I think one of the highlights for all of us on the team was working together with members of Gesanga to build a house. The community leaders work very closely with Food for the Hungry to identify the people with the most needs. They identified a widow named Anne Marie as having inadequate housing for herself and her five children (four her own, and one adopted). One of the neat things that FFH does with visiting teams is that they add on an additional sum to the cost of the trip for a community project. So the eleven of us basically bought the land and the labor for this home to be built, and then got to work building the home alongside people from the community.
The first day we got to the work site, I was eager to be effective, and wanted to make the best use of the time. Ernest (I can't wait to tell you more about Ernest, the Director of the Child Development Program, and translator for us for most of the trip) demonstrated how to make a mortar ball by pulling and rolling up mud to be taken to the bricklayers. I jumped right in and began rolling a ball, but when I tried to pick it up, it fell apart. I put my little snowball sized mortar ball in the pan, and then tried to lift a brick up to the scaffolding. My arms got as high as my shoulders and then stopped. Two Rwandan men came on each side of me to push my arms and the brick I was holding up onto the scaffolding.
I walked over to Ernest and asked, "How helpful am I when it takes two men to help me help them?" He laughed and pointed down the street and said, "This is how you are helping." Up the street came about fifteen people from the community to watch us, work with us, and laugh at us the rest of the morning. Later I read this quote at the FH office, and it helped me further process this experience...
"If you have come to help me you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together. - Aboriginal activists group, Queensland, 1970s