Reflections on a great build

So finally headed home after being away for nearly 3 weeks.  I found myself living in the moment versus taking the pics I wanted to take or updating the blog I’d started.  Just a quick note of gratitude to all the friends and family that contributed to this trip – I can’t wait to share with you how your contributions were put to use.  To all my friends who have supported me through either financial means or prayer and well wishes, thank you!

We are bombarded by negative news daily.  We see stories about a neighbor suing a neighbor, one religious group persecuting another and we see too much evidence that people follow the Wallstreet movie motto of “Greed is Good”.  But here is the good news – this doesn’t have to be the case.  On this Habitat Global Village build I saw:

  1. Neighbor helping neighbor. At each of our home sites – 16 in all – the home owners worked alongside us, but their neighbors also showed up, often after working a full day in their farm fields.
  2. Our group was welcomed by the Village head Buddhist Monk who also blessed us, the homesites and the home owners. Just 3 years ago, this Monk discouraged the villagers from working with Habitat because the Monks believed the teams were there to proselytize or try to convert them to Christianity.  However, after hearing from home owners who worked with Habitat, he saw that even though Habitat was formed on Christian concepts, we were not there to convert them or witness to them – except through our actions.   Only some of the team members, such as myself, are Christians – but values such as compassion, caring and willingness to help others in need, are not unique to Christianity. I saw a respect between the various religions and even those who are agnostic.
  3. As for greed – not much of this seen in Dambulla. What we DID see was a village come together to help one of their own.  There was a woman who had some disabilities that kept her from consistent employment and therefore, hard for her to qualify for a micro loan for her house.  The villagers stepped up and guaranteed her loan saying THEY would all pay if she could not.

In a part of the country with so little, where most people make their living off the land, these people do not sit around and wait for hand-outs, simply a hand up.  I met Harshi De Silva, the niece of one of the home owners with whom we were working.  I had walked over to our “rest area” on the site to grab a drink of water.  She was excited to meet me and really wanted me to sit and ask her questions – it was so she could practice her English.  I met her 4 year old son as well as he was just coming home from school.  Sri Lanka has an extremely high literacy rate.  Harshi had received a micro loan last year and worked with Habitat to build her home.  After our closing ceremony, she grabbed my hand and pleaded with me to come see the house she helped build.  So, off we went down the street.  The house, that she shares with her 4 year old son, is only about 10 feet by 12 feet, but to her it is a safe dry place for them to live.  A place safe from the rain and snakes. A place where her son can get a good night’s sleep so that he is ready for school each day.  Harshi is excited to be email pals so she can continue to practice her written English – who knows, maybe I can learn more Sinhalese!

If you need a lift personally, spiritually or emotionally, just go on a Global Village build! On these builds you will see humanity come together as one.  You will see amazing people, like my teammates, who do so much with their own families, raising children, working at their jobs, sacrifice their time and money to help another across the world.  You’ll see cultures come together, learn from one another, laugh – and yes cry a little too – as we realize we all have struggles. You’ll also find that your “struggles” become a lot smaller when you see what others are going through.

I am beyond blessed to have the opportunity to participate in these builds.  I have an employer that encourages philanthropic endeavors, clients who understand why I am out of the office for weeks at a time, and friends who support me on trips like these through donations, prayers and words of encouragement.  Thank you to all who have been a part of this!

Finished!!!
Finished!!!
Saying goodbye to the Dambulla Family Park staff.  No one cooks like Nanda!
Saying goodbye to the Dambulla Family Park staff. No one cooks like Nanda!

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Team in front of the home the community guaranteed
Team in front of the home the community guaranteed
Senereth and me at closing ceremony
Senereth and me at closing ceremony
Serenaded at closing ceremony
Serenaded at closing ceremony
We are family
We are family
Taking our show on the road!
Taking our show on the road!
Staci is not so sure about the setup.
Staci is not so sure about the setup.
Staci getting lessons from a pro!
Staci getting lessons from a pro!
Bird's eye view
Bird’s eye view

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How's it going down there?
How’s it going down there?

