Only two weeks ago, a group of 45 helpful Bermudian residents left their island home, traveled for days and arrived in Zimbabwe. The trip, however, was no vacation.
As our wanderer, Adrienne Smatt, tells us the Bermuda Overseas Mission (BOM) group have been busy completing eight homes! Their tools? Hands and one set of scaffolding! But the build is not the hardest part. Let Adrienne tell you about some of the heartbreaking and warming that has happened in Zambia:
July 23rd (build day 4.5)
It’s Saturday. Our plan for the day was to work a half day and then have lunch, shower and head to an orphanage.
On the way to the site we got lost in the maze of the community we are helping. Instead of taking an initial left, we took the second left. We were not met with our usual smiling, screaming and waving children. We were met with confused faces. This was our clue that we had gone awry.
Work has slowed to nearly a complete hault. We have gone to the tops of the windows and doors – well above our tallest teammates’ heads. Each site has one scaffold. I am thankful for a scaffold at all.
In past builds we have been met with 50 gallon drums and some bendy pieces of lumber stretched across the drum and some bricks piled up to match. Scaffolding, in comparison to that, is luxurious. Despite my thanks and praises we can only put two people on the scaffold at a time. I have 5 people on my team plus a foreman.
When those on the ground aren’t handing up bricks they are left to stand around and watch. This kills me. We’ve come to help and yet we have become bystanders. There has got to be a better way than one scaffold, two people bricking and 2 or 3 people standing around watching the slow progress! The team leaders (me included) need to have a meeting to brainstorm a better way.
When they are not building, BOM is: Today we went to St Anthony’s Children’s Village. Every orphanage we go to is just as heartbreaking as the last. At first I’m not sure what the children expected of the two big blue buses and unfamiliar faces. However, as soon as we got off one child ran straight up to one of our teenage teammembers, Isabel. The whole time we were there this child would not let Isable put her down.
I saw the transformations I had been waiting for in some of the youth of our group. They seemed to see no difference in these parentless, abandoned, possibly (probably) HIV/AIDS positive children to their own siblings and relatives. They treated the orphans as their own.
It was great to see.
With the orphanage, the people in this village are really trying to make a difference, and for 100+ kids, they do. Most, if not all of these kids were abandoned in the streets by their mothers and then found and brought to the village. One child had been brought to them, found who knows where, and died two hours later.
We left clothes and shoes and supplies for this great place that gets little or no funding from the government – but somehow this feels insufficient. We drove away from the smiling and waving children, many of us with tears in our eyes and a feeling of inadequacy.
Upon our return we were greeted by school children who came to dance for us. Through this whole trip I have been trying to find similarities to bridge the gap between here in Zambia and our little island. In these children I found it. The way they danced was strangely (and somewhat disturbingly) not disimilar to how we dance in the Bermuda club scene. As far as I was aware they were doing some traditional Zambian/African dances, but they had they been about 10 years older, wearing heels jeans and low cut tops the girls (and the boys wearing something equally appropriate) would have fit right in with the bumping and grinding type dancing we gravitate towards.
July 27th (last full build day)
There is no rest for the weary.
We are more exhausted than ever and pushing ourselves to even further extremes. I went to bed at 9:30 last night and got up at my usual 6:30 this morning – this is the most I’ve slept this whole trop and I am the most tired today.
Current tasks at hand:
Tamping: this is far worse than shoveling could ever hope to be. The floors need to be prepped for the concrete which will be poured on top of the dirt. Because of this, we need to bach the floors into submission to not only level them but also compact the soil as much as possible. It is brutal.
Roofs: Beams need to go up and be strapped down in place. This is done by chiseling a hole through our gorgeous walls and poking wire through to tie down the beams. Once that is done, you can hammer down the corrugated roof. Only once that is completed can you think about pouring the floors.
Pouring the Floors: Thankfully we have located a cement mixer. This makes a potential day of hell a little less like Dante’s 9th level of the Inferno. Having said that, it still sucks.
Once you start, you can’t stop – and this is no Pringles jingle job. Wheelbarrows of cement are unruly and heavy. Funny story though, the masons here don’t like the consistency of the cement that the mixer produces. We’ve been waiting for days for this cement mixer to arrive so we can do the floors, and now the masons want to revert back to their ways. Which is fine… but it consists of mixing the cement on the floor of each room. Yea, I said it, mixing the cement on the FLOOR of EACH ROOM.
Tomorrow is dedication day.
My prediction is a lot of red and teary eyes, sniffles and hugs. It is always hard to leave but somehow we all do and go back to our usual lives. All the houses will have roofs on them tomorrow and 3 of the 8 will have floors completed. This is a tremendous accomplishment. It is amazing to say that we will have left 8 families with a roof over their heads – more than they had before we arrived.
There will be another update with more specific details about who broke down and cried and exactly how the families reacted to their new homes. For now, at 9pm, I want to go to sleep. I have tamping to do in the morning.