August 2, 2007

A Means to an End: Building a House

The original house

In my acrostic list, I mentioned walking uphill. To get to our work site, we walked up a very steep road, then up and down dirt paths that led to the family's home.

We were lucky because the building supplies were already at the site. That was huge, because the supplies included 100 pound bags of cement mix, cinder blocks for the foundation, sand for the concrete, rock for the aggregate concrete, lumber, and the wallboard.
 We did have to visit a previous work site and bring a heavy toolbox, ladders, wheelbarrow, shovels, etc down to our site, and that was just enough fun for us. We were able to complete the house in only three days. I give all the credit to our very skilled and ever patient jefe, Edilser.

Our first job was to cut rebar with a hacksaw. We used the cut rebar as stakes to hold the string that would mark the borders of the house, and later it was used in the cinder block as support. Once Edilser measured out where the walls would go, we used pickaxes and shovels to dig the trench for the foundation. At the same time, others were mixing concrete with shovels and later on, hoes.

When the trenches were complete, Edilser laid the four corner blocks and attached string guidelines for us to follow for the rest of the block. After a demonstration of what to do, he let us loose. I never thought I would be a bricklayer, but I gave it a try. I am definitely a better brick tender! We did three courses of block and each time, Edilser laid the four corner blocks and set the string guides. After the block work was done, we had to mix the concrete for the floor. This had rock in it, also, which made the mixing very difficult. Jen and Nels did most of that work with help from Edilser and even some from Ian.

 Once it was mixed up, the rest of us formed a bucket brigade to deliver the concrete to Edilser, who did the floor. Miriam, the wife and mother of the family, was happy to use the extra concrete to cover the dirt floor in their bathroom. You can see the bathroom in the picture of Jen and Nels mixing concrete.

On the last day, we used the only electric tool we had, a circular saw, to cut the lumber. Some of us used a hand brace bit drill to drill holes in the 2x4's that would lay over the top course of block. The wood had to fit over the rebar that was sticking out of the foundation. While some of us did the framing, others were busy painting the exterior side of the wallboards.

After lunch, Mario and Mickey from GCP stayed to help us finish the house. When the framing was complete, the walls went up. As we walked around, pounding nails in all the boards, Edilser and Mario were putting on the metal roof. We cut out a window and Mickey put in a door. Once the roof was complete, the gutter and downspout were installed.

With all the excitement of finishing, neighbors coming over, and cleaning up the work site and putting away all the tools, I actually forgot to get a picture of the completed house. We realized that after we brought all the tools and ladders down to the truck, but we were too tired to walk all the way back up to get a picture. Luckily, we did manage to get a shot of our service team with the family in the doorway.

Miriam and her daughter Jennifer were excited about their new house, and when we presented the house to them, Miriam had us in tears as she expressed her gratitude. Luckily, Jen from our group is fluent in Spanish and was able to translate Miriam's words. Unfortunately, Miriam's husband wasn't home from work before we left, so we weren't able to say good-bye to him.

*related post: God's Child Project