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Creating habitats for humanity

| November 10, 2010

At the beginning of this year, Cannons Creek Independent High School in Pinelands started a Habitat for Humanity South Africa (HFHSA) society within their school.

The society decided to participate in the National Youth Build 2010. This build takes place annually in Durban, Johannesburg and Cape Town over five consecutive days. Mfuleni in Kuils River was the chosen Western Cape location this year, and 10 houses were planned.

As HFHSA is a purely non-profit organisation, fundraising is crucial in achieving the end goal of providing someone with a house. For this reason, the organisation asks the schools interestedin participating to raise a portion of the total house value. This year, Cannons Creek students were also offered the chance to volunteer for a day on the build.

Cannons Creek joined other schools at Mfuleni Our students left early for Mfuleni one wintry morning; it was still dark and raining. Luckily, when they arrived at the building site, the weather had cleared and a rainbow welcomed them to the community. Mfuleni High School – our ‘base camp’ – was very accommodating and made its hall and bathrooms available to us. Fairmont High School, Somerset College, the German International School and Wynberg Boys’ High School were some of the other schools that participated in this year’s build, as well as Stellenbosch University.

Volunteer Coordinator Andrew van der Walt welcomed all to the build and explained what we would be doing on site and for the rest of the day (this included a safety talk). Jobs entailed general clean-ups and preparing to start putting roofs up. Then we gathered in a circle to learn the Diski dance. This was a great ice-breaker and got the students in the mood to do some hard work! Andrew introduced the Cannons Creek group to their crew leader, Mtumelelo (Luki) Mabhula, and we drove as a group to the house assigned to us. The students were each given a hard hat and everybody dived right into different jobs.

Cannons Creek student Natasha Miszewski remembers: “We worked in the middle of some established shacks, and it was very interesting to see what these dwellings look like. The house we worked on already had outside walls and some interior walls. Our task for the day was to complete the interior walls, and to ‘bag’ the exterior.
“So it was on with the hard hats and gloves. To complete the interior walls, we had to make some ‘dugga’ – a mix of cement, sand and water used to set the bricks. It’s harder than it sounds and entailed some strenuous spade work. To ‘bag’ the walls, we had to rub them down to smooth off any rough bits of cement.

“There were also lots of bricks that had to be moved, and we achieved this by means of a human chain. Along with the rough building work, we also painted facia boards due to be put up the next day. By the end of the day, all the walls were completed and the roof was ready to be put in place.”

Feeling the community spirit Although these tasks are important, another big part of participating in an HFHSA build is getting to know the community in which you are building. The students had brought a soccer ball and the kids in the community had a great time playing street soccer with them. One student observed: “Everyone in the community is close, they are one family and everyone supports each other.

It is not something we see often in our everyday lives.” The group also met the homeowner and was able to get to know her a little better. By the end of the day, the houses were well ahead of schedule. The students learnt a lot about how to build a house – new skills for all. Student Casey O’Donnell said that “the experience was really eye-opening” for him and he would “love to take part again next year”.

Sarah Gould is an alumnus of Cannons Creek Independent High School.

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Category: Making a difference, Summer 2010

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