African Branch staff pitch in to build houses for shack-dwellers
It was into the trenches for the staff of the African Branch when we took our Team Building Day to a new level. This year we decided to partner with an organisation called the Mellon Housing Initiative and go into a township/slum area to build houses.
Three months prior to the date, we divided into 7 teams and started fundraising. The teams competed to see which could raise the most money. The initiatives were extremely creative and enjoyable. They ranged from catered lunches, cake sales, car washes and massages to yoga classes, raffles and auctions.
The big day dawned cool and wet (this turned out to be a distinct advantage after a few hours of work!) After a half hour bus ride, it was into hard hats, gloves and goggles. All tools were loaded into wheelbarrowsand off we went. This was the first time it dawned on many that this wasn’t going to be a fun day of “pretend” building but was going to be real back-breaking work!
We started off digging foundation trenches and pipe ditches and moved on to cement mixing, brick laying and plastering. To say it was hard labour is an understatement! Some people were begging for a tea break after only half an hour. Everyone was in good spirits though and the one foreman commented that he’d rarely seen such a happy bunch of volunteers. One team laid foundations for the new crèche site and visited the children in their current dwelling – a tin shack. They had only a handful of toys and about 5 books, so this will be our next target.
At the end of the day we handed over a newly completed house to the proud owner. She is a mother of three and had been living in a tiny shack as her house was being built. Her old house was made of wood and it was just one bedroom and kitchen. This will be the first time in her life she has lived in a brick house with electricity and a bathroom: "God thank you for your all. We are delighted we don’t have to share an outside toilet anymore. We can have some privacy, because people are not able to look at us through holes in the shack walls.’’
We went home exhausted but feeling very satisfied that we’d really contributed with our own sweat and (some) tears.
28 October 2010: Article submitted by Wonder Chabalala, Marketing Manager Cambridge University Press African Branch