Eight women — four from the Twin Cities and four from Cleveland — flew halfway around the world this summer to build a hopeful future for vulnerable children.
Habitat for Humanity International Mission is working in Lusaka, Zambia, in Southern Africa, and putting together a program to assist children and their caretakers. Many of these children are affected by HIV/AIDS; they may have it or have lost parents and family to the disease.
The four volunteer builders from Cleveland have backgrounds in city planning and medical care; the four from the Twin Cities have backgrounds ranging from architecture and economics to city planning.
Aurora/St. Anthony Neighborhood Development Corp. employee Marilyn Porter and Bonita Martin were part of the Twin Cities team. During the day these women worked on building a three-bedroom home for a family of eight, that replaced their former windowless, two-bedroom home. While working alongside the local contractors, lifting blocks and digging holes, these women drew a lot of attention from local villagers, as well as some of Lusaka’s own city planners, including the Minister of Land, While in Zambia, they were even able to meet with First Lady Thandiwe Banda for an hour.
“The First Lady was on our schedule at first, but then our meeting with her was canceled because something else came up; however, when she found out we were a team of eight women of color who had come to help her people, that changed,” said Martin.
Once the house was finished, the entire village had a celebration with singing and dancing, and the women gladly joined in as they were invited to be a part of everything. Martin described the celebration in a humbled way, how the home injected the entire village with joy for the family who had received this new home. “That is something I will never forget!” said Porter.
Porter, being the architect of the group, was watching the women in the village cook the food on small, single grills. Porter took some of the left-over building blocks and, after a run to the hardware store to get some old refrigerator shelves, designed a larger open fire grill for the family. The family was so excited about their new grill that they insisted that it be set out where anyone in the village could use it to cook.
When asked if they would do this again, both Porter and Martin replied, “I would go again in a heartbeat.”
“We learned from then and I think they learned from us,” said Porter. “The local contractors were not sure what to expect with a group of eight women coming to help, but they were pleasantly surprised at the end.”
Check out the rest of the photos from the Zambia trip on our Flickr photostream: