14 Salesforce volunteers, 4 days of building, 38 degree heat, 1 house! All in a week of volunteering in Siem Reap

By Salesforce.org | April 21, 2016 | | Human Services, Volunteering

By: Tom Smith, Product Marketing Manager, Marketing Cloud

When I joined Salesforce in June 2015, I knew I had landed a dream job but I wasn’t prepared for the most incredible, inspiring and rewarding part of our company – the 1-1-1 Model. At Salesforce, our commitment to volunteering and giving back to the world is ingrained throughout the organization. It makes it more than a dream job, and I’m truly grateful to be part of it.

There’s never a day that goes by without something happening around us that’s related to giving back our time, donating our products, providing grants, or taking a stance against discriminatory issues. That’s why when I discovered the opportunity to join my colleagues in a volunteering project in Cambodia, a country I had never visited, I jumped at the chance.

Volunteering Building Cambodia

Salesforce.org and Volunteer Building Cambodia – on a mission to improve the living conditions of rural families in Cambodia

Over 1 week, I joined up with 14 of my colleagues and some of their families in Siem Reap to work with the amazing organization ‘Volunteer Building Cambodia’, whose purpose is to improve the living conditions of rural families in Cambodia.

Cambodia has faced some terrifying atrocities over the last half century, and although the country is now lifting many out of poverty and is stable, there are still approximately 80% of Cambodians living in the countryside, where 85% do not have access to adequate sanitation and 35% are unable to access safe water. That’s where VBC and Salesforce.org come in.

4 days, 38 degree heat, 1 house!

Our mission for the week was to build a house for a newly married couple who did not have the funds or capabilities to build their own. It was through Salesforce.org’s champion grant donations (every Salesforce employee is eligible to donate $1,000 to a nonprofit of their choice once they complete 56 hours of Volunteering Time Off during a year) that we were able to purchase all the materials needed for the house.

We built the house in 4 days in 38 degree heat with many of us having little to no experience in this style of building work. With the guidance of Sinn, Jason, Russ and the incredible team at VBC, we all learnt how to chisel, build stairs, measure up doors and floors, raise a house from scratch and in many cases how not to hit a giant nail into wood! Our talented colleague Chi La made this incredible time lapse video of the whole build. Check it out:


The sense of achievement after helping build this from scratch was completely surpassed by the atmosphere on the last day when the incredible group of locals and family members came together for the ceremony to bless the house and thank everyone involved. We got to welcome the family into the house, give them gifts, watch local monks carry out a blessing and see the family perform all their rituals to ensure the house would be a happy and prosperous place for family moving in. The sense of togetherness and happiness of a huge family of 3 generations and the support of many local people was both inspiring and humbling.

Sustainable Impact

It wasn’t just this one-off week of work that makes the real a difference in the region. The impact of VBC and Salesforce is much bigger than that – we are supporting the long-term, sustainable future of villages around Siem Reap.

Volunteering Cambodia

One of the most humbling and rewarding parts of the week was visiting a warehouse that Salesforce.org and our colleagues have funded, with extra land set aside to build a school in the future. For the nonprofit VBC, the warehouse will make a huge difference to them scaling and sustaining their impact in the region – helping them increase their capacity to build more homes, sanitation and water capabilities in the area without the constant support of extra volunteers.

We were lucky to spend an afternoon helping out in one of the local schools where we see the impact of both the local nonprofits and Salesforce.org. Many of our colleagues had spent time at this school during the week to teach English and I got the chance to help teach a class on one afternoon. For such a young group in such a remote location, and as a linguist myself, I was astonished by their language capabilities and hugely encouraged by their hunger to learn. We were also shown the IT classroom which was fully equipped with hardware donated by Salesforce.org, giving more children access to the internet and the ability to learn technology skills to help with whatever ambition they have for the future.

Thank you Salesforce.org, Volunteer Building Cambodia and my incredible colleagues for a humbling, entertaining, inspiring, educational and slightly sweaty week. Here’s to many more!

Check out more ways that Salesforce volunteers are giving back, here>>