Snapshot 2: Building community one brick at a time

Feb. 12th

For the last two years, I’ve been involved as the teacher sponsor of the student chapter of Habitat for Humanity. (If you are not familiar with the organization, look it up. It’s cool.)

Last month, two other teachers and I took a group of about twenty students to a build site an hour outside of town. It’s an IDP camp – a refugee spot for “internally displaced persons.” In 2008, the dispute over national elections caused Kenya to erupt in a wave of violence. Many people lost their lives. Many more people lost their homes and communities. They fled to other parts of the country where they had nothing but what they carried with them. Often, people who had not necessarily known each other in their former home were now flung together in the IDP camps. A happy, hospitable community was certainly not a given.

Immediately following the violence, the UNHCR provided emergency aid in the form of temporary shelters, water and food. Though the water and food did not last long, some of the shelters are still standing, three years later.

Habitat for Humanity Kenya has been working to gradually replace the UNHCR tents with proper homes. This particular site was not a new one for us. When I first visited this camp with students in the spring of 2009, it was made up mostly of tents with a few brick houses. On that trip, we worked on laying the first few layers of brick for three different houses. This time around, the camp had been transformed and was almost all houses with only a few tents. It may have taken three years, but at lest it was forward progress. Other teams had come through to lay brick and raise ceilings. Our job for the day: sift sand, mix cement, and plaster the inside walls.

Our school bus at the edge of the camp.

One home had kept the tent in their yard. Probably as an extra bedroom.

One of the original tents

One of the finished homes.

A row of homes.

Inside a home.

Students mixing cement and plastering the walls.

A couple of students working with the builders on a pit latrine.

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