Inspired Words

These are the experiences of our volunteers in Guatemala.

February 2011: The First Tuesday.

Posted in Guatemala on February 9, 2011

Day 2 on the worksites started overcast, but was sunny and hot by midmorning. At the first site the team arrived to find that the mason and his assistant had finished the digging of the trenches. The materials for mixing cement, the reinforcing bars and the cinder blocks had not arrived. At the second site, there was still work required to finish the trenches.

At the first site, the team waited for the materials. The sand arrived and the team spent twenty minutes shoveling it. Then we waited and waited and waited. We went for a walk and explored the neighbourhood. We met a local artist who offered to decorate the house with a mural, which delighted the family. We returned to the site to find that no more materials had arrived. We set up our chairs, and waited, exchanging life stories. When no more materials came, we returned to Open Windows for lunch, feeling discouraged. We were assured that materials would be available in the afternoon.

After lunch a number of our group, not confident that the materials would arrive, went to the other site hoping for work. Almost as soon as they left, the materials arrived, cinder blocks, forty kilo bags of cement, gravel, and rebar. Teresa went to the other site and brought the keeners back. All the materials had arrived at once and there was not enough space, so we piled them along the lane leading to the site. There was concern that the materials might be stolen, exposed as they were. Fortunately, the neighbour’s fence, made of corrugated tin like the kind used for roofing, had blown over during the morning. This was the result of our excavation being too close to the fence post. After some discussion, the neighbour allowed material to be piled securely on his land. Time was running out. We recruited a dozen of the neighbourhood kids, ages from six to twelve, to help the chain gang we had formed to move the cinder blocks onto the site. They were enthusiastic, since we had promised to pay them.

The day finished on a high note, with all the materials on site, ready for the mixing of the concrete for the footings in the morning.

Meanwhile the second team arrived to find the mason and his helper had made much progress on the trenches. The team spent the first hour breaking up concrete slabs, removing the cement pieces and the earth from the trenches. We were working with two broken down wheel barrows, so a decision was made to buy two more wheel barrows and an extra shovel from the local hardware store. The arrival of the new equipment was greeted with enthusiasm. Dirt was shoveled with great vigour onto the wheel barrows operating as a chain gang.

As we worked, the smoke from the family’s cook fire blew over the site. At one point the group leader was found reclining in one of the new wheel barrows, claiming that he was testing it for strength. One of our members, in the heat of the action, threatened to form a union and started to sing a trade union song; he was shouted down. By early afternoon, the trenches had been completed and the materials for construction had finally arrived. We formed a chain gang (again) and transported cinder blocks down the lane, over the path, through the gate and piled them on site. Next we moved the forty kilo cement bags by wheel barrow onto the site in the same chain gang fashion. Last but not least long pieces of rebar were lugged onto the site. The mason gave rebar cutting and bending demos to several of the group.

When we left the site at the end of the work day, all materials were secured for the night, ready for laying the foundations in the morning. Group morale was high with the feeling that much had been accomplished.

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