In April this year, I volunteered with Habitat for Humanity to help build a home for a family living in poverty in Nepal. On 6 October, I flew out of Australia with an idea of what I was expecting to see and do and came home with a totally new and different perspective on how the world is and how the world should be.
My husband, David, told me an ancient Chinese quote which says: “Tell me and I will forget; Show me and I may remember; Involve me and I will understand” by Chinese Philosopher (Lao Tszu), and I guess that just about sums it up. No one could have told me or showed me this – only being involved could have made me understand.
Flying into Kathmandu, we were then transported by bus to our project village of Dhulikel. The culture shock was immediate, as we travelled through chaotic traffic with a backdrop of broken buildings and people who were making good with a whole lot less then we have back here in Australia.
There were a total of 465 people split into teams to build 35 homes for people far less fortunate than us: teams from Britain, Singapore, New Zealand and the USA. Disappointingly, there was only one team of 12 from Australia. We were introduced to our Aussie mates – basically all strangers, except for a few introductory emails before we left. And with that inevitable awkwardness of a team of strangers, we set out to start our build. Before I left, I was under the perception that we would be building a bamboo rendered home. Little did I know that it would be hand-made mud bricks, with cow poo, clay and wheat grains for mortar and render that we mixed by hand!
No time for being precious or squeamish; our team quickly gained common purpose, and we dug in to the task of building this simple/small, two roomed home for this impoverished family. By the end of the first day, we were strangers no more, as we headed back to our accommodation, covered in cow poo mortar and our promised sweat equity.
Five days later, and our unique team of committed Aussies stood filthy and proud with our Nepalese family and dedicated their new home with a ceremony of cultural offerings. Our proud new owners – Getta Shrestha (49) and her husband Prem Sagar (55) and their family of six then showed us their old home, and we all lost ourselves emotionally as we realised what a monumental change we had given them in comparison to how they used to live.
Coming home has been a huge emotional roller coaster. Most of all, I will remember what we were able to give these people, their smiles, their grace, the happiness of their children. I have been given a wonderful gift of ‘life perspective’ by the Nepalese people, and I will cherish it forever.
Thanks to all of my wonderful sponsors again. Do you have an idea about volunteering abroad? Google ‘Habitat for Humanity’ – give it a go; you won’t be disappointed.