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AJ conquers the rock!
AJ conquers the rock!
Cross-fit really pays off for Kristin!
Cross-fit really pays off for Kristin!
Me and Harshi
Me and Harshi

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Final team dinner
Final team dinner
Team photo
Team photo
Don't call that Cricket Agent just yet Scott!
Don’t call that Cricket Agent just yet Scott!

New Day, new site

So today we went to a new home owner site where 5 of us worked in the hot sun mixing mortar and digging a septic hole….or should I say started digging.  The hole needs to be 8 feet deep and about 4 feet in diameter.  I was on mortar mixing duty as I was not tall enough to hand the fresh buckets of mortar to the masons – that job was for Staci and Giuliana.  Staci is becoming quite bilingual in Sinhalese (the native language) and has gained a young admirer on the job site.  She has her own little shadow.

Staci and her boyfriend
Staci and her boyfriend

Staci also tried to commandeer the family’s transportation and looked quite natural at the helm driving.IMG_3285

I will say that the local version of scaffolding is not exactly OSHA compliant and it goes without saying that none of US were up on it. They make the scaffolding out of bamboo and random planks of wood they have lying around. IMG_3286 IMG_3287 IMG_3275

John quickly discovered he had royally pissed off a colony of ants where he was digging.  Millions of them came out of a giant ant hill surrounding a tree right by where we were digging and I am fairly certain they were trying to devise a plan to carry John away!  The home owners came over and told us to back away and they put some kind of powder one the ground where the ants were and then brought the fire! “Grandpa” brought a torch he’d made from thatch and in just two minutes all the ants had evacuated.  I’m not sure Terminix uses this same method. IMG_0331 IMG_0324

John did manage to NOT kill a frog, but save his life as we found him where we were digging – IMG_0336 – a much better result than the frog that found the unfortunate home in John’s boot……no, that did NOT end well for that frog!  That night, Staci showed us a yoga move that was much needed and definitely put into practice. IMG_3295

The following day we continued to work on digging the hole for the septic tank, which became more challenging due to the fact that we kept hitting little springs and water would come running in making for a very thick, mucky mess to dig out.  We had a good system down with one person digging, filling a bowl of dirt and in the beginning, the taller ones would hand the bowl up – I was relegated to engaging the “bowl toss” method a lot earlier than the others.  But by the end of the day, everyone had to toss the bowl to the person on top in order to get the bowl out.  Some attempts were better than others. (insert photo of Giuli dropping the bowl).

It was an exhausting, but good day!  We wrapped up the evening with a karaoke dance party at our lodge which was too much fun!  The whole group singing and dancing with what might possibly be the BEST disco ball ever!  We even got the local staff at the hotel to join us for a couple dances.  There was a lot of laughter and it was a great way to wrap up the first week!!

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And here are some photos from the build:

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A woman and her pic axe!
A woman and her pic axe!

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A little team competition

Team building at its best!  So tonight during our happy hour I had a little team building exercise for the group – a VERY competitive group!  They were all given a bag a marshmallows and spaghetti.  The winner would be the tallest structure that was sturdy enough to stand.  It was hilarious to stand on the side and watch the teams try to figure out how to build their structures.  The competition was fierce, but John, Patti, Linda and Thalita were victorious!  They have loved having bragging rights all week, ha ha.

Winner!
Winner!

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Time to build

Finally having both the time AND the energy to post an update – although even exerting the energy to lift fingers up and down is almost too much to ask for after the last two days.  We have had a phenomenal first two days, working on 4 different houses.  The house I worked on with 5 others was that of a husband, wife and 3 kids.  Their extended family was also there to help.  But before I get to that, let’s start at the beginning.

On the way to the build we stopped so that one of the team members could see the family whose house she helped build 6 years ago.  They have kept in touch over the years and to see the reunion would bring tears to your eyes.  Every day, the mom and dad wait by the road to waive to us as we go to the website and return.

Pat and her extended family.
Pat and her extended family.

When we went to the village the first day, all the partner families held a welcome ceremony, the village Monk was there to both greet and bless the work sites. Everyone gathered for prayers from the monk and some opening statements, followed by tea and wonderful treats.

monk lighting the candle blessing the build sites.
monk lighting the candle blessing the build sites.
Welcoming ceremony.
Welcoming ceremony.

