Dear Friends and family,
I hope that all of you out there are having God-filled and productive days. My very best wishes in all of your endevaours. Lately, I have been working a lot with different groups, joyously helping families build their houses.
One project is called Yard Project, and was started by people from Old Harbour Bay that currently live abroad. They were concerned about the effects of the hurricane on Old Harbour Bay, and so they started this organization so that they could support the community’s development. In January, Yard Project volunteers (from OHB but living in NY and Washington state and in between and regular OHB residents) constructed 10 houses on family land for people that experienced total destruction. The expatriates were here for two weeks and did what they could, but those first ten were all taken to a point. They left though, and the volunteers still in OHB continued the work. That is where my friend Russ and I came in.
If any of read comments that people post, well one such comment was from Russ Smith on December 11. Russ said that he would like to come to Jamaica to volunteer and “give back,” and did I have any suggestions for where he could use his skills of constructuion. My immediate thought was Habitat for Humanity, since I know they love volunteers and even more, skilled volunteers! After a few weeks of emails back and forth, he announced that he bought his ticket so there was no turning back.
Russ arrived on January 17, stayed in Spring Village, and worked with myself and another volunteer’s projects, in addition to Habitat work. So Russ and I helped work on Yard Project houses, but our specialty was installing the slat windows, while the Jamaicans put on the zinc roofs.
For a Habitat house, Russ and I were part of the bucket brigade to mix and pour cement roof. Here in Jamaica, the mix includes sand, stone (gravel), cement, and water. I was the person right next to the mason filling the buckets. Because the buckets were heavy and I wanted the nexxt person to be ready for them, I was calling “Bucket!” just about every 3-5 seconds. In this chain, the masons filled the buckets faster than the buckets could come back. There were three persons (including me) in the chain on the ground, one on a platform, and Russ was on the roof, pouring buckets into a wheelborrow, and the mason dumped the borrow it when it got full. That was quite a day. I hadn’t worked so hard in a long time.
The next Habitat house (in a community called Polyground) I helped with is a pre-fabricated house made out of plastic columns and peices that connect together. Steel (rebar) runs through the middle of every other peice and when the house is ready, cement is poured down through the columns. I helped out there yesturday for the second time. The first time I was there, about 2 weeks ago, we set up the house with the interlocking columns. Yesturday, we poured the cement for about half of the house. We probably would have gotton farther if we didn’t have water problems. See, water wasn’t running in the pipe, and we were going to need a couple hundred gallons. Many Jamaicans have large black plastic tanks of 400 and 680 gallons (sometimes even more). About five of us carried water, bucket by bucket, from the neighbor’s black tank to the one on the site. It was very slow though because of the tap at the bottom of the tank.
Carrying water like this reminded me of another house that the same Polyground group worked on. After our work day two weeks ago, we found ourselves heading to another site, just as dusk was coming upon us. One of the same volunteers, named “Locks” (for his dreadlocks) was to be recieving a house from Red Cross the next day, but the foundation still needed to be mixed and poured. We made our way down, and up the very steep dirt path (quarter mile) to the spot where his new house was to be built. He showed us what he had done and what needed to be done. Our task was to carry bags of stone from the entrance of the dirt road up to the site. Seven of us worked for about two hours, right up until we could barely see the road. That was a humbling labour of love. Apparently, Locks finished pouring the cement the next morning because yesturday he told me that the house was up.
Much love to all of you!