Bangalore India 2017 – Living Youth Global Village Build

It was the first day of the build, we were still recovering from the travel and getting used to the different customs in India.  We got into the minivan that was taking us to site, unsure about what was on the road ahead of us both metaphorically and literally. The roads are very different to home and it did take us a good week to get used to the beeping of horns, the dogs and cows in the middle of the city roads, the creativity of drivers to invent lanes to drive in which are not necessarily there and the hustle and bustle of the people doing their shopping along the sides of the road. 

However, we made it to the site for the first time with apprehension throughout the team about what exactly we were walking into. We had heard the stories about the families we were working with, but it is very different when you are actually there as the thoughts run through your head:  would they like us, will we be able to work hard enough, will we actually make a significant impact?

 As we got off the minivan and walked to the site, we were immediately greeted by the families with warm welcoming smiles on their faces.  The children were running around laughing and we were saying hello and introducing ourselves.  The whole team was instantly welcomed into the community, made feel at home and our minds set at ease. After the introductions, they then continued with a tradition Hindu welcome in which we had the Tilaka and Bindi painted onto our faces, a garland of flowers placed round each of our necks and an incense waved before each of us.

 

Traditional Hindi Welcoming Ceremony

The first family we would be working with were Mr Muniyappa & Mrs Muninarasamma. They lived in a house (picture below) with their daughter, son in law and two grandchildren. Mr Muniyappa works as a daily labourer, his wife in a secondary school, their daughter and son in law working also, but they currently live in a house with poor sanitation, lack of ventilation and not enough space.  Due to these conditions, they often fall sick and without the help of Habitat for Humanity they would not be able to sufficiently save to build a house.

House of Mr Muniyappa & Mrs Muninarasamma

The second family we were working with was the family of Ms Ramakka, a widow with two children who works as a house keeper. She is the sole breadwinner of the family and has no other source to renovate her house.  It always leaking during the winter and there is a lot of dust that falls during the summer. With the help of Habitat for Humanity, Ms Ramakka will have a safe sturdy house, a roof that doesn’t leak and will keep her family cool and clean during the summer months. Pic below – At the end of the welcoming ceremony with the families and local community that we would be working with in building the houses.

 

Welcoming Ceremony

We would be working on two different sites about 40 mins from each other and would be completing a variety of jobs but mainly assisting the skilled local stone masons in brick laying and plastering the houses. This was a very different process from home.  With not easy access to the houses from the road, the materials would be dropped off by the road side. We would then work as a team either forming chains or carrying blocks individually in the moving of these materials to the site for building. The shifting of materials was completed with metal pans, a few spades and our trusted safety gloves. Before the 8 tons of sand can be used for plastering it has to be sieved to remove any stones or bits that have congealed together. We were also responsible for mixing the cement and plaster before carrying it to the masons who would be on the scaffolding most of the time. There were also plenty of other work in cleaning up, prepping walls and ceilings for plastering and of course getting to know the locals who were working on site also. Thankfully the days were no hotter than about 28°C.  They were mainly overcast and we often got to work inside, which helped us manage the heat – though it didn’t help with getting much of a tan!!

The Street Between the two Worksites

 

Sieving the Sand

During our lunchtimes and water breaks we had opportunities to speak to the locals, find out about their lives, how they live and of course a chance to play with the children from the community. At times we were not sure who was enjoying the bubbles and balloons more, us or the children, but with their bits of English and our basically nonexistence Hindi (the local language), we were able to play games together, have lots of fun and get to know the communities at a more personal level.

These times were not only incredibly important in taking a break from the work, but really helped us appreciate what we have in our daily lives. 

As Jane Kelly one of the team leaders reflected, “I have so much and I’d like to share that more with other people. India reinforced the importance of people rather than material possessions which is so often the opposite sadly!”

Lunchtime with the locals

On our last day in India we went to visit a local school in which Habitat were not only building a toilet block for the school, but educating the children in the importance of using a proper toilet along with the safety and sanitation benefits that this brings with it. This visit not only gave us a great opportunity to see a typical school in India, talk to the young people about what they wanted to do in life and meet some teachers, but gave us an insight into just another of the many programmes that Habitat were running successfully throughout Bangalore and the rest of India.

After visiting the school we went back to site for another few hours of work before our closing ceremony with the local families, the community and the stone masons we had been working with. For the closing ceremony, the females of the group got dressed in their Sarees (with a little help from the locals) and everyone had the Tilaka and Bindi painted on our faces again. We asked the families what they were most looking forward to about their new houses. They replied that the best thing would be a solid roof that doesn’t leak which would help the health of the whole family, and the second thing would be the security that the home would provide. We then got a chance to look round the (near) finished houses with the families and to see how far the work had come. We then got ourselves together for a few photos, gave the families a few Irish housewarming presents and said our final goodbyes before leaving the site for the last time.

Closing Ceremony

One of the houses that the plastering was completed during our build

We would especially like to give a big thank to you to Prashanth, (our Habitat host coordinator) who looked after us tremendously during our time in Bangalore, always greeting us with a smile even at our 3am departure at the hotel. A massive thank you to Steve and Abhishek also for keeping us right on the building sites, during our cultural visits and most importantly for their friendships throughout the experience.

Photo Left to Right; Luke, Steve, Prashanth, Jane, Fiona, Emma, Niamh, Abhishek and Conor

Living Youth and Habitat for Humanity NI have a long lasting relationship in working together and both looking forward to the developments in the future between the two organisations. Watch this space for the Summer 2018 Global Village Build with Living Youth through the guidance and support of Habitat for Humanity NI.