Jan 8, 2009

Habitat for Humanity Global Village short-term build
Zambia, November 2008

Thanks for your patience everyone, here is my report on the GV build I was part of in Zambia. As we did not have internet access (let alone power), I have used my written journal as a record for this online post. I've also included the link for Picassa, where I’ve posted all the photos from the project, as well as additional pics from our extended stay in Zambia (not part of the project) for those of you who may enjoy some African scenery and safari shots. For the purpose of this blog I often refer to Habitat for Humanity as ‘HFH’ and Global Village as ‘GV’.
***When you get to the bottom of this page it is not the end...the blog continues! Please click on 'older posts' under the last photo to see more entries. Thank you!

More photos of the HFH Global Village build in Zambia and our adventures in Botswana/around Zambia can be found at:
(Photo above: Gracious holding an infant)
On behalf of the families in Zambia and with my own gratitude, thank you once more for your support! It has been an unforgettable experience and I hope this blog helps you to feel a part of this amazing project and know how together with organizations like Habitat for Humanity,
we can ALL truly make a difference in peoples lives!


Team liftoff & the Journey to Zambia begins...
Nov 6th 2008

After over 30 hours of flying, airport transfers and waits, we finally arrived in
Lusaka, Zambia to meet the HFH affiliate staff, Charity, and pick up our supplies
including 600 liters of bottled water, and then head out for our build destination…

When we arrived in the village of Numunga we were greeted warmly with cheers, songs and introductions to everyone. That evening the children performed dances and songs for us. Their enthusiasm and energy was infectious and it seemed to give us just the right boost to begin the build project.

The village of Namununga is basically made up of a series of sandy paths connecting cris-cross to hundreds of tiny round thatch roof homes made of clay and small farms spread out over a few kilometers.

Mr. Wilson, the patriarch of the family and owner of a home built by another HFH GV project, graciously offered to accommodate our 11 member team. He and his family vacated to his daughter’s home next door for the duration of the build.

Simon, Mr. Wilson & Bruce

We managed to squeeze into the tiny rooms, sleeping on mats with our mosquito nets. Being unfettered by bugs and 8 legged creepy crawlys, I gladly took the window spot and got plenty of fresh air (and a little harmless rain too!).

They were wonderful hosts and we enjoyed being their guests and their welcoming us to take part in daily activities and chores, my favorite of which was cooking and spending time with the women in their round ‘boma’ style kitchens.
With Avery and Fidas in the kitchen

There was no electricity, running water or plumbing, although within 300 meters there was a bore hole with a manual pump which we were told had been previously built by an NGO (non-governmental organization), which the children were eager to show us how to use and often argued with each other over who would do this!

The family helped us obtain barrels of water for our solar showers, which were set up on wooden poles in shower stalls made of thatch/grass, yet another ingenious construction that worked wonderfully!

We marveled at the villager’s ability to work in the dark, or with the use of the occasional candle, which I think was lit mostly for our benefit. I loved the ambience it gave and didn’t miss ‘light pollution one iota!

Along with some more familiar food stuffs we brought (peanut butter, bread, non-refrigerated milk, roobias tea) we ate traditional African food such as ‘Nshima’ (a staple in their diet and a bi-product of corn), ‘Rape’ (a delicious green vegetable), ‘Chibwaba’ (pumpkin veggies), fresh fish from the Kafue River, and some delicious goat, chicken and eggs dishes.

I loved their mildly spicy tomato base sauce they would often ‘stew’ the meat or eggs in, made with pepper, tomatoes, paprika, oil, and occasionally curry, and loved learning about how things were prepared. As far as African rural villages go, this was about as authentic as it gets and I was excited to have the opportunity to be a guest there!
Fidas & Avery preparing fresh fish for dinner

Jan 7, 2009

Life for the HFH GV team in the Village of Namununga...

Our HFH Global Village Team with some of the family, staff & volunteers...
Back row: Enoch, Bruce, Million, Godwin, Nadia, Claire
Middle row: Left to Right: Bill, Wendie, Miranda, Mike, Sarah, Allyson, Simon
Front row: Christopher, John & Charity

A toilet shelter had been built for teams like us, which was a hole in the ground but had a platform for your feet and impressed us with the thoughtful design! The only downside was the nightly ‘visitors’ we would find and have to shoo out before doing any business. A nasty bite was the last thing you wanted while squatting in the pitch black darkness!

