Friday was an exciting day. Having mostly completed the houses on Thursday evening, all that really remained to be done was pour the concrete floors and install glass in the window frames. This time, when we left for lunch at 12:30, we left behind a house that was essentially move-in ready (pending the concrete floor drying).
Lunch on Friday was like the others over the course of the week, but with increasingly brave children who had become accustomed to seeing us visit every day. However, as we finished collecting footballs and colouring pencils, the mood became more festive as a local troop of traditional dance students arrived and began warming up in the parking lot. It was time for the week-closing ceremony to turn over house keys to the new homeowners.
As the students and dance troop moved inside, we started to see some familiar and some new faces arrive – not only our homeowners, our Habitat host Paul and the staff of builders, the leaders of the local community center; but also previous recipients of Habitat homes, the extended HfHZ staff, and other members of the community.
The ceremony started off with a traditional song and dance (the words to which, we later learned, were all about how exciting it was to have a new house), and some words from Paul about Habitat and its mission. The Wells Fargo team was then introduced to the audience, and we were given the opportunity (through Erik Gustafson’s eloquent words) to thank the homeowners for welcoming us into their homes and allowing us to be part of their homebuilding adventure.
Of course, then we were asked to do our own dance. Earlier in the week we had discovered that the Hokey Pokey in the UK is slightly different from the one in the US… We overcame this intra-group cultural dissonance by settling for Heads Shoulders Knees and Toes. (Luckily, all the kids knew it and joined in!)
We then reached the most gratifying moment of the week – handing the keys over to the new homeowners, officially signifying that the houses were now theirs. One of our homeowners was at a loss for words when given an opportunity to speak to the room; the other was eager to share her gratitude. In their own ways, each was clearly and profoundly happy.
In the song and dance that followed the official handover, we found ourselves being pulled, one by one, out of our seats by the dance troop and being asked to demonstrate our Zambian dance moves for the audience (thankfully, Jane went first and set the bar for all of us).
After the ceremony, we walked to the houses for photos of the completed projects with the homeowners. These were also special moments as they represented the first time each of our teams had seen the other’s progress. (Team B definitely had the better build quality but that’s not what this is about.) The size of the crowd of children that followed us as we walked from home to home made us feel that we had not just helped the two families, but given an important boost to the broader community.
(In the photo directly above, the building on the right is one of the homes we were replacing)
As we made our way to the bus, we gave (and received) final farewells to (from) the children. It was our last chance to play with the kids – one of the most rewarding aspects of our week in Kamanga. It was hard to say goodbye after a week of getting to know them and scheming to bring them all home with us.
The team has now gone their separate ways. While most of team went to Livingstone for a weekend at Victoria Falls, others went (or will continue on) to Cape Town (assuming sufficient passport pages), Dubai, or simply back to London. For everyone involved, it is a fitting end to a challenging and rewarding week.
Thank you for reading our blog and for supporting us on our 2016 HfH Zambia Trip!