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Jason’s Story 
A common question is how Global Village Housing came into being. We asked founder, Jason Thatcher, on what led to his mission to make the right changes in Cambodia...
Hi everyone thanks for the opportunity to share some insight into how it all began.
For over 22 years l have lived, worked and travelled extensively throughout the most remote regions of Southeast Asia.  Along the way I met countless families living in extreme poverty. It was often heart-breaking and had a profound effect.


I wanted to do something that would create real change, hoping my business and trade background could help to achieve real change. Growing up in a small country town in Australia gave me a  passion for the outdoors, and tendency to think outside the box, and getting things done. So l decided to reach out and offer assistance in Cambodia. My 'charity apprenticeship' had begun!


It was an exciting time to get involved with a charity in Cambodia and hopefully make a difference. I stepped straight into the deep end, working as a self-funded volunteer with a non-Government organization (NGO). It was a far cry from the comforts of my seaside bachelor pad on the Mornington peninsula, but just what l needed - a new form of adventure that could also make a difference.


Rural Cambodia was like stepping back in time. I was working alongside locals in the field on a range of projects: providing aid to families living on garbage dumps, food, education, rural farming projects, satellite schools, community outreach centres, medical clinics, and playgrounds for children. I loved it and was soon appointed as the project manager, all while juggling my business from afar.


But after nearly four years l was seeing cracks within the NGO and decided to leave. After seeing the good, the bad, and the bloody ugly sides of the charity world, l was feeling jaded. It was time to pause, reflect, rethink the charity model. l wanted to create something without the frequent bullshit and 'show' of the charity world - achieving real change but running on the smell of an oily rag! Global Village Housing was born.



The key concepts? Keep it simple. Gift homes to people most in need. Work alongside community leaders who care. Understand what is needed at the grassroots level. Create local employment. Ensure we reach the most remote villages, considered by most NGOs as 'too far away'. Yep, there are no air-conditioned coffee shops in the most remote villages - usually where the aid is needed most. It's a hidden world where these resilient people are stuck in a life of sheer poverty as the rest of the world develops around them. Their lands are often stolen. Native habitat is stripped and sold. It leaves them trapped with little opportunity and zero government assistance.


l kicked things off with a small amount of  funding from my company. l designed and built tiny homes, gifting them to families living on garbage dumps. Their existing houses were usually three by three metres and built with garbage - no windows, no door, a dirt floor. They not only lived on a garbage dump, they were living in garbage. And when it rains these shacks leaked and flooded.  


l worked on a range of designs to see which methods worked best. The basic requirements? Strong fire-resistant materials. A cheap simple design. Easy to build, secure and relocatable. In short, it was an overall success. We did see occasional push-back which wasn't expected - convincing the family it wasn't a scam and the home was a gift.



If we try to put ourselves in their shoes it's hard to believe the sheer hell these families live in. Imagine living on a garbage dump! Many families move there to escape from rural hardships and seek a better life. Garbage can provide a source of income as 12 hours of scavenging through stinking garbage might earn a couple of dollars per day through recyclables.


It was very important to protect the new homes of these families. We created legal agreements so the house could not be sold or taken by loan sharks. This simple agreement, overseen by community elders, is signed between us and the family. It continues to work to this day. 



Over the years the house design might look the same but it has slowly evolved to ensure the houses withstand the environment extremes. At first the houses were built onsite which caused a number of issues. The villages often had no power and construction took longer than needed. I began searching for a small factory - a  big leap as l had only built around 10 homes which  were mainly funded by me. l needed to get people interested. It was time to ramp it up and get word out about the need to help these families.


Luckily some friends got involved. One wrote a number of awesome articles in her Mornington Life magazine which ensured we could start rolling out homes across the country. A young couple read one of the articles, sponsored a house, and wrote their own story of gifting a home to a Cambodian family living in poverty. In so many ways the word continued to spread.



These houses have been delivered in a range of ways over the years. Carried in across flooded rice fields. Taken up river in canoes. On the roof of our Land Rover. Towed in a cart by buffalo. It's now 2024 and we are just about to build and gift our 600th home. We are still in the same old little factory which measures about 6 metres by 15 metres. We still use the same old truck that can carry two flat-packed houses, along with our building team, tools and equipment.


The loaded truck leaves at 3am under the cover of darkness to avoid roadblocks and fines by corrupt police. Reaching the location can take anywhere from six to nine hours. The difficulty varies.  Remote villages lack any form of infrastructure - usually no roads and just tracks. Depending on the season the land can be flooded so then we carry everything in. If we are lucky there's a local form of transport such as a buffalo and cart.


The village people are always very helpful and keen to join in the build. Despite the level of poverty, no one is jealous of the family receiving a free house. Their responses? "We are so happy that family is getting a home! Their situation is so difficult..."  It is always such a grounding experience, being surrounded by proud people with a caring community spirit is truly incredible.



Once on-site construction usually takes four to five hours. Foundations are dug. The site is levelled. The land is either owned by the family or the local commune leader who has found a secure spot for them to live.  The pre-fab kit is moved into position. It consists of four wall panels, two roof panels, a floor section and staircase.


Concrete footings for the legs are poured. The panels sections are screwed and bolted. The roof goes on last, followed by the guttering and down-pipes. A rainwater jar (water-tank)  and solar system are installed. A concrete slab is poured under the main house. This area is used for general living and cooking. Roll-up sunscreens are installed, then the staircase which leads to the main sleeping room. This secure area is fully insulated and has four shutter-style windows and a lockable front door. The walls and ceiling are all pre-insulated and finished in a woven panels which are soft to touch and look great. The interior is lit by LED lighting and includes a USB port for charging torches or phones.


Added extras? We have designed a small toilet/bathroom which is simple in design and works a treat. Where funding allows it can now be included.


While housing is our specialty, over the years we taken part in number of other projects - design and construction of village schools and wells, gifting bicycles for families to get to work or school, as well as medical aid and toilet blocks.



Over the years the joy of this work has been so rewarding and grounding. I have met so many truly incredible people along the way. They get involved and share the passion for how we do things. We all share this journey in life and it makes for a life worth remembering!


if you would like to get involved please feel free to reach out. We work with like-minded people and businesses who share a passion for helping others. Together we can!

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