A gigantic centipede, spider and small lizard, just some of the frequent ‘guests’ we shared the bathroom with and our living quarters in general...

Needless to say, I had my camera ready for just about anything!

Transport in the village consists of a few shared bicycles, the occasional oxcart and of course, walking. The women and girls can be seen carrying huge loads on their heads, sometimes 5 gallon containers of water as well as other items which they balance so well. Obviously a task that would take years to master!

I had the amazing opportunity to spend a lot of time with the women and children when we weren't working at the build, and I became fond of three special ladies in particular, Avery, who was Mr. Wilson’s wife, her sister-in-law Fidas, and Ennie, the recipient of one of the houses we were building. They taught me everything from how to dispose of leftover chicken bones in an African savannah, what vegetables they harvest in which month, and how to wear my ‘Chitanga’ (wrap) without it falling off! Even when worn properly I could never look quite as beautiful as they did, especially when they wore their colorful matching head scarves.

Through our shared time and conversations together (sometimes limited due to language barriers but we always managed to get past that!) I was privileged to learn a little about their culture, families and what it is like to be a woman, a mother and a member of their community...

With new friends Fidas, left & Ennie (also spelled 'Annie') below

...not to mention learning some delicious recipes for Zambian dishes!

I loved the girls who were the daughters and granddaughters of Mr. Wilson: Florence, Gracious, Sandra, Patricia, Shingai and Juite. Their smiles and the time we spent together will forever remain in my heart and my memory.

Most of the people spoke Nyanja (among other languages), something of a ‘lingua franca’ for Zambia. Aside from English, it is used by the police and often in administration in education. After the work day we had some spare time to wind down, walk or just relax.

Sandra and Patricia were patient in teaching me how to pound the corn, with all of us laughing at my clumsiness in the task - best to keep the day job I guess!

I'm so grateful that the Momba family (Wilson's family) welcomed us into their lives and opened their hearts to us, they became like an extended family and I'll always remember our time as their guests.

Jan 6, 2009

Life on the farm...

I also learned from observing and through the families teaching how they care for their homestead, which includes an extended family of parents, children and grandchildren. Harvesting, processing and storing their products such as harvested corn (which they ground in a hand mill) and hand-made charcoal, as well as caring for the goats, cows, pigs, dogs, chickens a cat and one very cranky and sleepless rooster who I appropriately named ‘Red Eye’.

The family re-thatching a roof

Farming under extreme weather conditions and with a very limited budget is a feat under any circumstance, but there is no social safety net to lean back on in Zambia and people have to find a way to sustain themselves on their own. The family we stayed with are by no means wealthy, but certainly showed us they were ingenious in their home-made designs for everyday uses: practical in their engineering, persistent in labor even within the constraints of ‘African time’ (as they taught us to accept and be patient with) and the inconveniences of rural life, frugal with their finances and wise with their resources all while possessing a healthy perspective on priorities towards work, family and the community. This balance is seldom found in our North American society.

Having a HFH home has obviously lifted the economic level of Mr. Wilson’s family, not to mention given them the pride of ownership. The benefits the Habitat for Humanity program brings are innumerable and this family was a prime example.

Observing this authentic farm lifestyle was also a great way to pass time on our breaks and before dinner, particularly in the ‘animal-watching’ department. There was an entire community-within-a-community amongst them and we were privy to some of their antics. We sharpened our biology and enjoyed quite a few laughs being entertained by the goats, pigs, chickens and other critters who never seemed to mind our oogling or 'oohs' and 'ahhs'.

Everyone knows how to conserve and utilize resources wisely...even this chicken who snuck a drink from the water used for mixing cement. I loved how all the animals were free to roam
and seemed so at home!

I never tire of photographing wildlife (domestic or wild) and after a few days they seemed more at ease with my lens trailing behind them...falling in love with them was eventually inevitable!

I think the Momba family in turn got a kick out of us being so mesmerized by simple antics of these creatures!

I learned that although time seems scarce in our culture and we never seem to have enough of it, it is actually our priorities that are upside down. Time was just as invaluable to our hosts, but they have learned to make the most of it, focusing on what was important.

