Post-Build Follow-Up: Daniel Returns to HfH Offices and Kamanga

The last team member standing on Zambia territory, Daniel Casado, had a long layover at the airport on Tuesday so he went ahead and asked Paul, our local Habitat for Humanity coordinator, if they would like any additional help (anything is better than sitting on an airport to let time pass by, right)? Paul’s response, as usual, was positive and welcoming so a taxi was requested and all the sudden Daniel was at work again! This time not at the build site, but rather at Habitat for Humanity’s offices in Lusaka. Daniel’s background is information security, so he helped out by verifying their Wi-Fi security as well as virus and antivirus.  He also assisted with some Excel reconciliation, all in just few hours.  One can really tell that we are better with keyboards than the with the shovel!


Later in the day, Daniel made a final visit to Kamanga and the build site to see how were the houses doing after few days: they were still standing! Not only that, but some amenities had been added by the owners (such a sofa), and  the latrine we started building was already completed!

Finally, before leaving Kamanga, we bumped into Francis, one of the kids that had been playing and spending time with us during the build. He was both so surprised and happy to see us again and quickly came to play hand clapping games.  Seeing the houses in use and the kids remembering us proved one more time the time and efforts spent in this trip have been priceless and will endure over the time.



Day 5.5 Conclusion of our trip and closing ceremonies

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!

Day 4.5 Almost There!

(post by Laura Frost)

After the last few days of building, we have seen the foundations that we first saw on Saturday turn rapidly into 13 levels of breeze blocks with a roof, door frames and spaces for windows in a structure that actually resembles a house! It’s been incredibly exciting to see the fruits of our labour take shape so quickly, but inevitably at some point we had to reach the point of small fiddly jobs that seemed to take forever without much reward.  That day was today!

In Team A, Daniel, Abel and Tolu were otherwise occupied having been voted the most suitable people to make concrete for the latrine. This was a very physical job using a pickaxe and shovels to break down big white stones and mix them with water, cement and quarry dust. They did an awesome job, and were a great source of entertainment to us and the local women with the strange sounds they decided to make while using their brute force (I have it on good authority it was, supposedly, a bird noise though I am not entirely convinced by this). Regardless of their peculiar methods, they got the job done and now the latrine (which will be toilet in one half and shower in the other half) has a floor.


Back at the house, the spaces around the roof needed filling to ensure it would be waterproof.  The front and back of the house just needed vast quantities of mortar but the sides also needed breeze blocks being cut into shape, as the roof is sloped to allow rainwater to roll off.


We also put the window frames in today, spending what felt like hours filling the surrounds with mortar to hold them in place and then spreading mortar in large patches around the windows and front door for decoration which will apparently get buffed up and look very attractive, according to one of our builders Godwin.

There was also a start of leveling the floor – which resulted in a massive cockroach nest being disturbed!!!!

At lunchtime we did our daily trip to the community center where we handed across various equipment for the school including notebooks, pencils, coloured pencils, stickers, games, football kits, shoes and a classroom teddy. It was immensely gratifying to see how happy and appreciative the staff were about these small items that we take for granted. We were told that some of the kids can’t afford notebooks for them to write in so they were very valuable.


I walked past a boy (maybe 8-10 years old) who looked like he had cerebral palsy and it made me wonder about care for the disabled. I spoke to the social worker who informed me that there are one or two organisations that can help but it’s very difficult to get accepted, so again it’s all just down to help available from extended families. It must be very difficult without the help we would rely on in the UK.

Overall though it has been a great day with a bittersweet feeling as we realised our volunteering days are nearly over.

Day 3.5 nearing completion & Daniel P’s birthday 

Day 3.5 began with putting the final touches on our brick walls. Within only a couple hours, the walls (both exterior and interior) were complete.
This lead to new tasks on the house that were slower and more difficult to do, but indicated we were in the final stretch. First, we had to level out the interior floors, which required swinging a pick axe and shovelling lots… and lots… of dirt.  

At lunch, we had the opportunity to get a lot more involved with the schoolchildren at the community centre. We brought footballs, colouring pencils and notebooks to share with the kids and enjoyed an hour of sports and art. There are many talented athletes and artists among them!

After lunch, we returned to the build site and were gratified to see the Habitat staff installing the roof to the home – suddenly our efforts were looking like a real house. While the roof was being installed, we levelled the ground around the home using all the dirt we removed from inside during the morning. We also made further preparations (stamping the interior floor with very heavy tools) so concrete can be laid on the floor tomorrow.

Building aside, one of the best moments of the day was seeing our future homeowner walk inside the almost-completed home to look at our progress – and to see her smile and express her happiness with it. It was the first time she had ventured inside after a couple days of illness and it was fulfilling to see her so happy.
Onward to more fun things, we had a belated birthday celebration for Dan Pereira, who turned ’26’ (really!) while we were flying last Thursday! It was fun to have a nice meal at a Lusaka restaurant and reflect on our efforts so far – and to contemplate Dan’s rapidly advancing age. Also, there was cake.

On Day 4.5, we look forward to finishing substantially all of our work – it will be a busy day.

Day 2.5 Do as I do 

Day 2 was high in energy and raring-to-go attitude. Each of us were assigned tasks and together we achieved way beyond our expectations. Each of us now are learning new skills, and with that newly equipped skill set, we set out to get the tasks complete.The family started to smile seeing the house taking shape and they were doing their bit to build their new home.

