November 02, 2001 Features & Images » Feature Story

Feature - A place to call home 

In southern India, a former Whistler resident joins a group of international students in helping a family build a place where they can dwell in dignity and safety

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Mr. Joseph informed us it would have taken Richard and his father-in-law a week to clear the site.

Volunteer Nikhil Patel wrote in his journal: "We accomplished a lot and my heart is full of content, just to see that man smile."

Richard’s eyes told how grateful he was.

The following day we were invited to a Habitat open house, at the 232nd HFH house completed in Kerala. We arrived at 9 a.m. and a red ribbon graced the doorway. A Father from the local parish blessed the house and cut the ribbon. I was asked to turn the key and open the door. I considered it a great honour.

After spending two days labouring in the mud, it was interesting to see a finished house. The front door opened into the living room. To the left were two bedrooms. A kitchen was in the back part of the house. The owners, Cecil and Mary, passed out bananas and we all remarked on how wonderful it was for them to have their own home.

After the house warming we headed for Kovalam, a picture-perfect beach 20 kilometres south of Trivandrum on the Arabian Sea. We indulged in the warm surf, fresh seafood, and some even enjoyed ayurvedic massages. Locals walked up and down the beach hawking sarongs, scarves, table clothes, and beaded necklaces. One character, Reggie, a natural-born salesman, sold sunglasses.

We savoured every minute; we knew that the next morning it was back to work and the mud.

Two more days of labour strengthened back muscles and resolve, and helped establish the foundation for a local family’s home.

On Friday, volunteer Showa Kalla summarized the week: "I had a great time working, drinking coconut water, and looking forward to a shower. If these people truly felt like we helped them then I would be proud of my effort," he said.

"It was amazing to be affecting people and their lives so positively."

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