicious Cambodian cuisine. Five of the builders have children in the school and two live in the two closest houses. We get motorbike toots and waves any time we walk down the street and we feel very welcome here.

Having just arrived back on site from a weekend trip to Angkor Wat, which really is a must see for any visit to Cambodia, we’re excited and looking forward to another weeks hard work!”

Michelle & Tom.

Thanks to all of you who have responded so positively to our request to collaborate on future projects; we will be in touch very shortly.