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We then broke into 3 groups to head off to work.  The site I worked on was getting a foundation for their house.  This involved moving A LOT of dirt, mixing concrete by hand and pouring it by hand.  Needless to say, I am so glad I have been working out prior to this trip!  Thalita and I also had the task of stamping down the dirt as we worked – good jumping workout and we accomplished our tasks.

Everybody jump!
Everybody jump!
Cid and Thalita champions of the dirt!
Cid and Thalita champions of the dirt!

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"The Boys" at the job site.
“The Boys” at the job site.

The other two teams were working on pouring the concrete floors for their homes – one home actually had the use of a concrete mixer – the others of us were quite jealous! J  We had a huge rainstorm the first day starting at 2:00 so our afternoon was a bit of a washout, but we worked through the rain anyway. We managed to get two more concrete floors poured.

Not even a little rain was going to dampen our spirits!
Not even a little rain was going to dampen our spirits!

Staci was geared up and ready for the rain!

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Once we got back to the “lodge” it was time for “front porch” happy hour…….AFTER Staci had a little time for a nap :)

Nap time!
Nap time!

And now time for happy hour – amazing how one can rally for a little adult beverage.

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Today, because of the rain, the group I worked with yesterday returned to the house we worked on for half a day. “Dad” (our name for the patriarch of the family) was happy to see us return.  Working with them a 2nd day was even better than the first because everyone was comfortable working around each other.  These builds always amaze me in the ability to communicate with one another when you know only small words and phrases – we did use a lot of hand signals and gestures and figure out what we were trying to say,but it worked!  We had a lot of laughs and “dad” gave me the nickname “the joker” as the morning wore on ,,,,,,can’t figure out how he came up with that, ha ha

Warrior Three at the job site.
Warrior Three at the job site.

AJ was the concrete king and impressed all the locals with his mixing abilities!

AJ the concrete king!
AJ the concrete king!

Nearing the end of the 2nd day, we gathered with our partner family and their extended family – one of whom spoke fairly good english.  We took pictures together and it was amazing the bond that formed in the short time of two days!  It was already emotional leaving them that 2nd day.

Me, "mom and dad" at the house where we worked 2 days,
Me, “mom and dad” at the house where we worked 2 days,
My new best friend.
My new best friend.
Two school girls returning home in the afternoon.
Two school girls returning home in the afternoon.

This was a great first two days to the build!  Can;t wait to see what the next few days have in store!

Day 0ne and the gang’s all here

It’s early Monday morning so I’ll take advantage of the low traffic on the hotel’s Wi-Fi and see if I can add a post. The whole team has arrived safe and sound, but perhaps a bit travel weary. We all met pool side for a little happy hour/ get to know you time. The hotel staff surprised one of our team members, Vid, with a birthday cake and sparklers :)

During the day we tried to get in a little relaxation around the pool and maybe even nap a bit. The beach is just foot steps away so a few of decided to take a little walk where we ended up meeting and holding Mike the monkey and Barbara the boa :). I opted NOT to see or hold the cobra. :)

Today we’ll have breakfast, repack, and head out on the 4 hour drive to Dambulla where we’ll be building the next two week. I hope to add more photos, but a little challenging with the internet here.

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Ready, set, go!

The countdown is on and we’re down to 4 days before departure.  We have learned that the need in Sri Lanka is even greater than what we had thought.  Mudslides in the country have done substantial damage.  I am excited that I will be building with friends from previous builds and have some team members I have yet to meet.  I know this team will work hard, accomplish a lot, and do it all with laughter and smiles!

If you’re curious about the title of this blog, it refers to my faith and the fact that I believe that as Christians we are called to be Christ’s hands and feet.  I participate in these builds because it provides me the opportunity to be just that to others.  Some have asked why I choose to go out of the country to do these builds when there is so much need here in the US.  The answer is simple – I do both.  Additionally, I have found no scripture passage that calls us to work only in our backyard.  We are called to love one another – no “ifs”, “only” or “buts” – just love one another. So there is a little background on my motivation.

So now I am off to continue the “pre-packing” giving me 3 more nights to finalize the contents of the suitcase.

More to follow!

Cid