Saturday, 4 August 2012

A new home gives hope

How an “Omwabini house” is built

First we “square off” a rectangle measuring 18 feet (sides) by 14 feet (ends) and then we dig 20 post holes using iron rods and metal bowls for scoops.. The posts are all measured, cut, placed, levelled and back filled in a similar manner to putting up a fence. The posts are typically from cedar or blue gum trees. A top rail is then placed on the two side walls. Four trusses are built and placed on the rails, two being the ends and two spaced evenly in the middle. The end posts are now measured and cut so that they can be nailed into the end trusses. Additional rails are then assembled on the trusses to support the tin roof. All of the rails are from Eucalyptus trees as they are skinny long and narrow, very similar to Lodge Pole Pine trees. The roof consists of eight sheets of tin on each side that over lap and hang over the walls. When someone asks you how big your house is, you tell how many sheets of tin you have. While the roof is going up, we start strapping the walls. This is done by nailing branches and trees varying in length and width and they can come from any type of tree including bamboo. They are typically spaced 12 to 16 inches apart and are done on both sides of the walls. The purpose of the strapping is to support the mud that is placed into the “wall form” to actually “form” the wall itself. A wooden door is placed in between two posts to one side of the side wall, a window is placed on the same side wall and a second window is typically placed in the other side wall cross corner from the first window. Most houses then have a secondary wall built inside the house to form two rooms; this is to provide a sleeping area and living area. Mud is mixed and made from the soil right next to the house. The soil is mixed with water to form the mud. It is shovelled and turned over many times and the process includes stomping in the mud as you would stomp on grapes. The mud is shaped into “loafs” and carried to the house and placed directly into the walls. Once the walls are completed, the mud has to cure and dry for possibly one week. Once that has been completed a second coat of mud is placed onto the first layer of mud. The first layer of mud has a rough finish; the second layer fills in the gaps and has a smoother finish. After the second layer has cured and dried a third layer of mud is then placed on the walls. This third layer of mud is different; the mud is made from grey clay that has to be brought in. It provides for a very smooth, hard and clean finish to the walls. When the floors are made, they are made from a mixture of soil and cow dung. As strange as it sounds this combination makes for a clean and easy to maintain floor. Concrete would be better, however that is no where in the budget at this time.

The old house is now made into the cook house, no more fires in the new house that they will live in as it is unhealthy and unsafe. If the old house is unsafe, it will be “renovated” into a cook house.

The house also comes with a small table and two benches for eating inside and a mattress to sleep on. The recipient will also receive a goat for milk and seeds and fertilizer to start growing food to eat and sell. Alternatively, they may also receive a small amount of money of the seeds to start a “business” where will sell produce or product of some type.

Now for the “catch(es)” as this is a participatory project. Each community, family and recipient is assessed individually to see what the needs are and how they can participate.  Some individuals and communities are poorer than others and some are more equipped than others. The participatory process for a recipient also includes the community to assist in the project as the hope is to also strengthen the community. Some communities are better and stronger than others, so this has to be taken into account in the evaluation process.

Typically the wood is donated by the community. If it is not available or no one donates, then it is purchased by Omwabini, however the owner has to collect the strapping. The Omwabini crew does not come out to build the structure or supply the tin until the wood is on site. Omwabini builds the base structure with some help from the recipients and community and they also help start the first mudding process; however the recipient has to mix the mud. The recipient has to complete the first layer of mud before they receive the door and windows. And so goes the process; second and third layers and floors have to be done before the recipient receives the other components. They must also receive training on how to maintain their home to ensure that it remains clean and well kept.

 We've been privileged to be a part of building four homes - 2 widows (Gladys and Evelyn) and 2 families (Joesph and George) Two of these families had no home at all and were renting tiny spaces, all they could afford (ie - rather horrible).  The other two had homes that were falling down, leaking, and otherwise unsafe and tiny. 

It is a wonderful partnership to witness and be a part of. You can not imagine how happy, excited and thankful the recipients are. Follow up research and stats show how much better the recipient’s lives have become, both physically with less health issues, and emotionally with less worries and stress.  Most all  they now live with hope.

Evelyn's old home

Digging post holes

Strapping the walls

Moving the gooey mud

Adding the tin roof

The first layer of mud forms the walls

Evelyn's new home. Second layer completed on the inside and well on her way to working on the second layer on the outside. Some already live in their house at this stage as it is usually better that the original house.

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