Hunter Keller ’20 and Austin Philie ’19 describe the groups first day at the construction site, where the group begins their house build and share some meaningful time with the local community.
Today was the first day at the site with the family and community members. Heading into the morning, we expected this to be the toughest day in terms of physical work. Additionally, the heat rose to 102 degrees making the build even more difficult. Upon arrival, work started immediately as we carried cinder blocks in an assembly line up to the masons. Once we finished this job, we were given the option to help complete a number of different tasks. We spread out in different directions and helped where it was needed. Some of these included bringing mezcla to the workers who filled the joints of the blocks, “painting” cement water along the seams of the walls, pouring concrete to fill holes with rebar, and handing cinder blocks to those who requested them.
As the day progressed, many of the local kids became more comfortable with us “Americanos.” They opened up by asking us to play various games and help them participate in the community event, even asking us about our favorite music. It was a universal highlight to get to know everyone in the community, especially the children.
By the time we left, the walls had risen to ceiling height. After our long day, Jose showed us a beautiful mango tree. He picked the ripe ones from the tree and instructed us to rip the skin off and enjoy. We were all astounded by the fresh, juicy fruit. After our sweet snack, we grabbed another snack at an ice cream stop to help relieve the heat. Post-naps, we were treated to a group dinner of mashed potatoes, squash, and beef where we discussed our first highs and lows with Jose. On our way back, we learned about Haitian relations and a hurricane in 1998. Tomorrow, we will be back at it, hopefully better at speaking Spanish than we were today and ready to “live in the moment” as Jose reminds us.