One of the ways we had the luxury of spending some of our time was watching the unbelievably gorgeous sunsets over the land behind the Momba's home. A perfect ending to each day.

Of course I also treasured the moments spent with the kids, learning from them as well, watching and taking part in grinding corn into various products or photographing the boys in their frequent football games and wild energy.

They loved being photographed while playing, and enjoyed viewing the playback of over 50 action shots! They were quite the little football players, even if they would get carried away with roughing each other up or laughing their heads off - boys are boys no matter where you go!

It was also a privilege getting to know our two main HFH Zambia Affiliate office volunteers,
Simon (pictured further below) and Christopher (pictured here), and staff from the
Affiliate office, Charity (pictured here with Christopher). The three of them provided invaluable support to us, acting as a link between the build, the team and the community, and helping us in various areas during the build as well.

The unforgettable Mr. Simon 'No Problem' was somewhat of a foreman and knew all the ins and outs of the build process. He was aptly given this title as 'no problem' was his common response to any situation, and he did always seem to know how to work things out for the good.

I loved listening to him, and he was such a great teacher. In addition to being an informative and sometimes entertaining speaker, his familiarity with the people, customs and cultures of the village as well as his patience for teaching us and obvious enjoyment at showing us around gave us a deeper understanding and we grew to love this big-hearted man, rich in knowledge, experiences and kindness.
He will always hold a special place in our hearts.

Another work day over, Christopher or Simon would set out a candle for us either in the house or in the sand outside where we would sit around in a circle at night. I loved these moments admiring the starry sky and listening to the family's quiet voices speaking in their beautiful language. This picture symbolizes for me how these images will forever burn in my memory as though it were only yesterday.

Jan 5, 2009

Brick by brick...

Of course The build was an integral part or our stay in the village, and our team worked with the masons, family members and local HFH Zambia Affiliate staff and volunteers on two different houses starting from the ground up!
The ‘BEFORE’ pictures…Michael's house, & Barbara's, right

Michael & Ennie’s home within a 5 minutes walk away and Barbera & Irad’s home within 35 minute of where we stayed. Both families currently share 1-room dwellings with their large families, made of clay with a thatch roof which often leaks and needs constant repair.

Annie explained how her current home is much too small for her and her husband Michael and their five children.

Irad showed me the portion of her current home, where the roof has gaping holes which constantly falls apart and allows rain into their sleeping area (below).

Both women (and their families) inspired me with their resilience in harsh circumstances and their unrelenting hope for the future. They were very excited to move into new three room brick houses with sheet-metal roofs which will keep them dry in the fast-approaching rainy season.

The children were also delighted at having a new dry home with their own room (to share with siblings of course), separate from their parents and with more space to be ‘kids’.
Above - with two of Michael & Ennie’s children, daughter Juite and son John, both awesome kids who reminded me of my own neices & nephews.

Rising at the crack of dawn to the sound of the overly eager Rooster (who was more of a Coo-coo clock than a morning alarm), we often began work by 7:a.m. and wrapped up the day by 8:p.m., taking a long lunch break in the worst heat of the day around 12:p.m. Being near the equator meant we lost our daylight early, so in addition to having no artificial light it made sense to utilize the day appropriately.

Our work consisted of various tasks, some of which are pictured below:

Breaking up and shoveling sand out of ditches (finding several frogs along the way!).

Mixing sand with cement & water (the latter sometimes had to be rolled in by barrels from the well 300 meters away).

A seemingly never-ending task that was my least favorite! :)

Laying mortar and hand-made bricks, one by one. The bricks were created from clay by the families before we arrived and baked in a home-made kiln.

Creating many hand-to-hand assembly lines to transport the piles of bricks from the kiln.

Taking bricks from the kiln (above)

Treating wood (below) with a mixture of old
engine oil and an ingredient used in
tar for the ceiling frames.

Pouring cement into 'molds' made from the empty cement bags between bricks (below). These were left to dry overnight and used for lintels above the window frames.

Tamping (crushing) broken bricks for the floor. Cement would be poured on later.

Creating 'all-natural' scaffolding... we were all amazed at this point...

...and then used by the brave at heart in reaching those higher levels
(this is where we watched in final admiration!)
Moving broken bricks and cleaning up the site

And finaly, celebrating moments of success and hard work well done...one step close to the completion of a house!