Making Magic with Mud and Bricks

Foreign Service LifeMalawiVolunteering
October 3, 2017

You should be impressed with me because on Saturday I helped build a house out of literally 2 things – mud and bricks. And in the 8 hours we worked on it, the house went from looking like this….

to this!

How cool is that?? This was old-school building, Africa-style. And I actually genuinely enjoyed it. Which surprised me because when I did a Habitat build in high school I was terrible (with a capital T) and I eventually gave up on actually constructing anything and just accompanied the foreman on all the trips to the lumberyard and planned social events for the evenings.  :)  But this I could actually do and that was really satisfying.

As part of my CLO role at the Embassy, I’ve started doing quarterly volunteer projects with our community. For this project we partnered with, you guessed it, Habitat for Humanity. They were fabulous to work with and the response from our community was amazing – 17 people volunteered to give up their entire Saturday!

As I eluded to above, this was building with the basics. There were the bricks…

the mud (mixed with water)…

and trowels.

That’s it folks. Everything we needed to get ‘er done. Kind of mind-blowing, isn’t it??

The build took place in a village a little outside of Lilongwe (the capital). It was evident from all the onlookers (children and adults alike), that we were the day’s entertainment. :)  I’ve had very few chances to experience rural, village life and I soaked up every moment of this experience. It’s fascinating to see what the average Malawian lives like. The poverty is so real here. It’s beyond comprehension at times.

And yet there was much joy present too, as evidenced by this amazing dancing display that was happening in celebration of a new village chief’s appointment. Apologies in advance for the terrible video quality. I was so overwhelmed by the mass of people coming at me that I forgot to hold the camera steady!

Pay attention to how rhythmically they’re all moving. It’s so beautiful…

I just can’t say enough good things about this experience. And as a fun bonus, we even made the paper! Nothing better than a great volunteer experience… :)  You can bet I’ll be repeating this event again next year!

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