Friday, January 16, 2015

Gearing Up to Build Houses

So, if you want to build 600 houses, where would you start??  This is one piece of the humanitarian aid project developed by EEL-RCA, and funded by ELCA Lutheran Disaster Response International (LDR).  In addition to the mud brick houses, the project will repair/improve sources of water, re-open two health posts, vaccinate children in villages, and provide seed (to be planted as the rainy season starts in March).  The work will be done in the area around Bohong which was particularly hard hit by fighting.  It is also an area where EEL-RCA has been working for years; it is natural to build on existing relationship and structures.

In addition to improving many aspects of the people’s lives, this project is designed to promote reconciliation and peace.  Villagers will work in teams as they improve their communities.  (Yes, where possible, teams will include Christians and Muslims and/or others who have been alienated by the crisis over the last few years.)  AVPE (French initials for the Food Security and Environmental Protection project of EEL-RCA) has been working in villages around Bohong for years.  They have been training villagers to work in teams to develop projects that provide income while also better protecting the environment.  What better place to work and extend the teamwork idea?

As a result of this project, a large handful EEL-RCA personnel, in addition to their regular project work, have agreed to help start and then supervise this humanitarian aid project.  Catherine Naabeau, Director of EEL-RCA’s Health Projects, will supervise the vaccination of children and other basic health services.  Victor Ndolade, engineer and coordinator of PASE, will lead the repair and development of clean water sources.  Paul Daina, Director of the AVPE project, will help organize and train village work teams.  Mathias Votoko, Community Developer for the Village School Program, will help organize and supervise the teams building houses.  Meanwhile, EEL-RCA central administrators (President Andre Goliké, Administrator Patrick Kelembho, Assistant Adminstrator Antoine Mbarbet, and Anicet, church chauffer) will also be key as this project moves forward.  Here in Garoua Boulai, Station Manager David Gbabiri is also helping as am I.  In Yaoundé, Willie Landgji, ELCA Regional Representative, has taken point in drafting the plan, communicating with LDR and coordinating the project overall.  Even more important will be the large number of villagers who will work together to restart their lives.

This week, the “nuts and bolts” part of the house construction has begun.  Remember these will be traditional Central African houses.  Participants will make their own fired mud bricks.  (I borrowed these pictures of bricks being made.  Mathias took them as a part of the VSP school construction program.)  They will collect grasses in the bush to make roofs.  What assistance do they need?  Yes, they need people to help them create work groups and to guide their steps (including training on more effectively working together).  But, they also need supplies.  How can they make bricks without shovels to dig the dirt, wheelbarrows to transport it, containers to store water needed in the process, etc.?

And, on a practical level, where does one go to buy 80 shovels??  Where would you go?  Do you think the Lowes’ of Home Depot in your town would have enough?  Would they have to be ordered?  How would you physically get the supplies from the store to the villages where they will be used?  Logistic.  Planning.  Teamwork of another kind.


Although we checked with stores in Garoua Boulai, no one could provide everything needed.  Instead of asking merchants here to order in supplies, it was decided that David would drive to Yaoundé (8 hours away) where he and Willie would buy these basic supplies.  The hardest to bring back were the 11 containers.  (The 10 are for 1,000 liters are chest-high.  They aren’t heavy, but they take up a lot of space.  The other is 2,500 liters – taller than I am!)  It is interesting to me that shovels and other tools come in pieces – the shovel heads and handles are assembled once supplies arrive at their destination.  It does make transport of materials a bit easier…

Yesterday, Antoine, Mathias, and Anicet came from CAR to get supplies.  They left with two full pick-up trucks and will be back later to get more of the containers.  After they deliver these supplies, of course, and get 43 groups in 5 villages between Bouar and Bohong started on the construction of their homes.

Later, EEL-RCA team members will extend the work to Bohong and other villages nearby.  Teams that work well together and who can lead/encourage others, will be given shirts like the one I am wearing here.  I guess that means I am already being cooperative since I got mine already!

Watch this blog in the future for pictures and more details of the work.  (You could also consider supporting Lutheran Disaster Response and/or the ELCA’s Global Missions!)  Those who were here yesterday have promised to bring pictures of the workin progress next time they come. 

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