|Team Epic for Bill|
As you probably know, I have been volunteering with the Merrimack Valley Habitat for Humanity (MVHFH) In Lawrence, MA for the past 3 years or so. So far, I've been involved in four building projects, most recently on new duplex housing for low-income families. It has been very rewarding, as well as a great learning experience. I have worked on various aspects of house construction, from framing to flooring to sheetrock installation and mudding to insulating to vinyl siding to painting, and finally, to plumbing. For the last year, I have been mostly doing PVC drains and vents, water and heating components, and especially heat and hot water boiler installations. It's kind of amusing that I am now pigeon-holed as a "plumber", since plumbing was one of the things I hated the most when working on my own house! Go figure. Anyway, I'm having fun.
Two weeks ago, I had the privilege to visit the Dominican Republic for a week with some of my compatriots from the MVHFH to help build houses in that country. We spent Saturday night in the capital, Santo Domingo, and then took an interesting walking tour of the Old Town the next morning.
|Group picture in Santo Domingo|
|Ready to load the mixer|
The building process is interesting. Most of the Habitat houses are only about 800-900 square feet with 3 or 4 small rooms. House walls are constructed from these pre-formed concrete slabs, which are slid into aluminum upright channels to hold them in place. Once the concrete foundation is poured, it only takes a day or two to complete the walls. The roofs of these minimal houses are usually metal.
|Peter ready to shovel concrete|
|House before we started|
The family included 3-4 generations living in two small units. Rosa, the matriarch was well into her 80s, while the youngest children were grade school age.
|House when we finished|
The Dominican laborers were very good at installing and smoothing the concrete floor, and it looked great when it was done. The next day, we split the group up. One group went to another house to pour a floor, and I stayed at this house to paint the inside. It would have been great to have a paint sprayer, as the concrete walls were rough and full of holes and gaps, but we did the best we could with rollers and brushes. Anyway, the place looked pretty nice when we were finished.
|Rosa and me|
I have to say that it was an extremely satisfying and rewarding experience to be able to help this family live with a concrete floor instead of mud and to brighten their domicile with some lively paint.
On our last day, we also painted another house in the same region, where our other group had poured the concrete floor the day before. This was a very large family living in a small 4-room house. They had lived on a mud floor for the past 20 years until we arrived. Again, this family was exceedingly grateful for our efforts.
I have to say that this was one of the best experiences I have had. I learned so much about their building methods, their culture, their living conditions, and their people. It was gratifying to be able to contribute some small amount to improving the lives of some of these families. I hope I will be able to go on one of these Global Build adventures again before long.