‘I watched tears stream down the faces of local families as we finished building the houses’
This summer changed how I view my life in Bermuda.
I had the amazing opportunity to spend almost three weeks in Africa building houses with Habitat for Humanity. On July 15 I, along with 43 other people from Bermuda whose ages ranged from 14 to 87, travelled to a small town in Zambia, Africa called Ndola. Our group, Bermuda Overseas Missions, is affiliated with Habitat for Humanity, and our trip was led by Mr David Thompson and Mr Owen Martin.
The mission was to build eight houses for eight families in just two weeks. I have never encountered such severe poverty, and upon my arrival in the small village of Chipulukusu, where we were to build homes, I was left totally speechless. I realised immediately that my life in Bermuda was so luxurious compared to that of the people of Chipulukusu. The majority of children had no shoes, and their clothes were very old and worn. The village was very dusty, and as it had not rained since April, everything was very dry.
We rose at 6.00am each day and we worked all day until late in the afternoon. Everyone on the trip worked very hard to complete our goal of building eight houses in two weeks.
We worked with only basic tools, and the water we needed for mixing cement had to be pulled from a well and carried to the worksite in buckets. I soon learned how to mix cement by hand, and then how to use that cement to lay block. Although the work was strenuous, I was so happy to be helping and thrilled to see how quickly we were able to build up the walls of the house.
I think the most rewarding experience was meeting and working alongside the families that would live in these new houses. Watching the tears stream down the faces of both the local families and my teammates as we finished the houses, left me feeling that this was truly a lifelong memory. I have never experienced such a sense of achievement before.
We met many local children on the work site, and it was so heartbreaking to see that so many of the children could not even attend school as their families couldn’t afford to buy the required uniform. These children had nothing to do all day and no toys or games to play with.
I am now much more appreciative of my life in Bermuda and I really wish that I could do more to help the people of Zambia. We visited a school in Chipulukusu, and it was really disheartening to see all the students squashed into tiny, bare desks. I quickly realised they had no books and none of the usual school supplies which we take for granted here in Bermuda. Yet the students were so happy to have us visit them, and even happier when we provided them with colouring books, pencils, pens etc. Perhaps the most difficult time of the trip was when we visited an orphanage. This was truly an emotional day, as it was heartbreaking to see the terrible conditions that these poor children lived in. In one crib, I even saw cockroaches crawling about.
At the end of our build we were fortunate enough to have a few days to see more of Zambia. Our group travelled to Livingston and experienced an amazing overnight safari in the Chobe National Park, where we saw so many of the wild animals indigenous to that area. We also visited one of the Seven Wonders of the World, Victoria Falls. It was breathtaking and I will never forget it. Another first for me was the opportunity to ride an elephant, which was truly amazing.
I had the most wonderful experiences in Africa and really hope that I can travel with Habitat for Humanity again next year to help make a change to the world, one house at a time.