8.28.2012

To build a home.

The purpose of my journey to Africa was to build homes in a small village in Mzuzu, Malawi. I joined a Habitat for Humanity Global Village team that my friends Janice and Joanna led, and worked alongside 12 amazing team members for a week laying bricks for two 4-room homes. The Global Village programs differ slightly from place to place, but regardless of location the families always build their new homes alongside the teams. Myself, along with the rest of the team, found this to be one of the most meaningful parts of the experience. 
Each day we split up into two smaller groups- one group worked on Nancy's home while the other worked down the road at Happiness's home. By the end of the week we had all worked on both houses; I worked on Happiness's home four out of the five days. 
I have so many fond memories from my week building homes in Mzuzu. The endless piles of bricks and mortar, the chickens and goats roaming the build sites, crisps and peanut snack breaks with the team, lunches packed with care from the Moni Lodge... the list could go on and on. But my most precious memories will forever be of the amazing people I met and spent time with that week...

The children. 
The children quietly appeared each morning on our work sites and watched us work throughout the day. It was amazing to observe how well behaved, joyful, and curious they were. They posed for pictures and giggled as they looked at their images on the backs of our cameras and iPhones. They ran up and down the dusty dirt roads with tires and homemade toys, laughing and playing with their friends. And they danced. Show those kids a move and they will do their best to replicate it. I found myself constantly admiring the children in the village for making the most of what they had and finding joy in the little things. 

The crew. 
Bless these men's hearts. They demonstrated patience, kindness, and humility as they taught us how to do a job that they excelled at. The foremen provided us with endless amounts of guidance as we slapped on mortar and laid row after row of bricks. At the beginning of the week, most of us needed each and every brick we placed wiggled and adjusted by the crew to line up with the string. But, by the end of the week we worked side by side quickly building row after row. It was an absolute pleasure to work with these guys, and their smiles and sense of humor made our days fly by.
Victor
Raffael
Frank, the "mortar machine."
The crew at Happiness's house building our scaffolding. 
The homeowners. 
Working with Happiness and Nancy, the two homeowners, was such an amazing experience. I spent most of my week working with Happiness. She will be living in her new home with six of her family members, including her husband and two beautiful daughters. This woman somehow managed to stay impeccably clean after hours of laying bricks, while the rest of us were covered head to toe in mud and dust. She is hardworking, loving, and has the most beautiful smile. I learned so much from our chats as we worked together to build the walls for her home.
Nancy has a regal quality about her, always dressed in beautifully sewn gowns made with traditional African fabrics. She not only takes care of her family and extended family, but also is in charge of looking after the people of her village as its current chief. When I think of Nancy, I think of warmth. She shrieks and hugs when she greets you, and her laugh is infectious. During our lunches, Nancy would sit with us and teach us about her community and its culture. She was honest in her answers to our questions and truly enriched our experience. She will be living in her new home with nine members of her family, including her nieces who also helped us build. 
Malawi is known as the warm heart of Africa, and based on my experiences with the people in Mzuzu, I couldn't agree more. They are the warm heart of Africa.

6 comments :

  1. What a beautiful experience. I would love to do this sometime. I love how you captured the people there, I can feel the warmth!

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  2. Wow I had to read this twice because it must have been such an amazing experience for you clearly!

    How humbling too - I like this particularly: " I found myself constantly admiring the children in the village for making the most of what they had and finding joy in the little things. "

    It makes me look around at my daughter's toys and what she has available to her at any time of the day - and how I always think she always needs more clothes & more toys - TYPICAL American mom. ANd how I think nothing of spending $8 on a large latte and scone. I read this post and it makes me realize how much we all can lose focus on what really matters.

    You are such a good person for going there and helping these less fortunate people to build their new homes. I love that you captured it on camera and are sharing it with everyone !! :)

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  3. WOW what an amazing experience and incredible photos! I've always wanted to do something like this. I'm sure you will be forever changed. Thanks so much for sharing. :)

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  4. Wow, what an amazing experience! I always wanted to do something like this, and actually applied for something a couple of years ago, but then I got sick and now I can't because it's not safe/a good idea for me to go somewhere super remote away from healthcare. :(

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  5. Daina, this post is so inspiring and your pictures capture everything your words describe! You were so lucky to meet them and thy were so lucky to meet you. Simply amazing!

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  6. habitat for humanity is an awesome organization. they are so reputable. my friend works for them - very cool that you did this. they even make appearances in TV shows!

    africa looks awesome - the people seem so warm. something i didn't see as much in haiti, unfortunately.

    xo

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