An amazing day-in-the-life experience
The homes in this community are tightly knit, as are the people within. The laneways are not laid out in the orderly fashion we are accustomed to. They go in several directions and are rather maze-like. A group of five of us were split up and sent to two homes to experience the daily tasks of dishes, laundry, sweeping, mopping the floor and, finally, cooking the evening meal as a show of gratitude for allowing us into their homes.
We wound our way down the path-like lane. I noticed they are sloped on either side to ease the flow of the contaminated black water from the high tides and rain. The humidity and 32-degree temperatures are more than I am used to, even in our summer months back home.
I had to take a very large step just to get into the house. The family lives right at the dead end, where the water flows into the lane. We spent three hours learning about their world and, hopefully, relieving the mom of her daily tasks. This tiny two-room home does not have a bathroom, running water, a sink or a fridge. They do have two beds and a bureau, which is actually an end table placed on cement bricks so it doesn’t get wet when the waters rise above the home’s threshold.
In the kitchen, there is a four-burner gas stove on a small table that doubles as the work surface for preparing meals and holding clean and dirty dishes. It’s also the eating area. The food and cooking pots are stored under the table. Water is carried in and stored in a drum in a corner of the room.
The living room is in the same room as the kitchen, with a wicker loveseat and chair set, a small shelf holding an old television and a few ornaments. A strand of mini Christmas lights strung along the top of the wall give this sweltering room a festive feel, which leaves me wondering how this family would celebrate.
Angelica is 25, married, nine months pregnant and has two adorable little girls who are two and three years old. This experience left me with such gratitude and with deep feelings of guilt – tears in our eyes as we washed dishes in the cold soapy water. Wow. We have so much compared to the poverty in this village. But this village is a community that takes care of one another and shines, in ways, above many of our communities back home. The gift of experiencing Angelica’s day was life changing.
It stormed that night. We felt sad and helpless for the families we are building for and the ones we’re reaching out to during the day-in-the-life program. It was a restless sleep for most of us. Angelica was not resting easy either – we were told she was in labour the next morning!
Today brought news of a wonderful new baby girl being born. Angelica is one of the lucky ones here and could afford to have her baby in the hospital while her mother-in-law helped with the girls. Her husband, a (motorcycle) taxi driver, could not afford to take a day off.
From the hospital 24 hours later, Angelica brought this sweet wee babe for us to see. We have so much joy and love in our hearts for these people. They truly love unconditionally and work together through everything. They cheer for us daily as we help to build them safe and healthy places to rest their heads and raise their babies. The children chant, “We love you!” as they run along our busses and leap into our arms as we walk to the worksite for another precious work-filled day as a community.
As I go to bed tonight, I’m so grateful we were able to provide this family with a whole chicken, but I can’t help wondering when they will feast on a whole chicken again. Will that new baby grow to be an educated adult, able to provide love, just as she now receives, as well as a warm, dry and safe home for her own family?
Fern Etzkorn, Load Planner