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Published: October 6th 2015
Over the last few days we have witnessed and learned so much. Now we can experience what building is like in Malawi. Once again we were welcomed into the village by song and dance of the local women. What a lovely tradition!
The homes we were building were modest by any standard, but they were a significant improvement over the family's original home. Although the bricks we were using were rudimentary bricks made from local mud, they were 'fired' (aka 'burnt') making them better able to keep out water during the rainy season. Bricks used in the substandard homes were un-fired and were likely to crumble during the rainy season. Vulnerable families do not have the money to purchase wood to fire homemade bricks. The original homes had thatched roofs, usually in need of major repair. Orphan households, rarely have money to purchase new thatch each season to replace weather worn thatch. Termites often destroy roof supports allowing for complete cave in of the roofs. Substandard homes have no glass windows, and often the only windows are bricked closed to help keep the families dry. Given that, natural light and ventilation are hard to come by. Habitat homes have cement
floors, dramatically improving living conditions and health of the family.
We were introduced to the partner families, given a safety orientation and divided into two teams. Each team was assigned a house to work on, a construction supervisor, a worker and a family member to help. The job sites were ready for us to begin our work. The foundations were poured and set, and we were taught to lay brick.
Following is an excerpt from our partner family's bio. Lenai, 70, takes care of two orphaned grandchildren, Mphatso (15 years old) and Bayiton (12), whose parents died when they were young. Lenai and the two boys live in a one-roomed house made of mud bricks and a grass-thatched roof which heavily leaks when it rains. The family usually suffers from colds and malaria. “Our house is a breeding ground for mosquitos because we suffer from malaria from time to time. A good house with windows and mosquito-nets will be a great relief us,” said Lenai. The family does not have any mosquito nets to prevent them from mosquito bites and it uses a temporary structure as a toilet which is not safe. Lenai is grateful for
being selected to own a Habitat house. “We will be very grateful to have a house that does not leak with cement floor. It is a rare opportunity and we thank God for granting us this opportunity”, Said Lenai.
We worked in pairs to lay brick using the mortar, locally known as 'Matope'. The Matope was mixed by Mphasto, the 15 year old grandson, of Lenai. He worked harder than any other 15 year old I ever met, digging dirt, hauling and adding water, and mixing a consistent mortar. The supervisor worked alongside us, creating plumb lines for us to follow and correcting our mistakes before they turned into major errors. By the end of two days, we had built up both the exterior and interior walls as high as we could go without scaffolding. In a more traditional Global Village Trip, a team working on a build for 4-5 days could finish all the brick walls and watch the laborers install and sheet metal the roof. These new Habitat homes are typically ready for occupancy in 3 weeks.
Compared with my Habitat work in Honduras, the building tasks were less physical. Don't get me wrong,
we left the site each afternoon, tired, dirty and ready for a shower. The Habitat Malawi staff kept us well hydrated, feed and encouraged us to rest as needed. For me, the youngsters nearby always provided a welcome distraction.
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