How much can a team of 11 global volunteers do in 5 days? a lot apparently. A part from helping speed up the construction of a classroom from foundation to lintel level, the team also learnt Kiswahili!
This is the story of the Kyumbi Primary School, Machakos, and build team led by Cid Smith that participated in the Habitat for Humanity Kenya (HFHK) volunteer engagement program from 19th-27th May 2018.
And they even mastered this song, thanks to Fr. Peter Muema Vavu, the parish priest for the local Catholic Church, the school’s sponsor.
Bwana Awabariki, Bwana Awabariki
Bwana Awabariki Milele x2
Translation: (God Bless you, God Bless You, God Bless you Forever)
Fr. Peter got a new moniker too: ‘Fr. Persistence’ in reference to his untrammelled passion to improve the lives of others. His determination ensured the deputy governor of Machakos County, Mr. Francis Maliti, attended the build as well.
There was a University Professor in the team, Eileen Merges, who was Fr. Peter’s lecturer during the latter’s sabbatical in the US and through whom the whole build concept had been conceived. When Eileen participated in a Habitat for Humanity Kenya build in 2017, she visited Fr. Peter in Machakos, and saw the need for additional classrooms at the school. Together with Cid, they vowed to do something about it. One year later, this desire had become a reality!
And there was a teachers’ trainer in the team too, Shelly Armstrong, who shared some pedagogical skills with the teachers. The atmosphere was pretty professorial, you could say; but also punctuated with fun, dance, laughter and smiles from the children and the parents.
Eileen is a professor of psychology, and probably offers the temptation to quote one psychologist Eric Erickson, in his article, ‘The Problem of Ego Identity’. He defined identity as ‘Persistent sameness within oneself (self-sameness), and a persistent sharing of some kind of essential character with others.’
He offers, that we should strive to be ourselves where we mean most to others- and those others mean most to us too.
There is no better actualisation of the Habitat Identity than in the sight of volunteers; particularly Global Volunteers. In them we see that we share this global Identity; of love for Humanity, of sharing God’s love, of eradicating Housing Poverty.
I spoke with one team member, Connor Chmiel, who told me how he came to be part of the team. He has never been out of the United States. I recall the enthusiasm I found in Cid’s voice every time we communicated during the build up to the trip. It was so infectious. I can understand why it was hard for Connor and other team members to say no to her. But to rally such a diverse group together takes more than just a splendid personality. It must be a stronger drive. This mission, anchored in Christ, truly fills us with zeal.
We had one anxious moment when the Deputy Governor told the team, ‘We do not need people to come and help us as if we do not have brains to think. We know what we need and how to get it. We just need to be motivated; like the wind to propel us.’ I only relaxed when he added: ‘and you are that wind. Thank you!’ I think it was a failure of diction. But he managed to accurately sum up Habitat volunteer engagement objective: to offer a hand up support to communities!
In my 18 months with the organisation, one question that I often attract from visitors is, ‘Are you happy?’ My response: ‘I am happy to be new. And I intend to remain new for a very long time.’ I mean, I do not intend to lose this sense of wonder and fascination with the mission, and the practicality of achieving it through local and global volunteerism any time soon.
And to look at the profile of the volunteers, like Cid, who has done 15 builds, Greg 7, a couple of second and third timers, was to stare at nearly 40 build experiences! What a spirit, what a marvel. You can only conclude that Habitat is truly a movement.
So thank you to Team Cid. Keep the Mission fire in you and the Passion to transmit it to all corners of the earth. Kwaheri na Karibu tena!