I listen to the sounds of children playing soccer, arguing about rules, and celebrating goals. Paper crinkling under ladders and the smell of fresh paint and turpentine accost me from the other side, interrupted by the sound of a stiff broom being used on the wooden floor. Singing from the kitchen, in N’debele. The stirring of pots with lunch in them. Chirping of an occasional bird. The soccer ball rolling past outside the window. A door creaking open as someone enters the farmhouse to find out if it is time to collect eggs. The snapping of a sheet before it is tucked under a mattress as someone makes beds.
I love it.
I love all these sounds as they tell the story of four days of hard work done by a group of incredibly hard-working and fun-loving people. When we are first shown the house we are to paint, we take a joint breath, thinking but not saying out loud, “impossible to do in a week”. Yet, as a unit, we divide easily and we conquer, room by room, hallways and bathrooms, kitchen, pantry, laundry room, and garage. Anything that is still gets painted, including all the flower boxes, flower pots, window sills, beams, doors, walls, cupboard, ceilings, and gates. In 2.5 days, the house is done and we are the walking tired.
We, as volunteers who want to make a difference with our hands, ask for more work and are shown to the office. A bucket of paint appears and in no time, another room is done, along with the ceiling and all trim. Done for the day, we load up and go home early on day three, to shower and get ready for a nice meal in town. We are tired, but we want to do more, so another email goes out – what else can we do?
There is a guesthouse to paint and miraculously, we have enough paint and muscle to keep going. I meet with Jennie and discuss ways to help children with anger issues. Painting continues, as does work on a chicken coop that will hold 1000 layers in two weeks. Two of our group are installing a solar water pump in a school called Sigiti and two others are weld a playground together at a home for young children. Once again we’ve divided and we are conquering. Children on the team gather eggs, wash and crate them, getting them ready to sell while two others are holding babies and helping at the baby orphanage.
This is an exemplary group and I am proud of them – not a complaint, but many laughs. Not a peep of resistance, but instead, a collective spirit of helpfulness, kindness, and joy. Loads of gifts came with the team for the children who live here and this afternoon we’ll share lunch with them as well as playtime and memory-making.
This is good work – to wake up with a purpose and to sleep with the knowledge that you’ve done a kindness to someone else and that you are richer by having given of yourself. And you’ve been made even richer by taking something into you from the people, the land, the culture, the language, the food.
Yes, it is good to be here, right here, right now.