Habitat for Humanity Build, Kabwe, Zambia 2019
16 Canadians ready for an adventure, traveled to Zambia to work hard and help to build 2 homes for 2 families. The weather in July was a mix of cool mornings, windy afternoons, toasty and hot by late afternoon and cool again in the evening.
Our first day was our orientation with our Habitat host Christin and our team leader Peggy prepping us for the work ahead. Bright and eager the team piled onto our bus with our best ever driver Hassan. We are on our way to meet the families and view the build site. With big eyes we are taking in all the sights and sounds and smells of the bustling community of Kabwe.
The families are currently living in a part of the city known as Makalulu, some research indicates this area became an informal settlement after mines and factories shut down in the 90’s. People relocated into the area with no resources such as schools or health clinics.
The families graciously invited us into their very well kept sparse little homes. Their houses are falling apart and have very little light coming in. The toilet is down the lane shared with other members of the community.
We drive to the building site for the new homes and are greeted by ladies in the community singing songs to welcome us. Wow what a welcome! This area was donated by the Government to Habitat for Humanity who has plans to complete 150 homes, with close access to schools, and a community market. Aprox 50 homes have been built so far.
On our first day 7:40am we piled onto the bus for a 20 minute ride to the site. Before starting our work on the build site we did a few warm ups to get the creaks out and mobilize the joints. That was funny. I mean that was fun :}
We meet our skilled local tradesmen and the senior foreman with Habitat, Mighty Cheka. He lives up to his name! We were so so happy to see some of the tradesmen that we met and built with last year were going to be on the job site with us. We then got a great safety tutorial from our veteran tradesman Jim.
On site the foundations were already started so the team was able to get right into mixing mortar and laying bricks. The ladies of the families were helping by getting water for the mortar mixing. They had a very tough job and did it endlessly with such strength and grace carrying heavy loads on their heads. It took two of us to carry one bucket they had on their heads!
We made really good progress by day 3 the brick laying was 1/2 way completed. Each row was called a course. Each course was laid by first getting the corners levelled with such precision and from there string was tied from each corner to the next one to guide us to the height needed to lay the mortar and place the brick. Simple yet super effective. Mighty Cheka was proud of the teams work already!
Each day there was a conga line made to help move the bricks. We did it army style, one person forward one person back, there were enough of us that we could stand close to each other and did not have to hold the brick long before passing onto our mates. Did I mention each block was aprox 30lbs? There were a few tons of bricks passed. No exaggeration when I say tons. Our abs are still feeling it.
As the building progressed we also had time to walk through some of the new houses already built and ones being built. We had a chance to say hello to a few Irish school aged teams who were very friendly and having a great time doing their work. We also got to chat with the neighbours, visit the ladies at the water well and play with the kids. Oh and drawing tattoos on the kids with a sharpie, only for them to come back the very next day all scrubbed off! Connecting with the people of Zambia is the absolute best part of the whole experience.
We stopped for lunch at a neighbourhood school, Chililalila Centre (Chi-Li-La-Lila)The Principle of the primary school, David, was so welcoming and remembered some of us from last year. A few mornings we got there early enough to meet the little kids in the school who were so happy and so curious to meet us. They were so cute. We were well fed by some very hard working ladies who prepared our meals for us. Some of us may have even gained a couple of pounds and brought them back with us to Canada :} The ladies were happy that there were a few folks who loved their staple food Nshima. Think potato dumpling but made from corn meal. And it stays with you the whole day.
One afternoon the whole team of the tradesmen, the families, the welcoming ladies, the Principle and the Canadians all had lunch together at the school. It was so nice and relaxing chatting with each other and sharing a meal. But that wasn’t the end of that! First the welcoming ladies started singing, then dancing, then the tradesmen jumped into it and encouraged the Canadians to get in on the fun. There was so much singing and dancing and laughing! No one wanted it to stop. That was an awesome day.
We also had a chance to visit the Makalulu BOCCSchool. Bayantashi Open Community Christian School. 550 students, 8 teachers/ 4 paid by the Govn’t / 4 paid by the community, pre-school to Grade 7. The kids all wanted to know our names and they sang the Zambian National Anthem to us so we sang Oh Canada to them. A lot of people back in Canada generously donated school supplies and money that we brought with us so we were able to help the school buy buying some school supplies for them They were so grateful.
Bauantashi is a local term that roughly means “Things Are Getting Better”
As the build progressed the work included making and installing the window and door lentils, laying the tin roof, some finishing work, plastering inside walls, shining the exterior walls: scraping excess mortar and the front of the bricks with a broken piece of concrete like a stone buffer to get an even finished look, building the latrines, collecting loose rocks to fill the sides of the latrine walls, tamping the floor: super hard strong muscles needed for that job! filling in holes, installing the air vents, and clearing the landscaping.
Our tools were wheelbarrows, trowels, shovels, string, buckets, paint brushes, hammers, nails, spirit levels, hand saws, ladders and even a broken piece of brick.
Each night we would go home happy dirty and tired. We had a nice place to get a cool beer and gather together for a hot meal. A chance to recharge and share our stories of the day.
We even had a vegan chocolate cake one night! We celebrated 3 birthdays, Braden, Parker and Peggy. The welcoming ladies threw baby powder on Braden on his birthday as a way to show “we are celebrating something special”
Another thing that made this build very special is that we had generations of family members working together on our team. 2 brothers, 2 other brothers, 3 sisters, a Mom, Dad & 2 sons, a Mom and son, 2 Dad’s and 2 son’s, 2 cousins, 3 aunties and a Grandma with 2 grandkids. Typically the houses we had built in the past were occupied by Grandma’s taking care of their Grandchildren. It was just natural to have a Grandma lead the build and have families building homes for other families. Here are a few of us.
And the final day brings us to the celebration. The whole community came out to meet the team, say our thanks, hand over the keys, and of course dance and dance and dance some more! We also were fortunate to have solar lights donated to us by LuciLights and every household was gifted one light per house. It was truly a joyous time that will stay with us forever. There is a such a positive magical feeling of being a part of the African culture and a warmth from the people that will stay in our hearts and bring us back again.