This year, I lead a group of 12 people to build with Habitat for Humanity of India in a small rural village 3 hours outside of Mumbai (Bombay) called Chimtewadi. I wanted to return to India because my very first Habitat Build outside of the USA was in India exactly 10 years before in November of 2007.
Most of my team arrived from the USA around the same time – around 1:00 am after 16 hours of flying. After a couple of hours, everyone landed and got through security and we headed to the hotel in Mumbai around 3:00 am for a few hours sleep. The next morning we went to the Habitat offices in Mumbai to learn about the work Habitat is doing in India in housing, sanitation, and market development. After lunch, we loaded up in a small bus for the 3 hour drive to Karjat, where we would be staying at the Rivergate Hotel, the same place where I stayed when I built in the region in 2007
|My "tent" at the Rivergate|
Each morning, we would drive another hour to Chimtewadi village. The family we were building with lived on the outskirts of the mountain village. Ankush and Sunita had raised their two kids there in huts made of thatch and manure, vulnerable to snakes and scorpions. (And we saw both!) They had prepared for our arrival for over a year, making their own bricks from the red mud that flowed down from the mountains during the rainy season. They had made over 30,000 bricks and arranged them in a pyramid to form their kiln to bake the bricks.
|Women washing clothes - a sight we'd see each day on the drive to the build|
|The pyramid of bricks|
|Ankush performing a blessing on the house as the doorframe is installed|
On the morning we arrived, only the foundation was there. By the time we left, we had four walls and part of an interior wall built. Ankush was a mason and farmer by trade (growing rice), so he and one other mason hired by Habitat were primarily laying the bricks with some assistance from my team, but my team was primarily moving thousands of bricks from the brick pyramid up the hill to the house and carrying mud which we used as mortar. Just as in the US, Habitat homeowners in India work side by side with volunteers for the construction of their homes.
Perhaps the most rewarding part of the trip was the opportunity to return to the village where I built in 2007. I never thought I would be able to return to this remote place, but I there I was, back in Nagachiwadi Village, seeing the house I helped to build 10 years ago and reuniting with the homeowner whose life we helped to change.
|The house I helped build in 2007, with the same homeowner|
|In 2007, I became friends with Kashav, a 15 year old who helped us build. |
Now I got to meet his wife and kid. (Photo courtesy of Indra Tobias)
|Me and Kashav in 2007|
|This mango tree had grown so much!|
As we neared the end of the build, our goal was to get all of the walls up.
|Bhau and his boy. |
Bhau and his wife Asha were on the brick pile helping us every day.
|The team with Ankush and Sunita on the final day|
Postscript: Back in Mumbai at the Hotel Silver Inn, on the last night of the trip, before the team went their separate ways, they surprised me with a birthday cake. I love celebrating my birthday on Habitat trips!