“Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labour in vain.”
Working with Christians in another country helps to reinforce just how big our God is. We may have some small differences in various aspects of our faith, but we all serve the one Father. We know that any house we will build is built, not on the foundations that man has made, but out of the love we have for God and for our brothers and sisters in Christ. We hope and pray that our labours are not in vain.
The alternative chain gang
“A chain gang is a group of prisoners chained together to perform menial or physically challenging work as a form of punishment. Such punishment might include repairing buildings, building roads, or clearing land.”
That’s not quite what you will see when you visit a work party on site and the shout, “Chain Gang” goes up. There is a great deal of enthusiasm as folks find a place in the gang, ready to move the sand/gravel/rocks/bricks from A to B. We are not prisoners, and it’s no punishment…quite the reverse. The amazing thing is the amount of work that can be done quickly using this process. It brought to mind a Vine Trust training about teamwork, thinking of the word TEAM:
Together Everyone Achieves More
As you may gather we’ve been back on the building site again. Monday and Tuesday saw us ‘take the high road’ to the mountain. We were met with better weather each day, as well as the enthusiastic fundis and the ever-increasing band of local children.
Our arrival on-site is followed immediately by a risk assessment and a warm up (yes, really) before we’re let loose into the task of the moment. Monday saw us take our pick, literally, and shovel to dig the foundations for the new home. For some this meant a wee lesson on how to handle the implements, for others a reminder to keep out of the way of the new pick handlers! The fundis and VT local staff (Ben and Elly) are always on hand to offer advise or take over and give a rest break to a tired team member (usually only after 5 minutes!) It was great to see how quickly we could make a difference and it didn’t take too long for the trenches to be considered deep enough, and for us to have one of the frequent water breaks required. Next, the fundis wanted rocks….”Chain Gang!”. Some were moved in buckets, others passed from hand to hand, all to the beat of some background music and lively chatter and swahili coaching. At one point we did try walking the rocks the 100 metres with individual loads, but soon discovered that that took up too much energy. Back to what works best. Another tip passed on from experienced volunteers sees the gang face alternate directions for passing items. After a time, “All change” is called out. This encourages us to use the muscles on both sides of our bodies without overstraining anyone. Little things can make a big difference.
Our water/snack breaks also become times for fun and games with the children – ‘magic’ tricks, balloon animals, bubbles and frisbees are dug out of our bags to be shared with all there.
Working together in such situations also allows us to get to know each other better. Stories are shared, new stories are created as we work….but what happens on the trip, stays on the trip…mainly!
Tuesday’s workload included moving hundreds of buckets of sand, gravel, rocks and more than 500 bricks. Gallons of water were shifted and some of us even made cement. This team also seems to be quite creative in finding ways of photographing the team at work – more about that in the future.
During a break on site I grabbed my camera and went to take photographs around Mama Fortunata’s house. The home is covered in rags in an effort to keep it windproof, but I’m sure that doesn’t make a difference when it rains. Around the back of the house there are the remains of a fire with an empty, battered suitcase on top – I’m sure there is a story to be told there. We don’t know yet all the background story to Mama Fortunata and her son, Shukuru, but we hope we may find out more when we visit the TAWREF (Tanzanian Women’s Research Foundation) offices tomorrow. We do know that, without a doubt, conditions will be greatly improved for the family by living in a new home.
It’s now Wednesday and we’re enjoying a rest day, or at least a day away from building work. Unfortunately this did not mean that we were able to treat our weary bodies to a lie in as a visit to Fuka school was on the programme. This meant an 8.30 departure. All the experienced volunteers knew what would greet them on arrival at the school but it was great to see the expressions on the new folks faces as the classes who were preparing for their exams and the school band had turned out to meet us. The rest of the school was closed for Easter holidays.
Fuka school, as many of you will know, was started by the local church originally as a vocational centre. Eventually there was a realisation that primary age children would benefit from learning English at a younger age (normally not taught until secondary school in state schools). Fuka English Medium School was born. Over the last 4 years we have watched the school grow as each year there was a new intake of children. The school currently as a role of 408 children. They not only benefit from a good education, but are also fed a meal each lunchtime (for some perhaps the only meal they will have that day).
We were let loose into the 3 classes to do some fun activities with the children for 45 minutes – not sure who had more fun, us or them but I now have a video of one class giving an enthusiastic rendition of Our God is a great big God (after explanations about what skyscrapers and submarines are!)
We then moved up the hill to visit the home of Mama Wahiabora. This home was built by a Vine Trust team (of accountants) in September 2013. Each visit since then I have been able to visit the family and to see the difference which has been made to them since living in their new home. Unfortunately Mama Wahiabora was out in the fields working so I didn’t get to see her this time, but we did see her daughter, Stella, and her little girl, Nice. Gone are the days when Mama Wahiabora would pray, asking for no rain, when everyone else in the country needed rain. Her old house could not keep them dry, and as six of them were living in one room, they inevitably ended up with colds and chills. The family seem to be healthy and happy now. What a difference a few bricks can make.
A visit to the Sarah Hardie House came next. This was a project funded by the Scottish charity, Sarah’s Promise, and built by VT volunteers. This house is now home to 27 of the most vulnerable children from Fuka School, with room for a few more.
After saying our farewells we headed along the road to the Angaza Women’s Vocational Centre, a project set up by the ELCT (Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania) where we were met by Pastor Josephine. She explained something of the work of the centre – providing vocational training to girls e.g. sewing, cooking, domestic skills, etc. They will attend for a one or 2 year course.
In our visits today we have seen people who are enthusiastic about helping young people/children achieve better things for themselves, so that they, in turn, can help others in the future. Everything is done in grace and through the love of Christ. We speak a lot about being ‘imitators of Christ’ – this is it in action. Please remember these people and the work they are doing in prayer. I’m off to join the team for devotions, so will add my prayers too.
Thank you to all at home for your prayers and encouraging messages – they are much appreciated.