Today was our first real work day. We were awakened early by people talking loudly outside and Doggie barking. After breakfast we hit the street for our first job.
It was clearing the footprint of a house for a family. They had their tent set up next to the neighbors' wall which looked fairly precarious, and wanted to move it into where their house had been. We started breaking down the remains of walls with sledgehammers, lugging stones, shoveling lots of debris and carting them to the street where trucks will eventually come to haul away the rubble. It started out that just our group of 7 was working. Then the father started helping. By the time we finished the whole family, including the 2 little girls were all working with us. The girls were delighted to sweep debris onto shovels and carry them.
It was then I realized that perhaps one of the most important thing we were doing was just getting the job started. I have to admit I did have some doubts on if we were actually going to be useful... after all there were people being paid by the government to clear stuff. However, there is so much to be done that people need all the help they can get. Many people don't have the tools for clearing the rubble and it must be a sad depressing thing to face: having to clear all the piles of debris which once were your home. By diving in and starting to work and providing tools, the daunting task became possible.
I have to admit I feel really positive about this organization: Hands on Disaster Response
. Stephanie and Mark have done a great job getting everything set up: from identifying projects to finding a great place for the volunteers to live to getting all the necessary tools enabling us to start working very quickly.
Another thing that has really changed in a positive way since we started working is the attitudes of locals towards us. The first day we spent here, we probably appeared like tourists coming to gawk at their misery. Now as we walk down the street, dust covered with our tools, everyone says "hola!" and smiles.
The children come up to us while we are working and some, even want to help.
At the last house we were at, a little boy seemed delighted to wield a heavy sledgehammer and cart debris to the piles with a wheelbarrow (which is extremely hard on the forearms).
Tonight we took a "shower" using water poured from half a water bottle with holes punched in the lid, a Rowshan invention. So I'm feeling cleaner than I've been since we came down here. It is dirty, dusty work but it is incredibly satisfying.