Embracing Challenges and Trepidation
Picture this: 7 volunteers, 4 missed connections, and 3 lost pieces of luggage; hardly the image of a cohesive group to help one Sri Lankan family who nearly lost everything to a flood. Yet, the hope is that this motley group will all come together for this single purpose.
Before we visited the site of our project, we toured previous ones completed by other DWC volunteers. We saw a temple that now boasts a preschool play area and a room for community educational classes. We were awed by the project which built a whole row of houses over several years; the houses were deeded to poor women who traditionally had no opportunity to own their own property, thus allowing them to provide for their families after the devastating tsunami of 2004.
These tours provided an orientation to our group of volunteers as well as considerable inspiration and optimism, that we, this group of disparate volunteers might actually make a small but significant difference in the lives of a large Sri Lankan family.
When we toured the site of our own project, there was little to see. No tools, no supplies, not even any furniture as the family had basically moved out as the result of the recent flood which had left the house unstable.
Our first reaction was a mixture of enthusiasm, a willingness to work hard, but also trepidation and maybe even doubt this group of disparate people could really pull off this seemingly huge project to stabilize the house, put in a concrete floor and build a kitchen onto the back of the house; all while providing a sense of teamwork that might culminate in a real home to a family of ten that we could see would clearly appreciate the results of our efforts.
After some soul searching—and a few glasses of wine—we decided that not only will we be up to the challenge, but that we will embrace the opportunity.
Stay tuned to see if we live up to our demanding and ambitious undertaking!
Terry-Lynn Stone, DWC Volunteer
A Work in Progress
Our small group is continuing to see the pieces of our project come together. The foundations are complete, as are the footings. The walls are going up, and we are beginning to see the form of the kitchen.
The door frame is in place, as are the kitchen counters; even the hole has been cut for the sink.
We can see how our hard work coming together is reflective of how the family is coming together with the volunteers. Once reticent and unsure, the family now gives us the traditional Sri Lankan greeting—cheek to cheek; and more importantly we all do the Macarena together!
Concrete Recipe for Footing and Floors
12 buckets of sand
1 bag of cement
15 buckets of gravel
Unspecified amount of water
Mix to perfection.
While we follow the recipe to make concrete according to Sri Lankan instructions from Podi and Senevive, we are creating our own recipe for building relationships and are beginning to understand the amazing nuances of the community of which now, we are now truly part.
As if working hard rebuilding this house and experiencing this wonderful community weren’t enough, we have also been incredibly fortunate to experience true Sri Lankan hospitality and culture. We spent a delicious afternoon with Anil in his lovely home.
Anil, his wife Vivica, daughter and son as well as Anil’s beautiful new grandson , welcomed us to his home for a traditional home made tea—and wonderful conversation. Between the delicate sandwiches and the rolled coconut pancakes, we came to understand more fully the culture we are immersed in.
We are sure there is so much more to come. Stay tuned!
Kelly and Terry-Lynn, DWC Volunteers
The Agony and the Ecstasy
There are many things we cannot control, and certainly the weather is one. The last week of our stay saw a tropical depression settle over our area bringing torrential rains and horrific winds causing widespread power outages, water outages and considerable flooding. As a team we came to understand how drowned rats feel! We were wet and pretty grubby for most of the time.
This meant delays in our work. Concrete didn’t dry, paint wouldn’t stick, and the roofer was unable to do any work on the roof for days putting us behind in almost all aspects of our work. But it takes more than a rain deluge to keep a DWC team down!
Being wet and grubby doesn’t preclude mixing cement on the floor inside the house; or painting with two inches of water on the floor to allow for slow curing of the concrete floor—and perhaps most importantly rain and wind doesn’t preclude having music on site; and having music on site means dancing with the girls of the family to YMCA or doing the Macarena! We did a lot of all of the above.
We could look back on this two weeks in Sri Lanka with regret what might have been, but we know that we speak for us all when we say that when we look back it will only be with joy not only for what we achieved, but also for the wonderful relationship we formed; with each other, with our strong and brave family, with the truly amazing DWC contractors, and even with the local dogs!
The family now has a safe and secure home, hopefully strong enough to withstand the wind and rain. They have a properly finished bedroom, a brand new kitchen (with a fantastic roof I might add) and with a purpose built concrete counter and a sink with indoor plumbing!
A collection of a week’s worth of coffee money from each of us allowed us to provide our family with two new double beds complete with mattresses, pillows, sheets and pillow cases as well as some small bath towels. In the kitchen, we put a new set of cooking pots, cooking utensils, a set of plates, and cups, two large laundry bowls and a canister.
We basically took a crumbling house and made a home; but without the fantastic help and support of our DWC partners, we shudder to think what the outcome might have been.
Anil, Deepal, and Raelene literally helped us navigate the landscape and the culture, but it was Podi and Senevi who directed our efforts and who transformed our attempts at concreting and cementing and turned scruffy uneven surfaces into beautiful smooth and even walls and counters. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
And no blog on this project would be complete without lingering on the honest and strong bond we forged with the family of our home. From reticence to real friendship. From wariness to open gratitude, our lives will be forever changed by the change we had the good fortune to make in the lives of our family.
We can only hope we have made a fraction of the enormous impact they have made on our lives, on theirs.
Terry-Lynn and Kelly, DWC Volunteers
It's not all work and no play!
We managed to have a fair bit of fun too. From watching elephants in their natural habitat to bartering for coconuts at the local market we are making memories to last a lifetime.
The best part of playtime is the dance parties during downtime at the job site. Our girls now know how to Hokey Pokey, YMCA, Bird Dance and the Macarena. It is now a daily ritual - the girls come home from school and expect to have a good laugh at us acting like children.
Breakfasts are always interesting.....you never know what kind of face may appear on your spicy omelette.
We always leave time for an ocean swim at the end of a work day. Some of the team loved being tossed around by the strong surf, followed by an uproarious laugh.
For anyone interested in birding, Sri Lanka is paradise. Going on Safari and on the Wawala River Cruise we saw so many different birds. From eagles ( five different species) to king fishers, a beautiful sight to see. Peacocks, Isbis, Biterons, Pelicans, Herons, Comorants, Green Bee Eaters and so many more just a wonderful visual experience.
It's not all work and no play!
Terri, DWC Team Leader