NU-Q students work with Habitat for Humanity in Cambodia

During their time in Phnom Penh, student volunteers worked alongside Cambodian homeowners to construct homes.

With climate change being considered one of the most pressing global issues impacting the world today, students from Northwestern University in Qatar (NU-Q) volunteered over their Spring Break to address the issue through a service learning trip to Cambodia.

Working with Habitat for Humanity in Phnom Penh, the students built and renovated climate-resilient homes for local families. Habitat for Humanity is an international NGO that focuses on providing shelter to families who may lack access to land or affordable financing in countries around the world. 

The trip was part of NU-Q’s annual Service Learning program, which offers students an opportunity to explore different cultures, understand their own privileges and biases, and gain a deeper understanding of societal issues.

“The NU-Q student experience does not end in the classroom,” said Everette E. Dennis, dean and CEO. “Travel and service learning are components that teach our students about global issues and allow them to experience new cultures first-hand. It’s a way of learning and personal development that no book or teacher can convey.”

The project that NU-Q students worked on in Cambodia had student volunteers working alongside Cambodian homeowners to construct their homes – an approach designed to empower the local community and instill a sense of pride and ownership in their homes. 

Cambodia is consistently ranked among the top ten countries most vulnerable to climate change and among the three most vulnerable in Asia.

“My experience was eye-opening in many ways,” said NU-Q student Ifath Arwah Sayed. “One of the important lessons I learned is that volunteering to help underprivileged people isn’t just for others; there’s much more in it for you to learn about the people you meet and to learn about yourself." 

During their time in Phnom Penh, for one home, students nailed bamboo floors, put together a wooden staircase, dug a septic tank, assembled walls, and painted the house for a local family, as well as painted two additional homes.