Thanks to a combination of “smoothing” and “Saturday,” we had an easy start to our volunteer work – which is primarily the manual labor of building homes, local style.
While I think the official name of the org we are with here is “Home For AIDS Orphans” (like, an orphanage) really in practice it is “Homes for AIDS Orphans” (like, building physical structures). Certainly, that what we learned first hand with our hands and feet (and backs, oye!) today on our first day volunteering.
In the Western Province of Zambia, there are no orphanages like the “Annie” or “Oliver Twist” orphanages that we generally summon in our minds. If a child’s parent or parents die, there are grandparents, aunts and other relatives to take them in. But that can mean too many people living in a small one or two room hut. So what Homes for AIDS Orphans does is build new (mud) huts for these grandmothers and aunts, so that they can more comfortably raise their extended family of kids.
The Home (Hut) Building Process
We are just learning about the home (hut) building process. First is the wood frame (there is a certain specific type of wood that naturally repels termites). Then you fill in the frame with more wood pieces. Then fill in the wood pieces with mud bricks and mud balls. Then, once the walls are set, you mud the walls in a number of layers. Then, once there is a sufficient layer of mud, you “smooth” the layers with a final “smoothing” coat.
Today, Saturday, was a “smoothing” day. That is apparently the easiest of the tasks. We used the palms of our hands to smooth wet mud over the existing mud layers, to make a smooth layer that will serve as the wall. Of course, our first attempts were not all that smooth. There is some sort of trick to (a) how wet your mud should be and (b) your technique with your palm and fingers.
Thankfully, we not only had Janney on hand – another volunteer from England who has already been here about 3 weeks – but also Margaret, the grandma we are building the home for. She and some of her kids/grandkids expertly smoothed our “smoothing” and guided us through the process.
But apparently things will get a lot tougher next week:
Our first day was a Saturday, so that meant only an 8am-12noon shift. Sunday everyone is off (church day in the village). Come Monday, there are double shifts 8-12 and 2-4. So it’s a longer and more tiring day. My kids will be thrilled…
I got a great piece of advice from a former volunteer I had spoken with on the phone: By the end of the day, you are so covered with mud that you should just jump in the shower with your clothes on. Rinse them off first, then yourself. We did just that! Thank, Renee!
All work does not mean no play for the Ducker girls
The highlight of course was my kids playing with the curious village children who come to watch the home building. My kids played soccer with plastic bag ball. And taught the kids Simon Says and Duck Duck Goose. And gave lots of high fives to older kids and hugs to younger ones.
We’ll post more updates as we explore the local village, tackle the more laborious parts of hut building, and will later give a tour of our home away from home here at Homes For AIDS Orphans in Zambia!