Church Volunteers, Teachers From Japan On Builds In India

Nuns Take To Painting Walls In Kalyan; Teachers Work Hard In Madurai Heat

KALYAN, 16th May 2008: It is not often that one sees nuns wearing habits and working on construction sites, but that was the unusual sight during one recent Habitat build in western India.

Among the volunteers in Ambishev village in Kalyan, about 48 km. northeast of Mumbai, were three nuns and 11 members of the Indian Catholic Youth Movement. Another two volunteers were from Matru Sangh, a local church women group.

Cooperation: Nuns and young volunteers painting houses in Kalyan, western India.

Co-laborers: Habitat home partners Jothi (top right) and Raja (bottom right) working alongside the volunteers in southern India.

The three nuns volunteered to lead the volunteers who were divided into three teams. Together, they painted the external walls of two houses and both external and internal walls of another house. The home partners, who were mostly farmers, contributed their effort by preparing the paint and supplying it to the volunteers. In addition to painting, the volunteers also helped the masons with plastering work.

With the exception of one volunteer who was a professional house painter, the volunteers were new to the task. That did not stop them from working as a team, with the young people climbing on ladders to paint the top of walls while the others tackled the bottom part of the walls. In the end, their cooperation paid off as they managed to complete a job in two days instead of one.

Askok Waghe, a Habitat home partner, said: “I thank the volunteers of Habitat for comming and helping me to build my dream home, it really helps us to finish our work quickly.”

As for the volunteers, Dhanya Devassy, 20, said learning how to paint a house was a “memorable experience”.

Separately, in the south India district of Madurai, nine volunteers from the Japan Exchange and Teaching program worked with two Habitat families to build their homes. After making their way from Sendai city, northeast Japan, the volunteers arrived to a warm welcome in Periyassemmettupatti, about 45 km. from Madurai. In their report, the volunteers said: “Never was there a community so warm and forthcoming in their reception, so much so that some of our volunteers were moved to tears by their sincerity, warmth and joy.”

Each morning, the children from the village would crowd around the bus, greeting the volunteers with shouts of joy. While the volunteers mixed the mortar, helped built the concrete foundation, filled the basement area with earth and laid bricks, the two home partner families worked alongside them.

Habitat home partner Jothi was surprised to find the volunteers working so hard. Thanks to the volunteers, she said her family was able to save 2,000 rupees (US47) in labor cost. The family’s monthly income averaged 4,000 rupees.

Recreation came in the form of a cricket match between the young people in the community and the volunteers. Acknowledging that their only experience of the game was through cable programs, the volunteers were glad to receive an induction into the sport from their local hosts. A visit to the local school also took place with the volunteers teaching songs to the children.

By the end of the one-week build, there was hardly a dry eye when the volunteers were taking their leave. The volunteers sang “Stand by Me” for the villagers to remind them to persevere in difficult times. “For one last time, there was a huge crowd around the bus and volunteers had to tear themselves away to enter the bus. Hands were extended through the windows for a final handshake and that was our final goodbye to the village,” the volunteers’ report concluded.