The "vat", or Buddhist temple, is usually the largest and best constructed building in a village. Villagers pool their labor and resources to build and maintain them. Joel M. Halpern, as the provincial aid representative, often had delegations of villagers come to his house-office in Luang Prabang requesting that the Americans assist them with the construction and maintenance of vats in their villages. They explained that the Americans would gain merit by such an activity. Halpern says of this situation, "I recall, at the time, there was a ban by USOM on working directly with religious organizations."