After having a humble but delicious lunch of sandwiches and snacks, we decided it was time to have a football game with the school kids as we brought one football ball with us. We went to the middle of the playground and kicked the ball high as the kick off; what we didn’t know was that the entire school, several dozens of kids, would start running after the ball in the biggest stampede of joy I have seen in my life. We had a great time and the kids showed us the great football skills they have for their age!  And above all, they shared their happiness to have us playing with them.

We have built the walls up to 13 levels today and put the lintels above the windows and doors for additional strength and support. Its amazing seeing the house take form knowing that Dennis has not seen his kids in 4 months because of having no home.  We are being instrumental in enabling the family to be reunited in their new home….truly an honour.

The kids also showed us some local school games, including one in which everyone stands in a circle and has to do whatever the leader in the middle of the circle does – a game appropriately called “Do as I do”. Everyone particularly enjoyed when WF team members took turns being the leader and showed off their most embarrassing dance moves

First full day & 2014 reunion

The team was enthusiastic to get back to the building site after Sunday’s break. Both picked up where they left off and made huge progress within a short space of time. 
Within only a few hours, the neighbourhood children had become much braver interacting with the team, with many wanting high-fives, hugs, and piggy-back rides. We also enjoyed building even better rapport with our fantastic construction pros from Habitat, who are skilled builders and excellent (and patient) teachers! Speed of construction picked up too as we honed our skills under their guidance.

The team stopped for lunch and headed to the community centre in Kamanga where they will be having lunch each day. We were introduced to the lady who runs the centre and she provided more information about their mission and purpose. The centre is used for community events but it also has a health clinic where it treats and advises people about HIV/AIDS and TB. They also run a school for orphans which has 200 students and is funded mainly by private donors. 
The team continued to make great progress – by the end of the day, the walls had grown so tall that scaffolds were needed to reach our work areas.

After we finished building for the day, we took a very special trip around the neighbourhood to visit the families for whom team members from Wells Fargo built houses in 2014. It was great inspiration to see how much their lives had been changed by their new homes and encouraging to see the care which which they had tended to them.

It was also a very humbling experience. Whilst having a safe home had a significant impact on the families, the harsh realities of life in Kamanga (in this particular case, disease) had taken its toll on one of the families. 
One of the highlights of this visit for Kirsty was being reunited with a little girl from one of the families who is not so little now. In the last trip she clung to Kirsty and followed her (or was carried!) everywhere Kirsty went. Even two years later, today was no different as Kirsty gave her a piggy-back ride all the way back to the bus.

First day on the build site 🔨

The day started with the orientation from the host Paul. He explained more about HfH’s work in Zambia and the area which we will be building in. Kamanga is on the outskirts of Lusaka and is an area which has a lot of poverty. Paul explained that unemployment is prevalent, there is a lot of unsafe poorly built houses, poor access to clean water and high rates of disease. The average life expectancy in Zambia is 47 for women and 43 for men, in areas like Kamanga this is often lower than the national average. 

After the orientation the team headed to the build site and were split into two groups. For now they are called Group A and Group B but we will think of something more exciting. 

Group A will be building a house for Dennis and his family. Dennis is a widower and has several children of his own and looks after a few of nieces and nephews who were orphaned. Dennis’ existing house was in such a poor condition that HfH had to knock it down. Dennis and his family will be living with relatives/friends until the house we are working on is complete. 

Laura, Tolu, Abel, Phil, Jyothi & Daniel Casado

Group B are building a house for Margaret and her family. Margaret is also a widow and several children. Her current house is approximately 2sqm. 

Chris, Erik, Daniel P, Kirsty, Jane, Rich & Sandra

The two houses we will be building will be simple in structure and constructed with concrete blocks (which everyone is finding out are very heavy!). The team is also finding out that you can never have enough mortar for the wall constructions. 

Both teams made a lot of progress today. Sunday is a holy day in Zambia so there will be no building. Instead the group will be doing some cultural activities to learn more about this country. 

The group received such warm welcomes today from the community, especially the children and we are looking forward to the building starting back up Monday. I expect there will be a lot of progress now that the teams are competing over who has got the furtherst (whilst obviously maintaining quality). 

We have arrived! 

After a long journey, all 13 of us arrived safely in Lusaka. We were greeted by Paul who will be our host from the Habitat for Humanity Zambia office during the project. 

We are staying in Acamms Lodge which is 20 minutes away from the airport. Wells Fargo team members stayed here on the first volunteer trip to Zambia two years ago. 

The team settled into their rooms before heading out for dinner at Shaka’s Grill which has the tag line ‘Eat like a warrior’. It was a nice opportunity for the team to get to know each other and learn more about Zambia and the work HfH does here from Paul. 

By the end of dinner the tiredness hit and most people were ready for bed. 

The real fun/hard works starts tomorrow. We will have an early morning orientation to go over site safety etc before heading to Kamanga. The team will meet the two families we will be building for and start work on the construction on the two houses. So far the team has only seen the more developed areas of the city so tomorrow could be quite an eye opener for some. 

I literally cannot wait to see the children in Kamanga tomorrow. It will be a greeting the team never forgets.