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The dream team in Mughu

MUGHU, CAMEROON – 2010. Jim Douglas spent ten days in Mughu, Cameroon, on a Global Village volunteer trip. Here he reflects upon his time on the build site and his special experiences.

Hard productive work. A warm welcome from the community. Wonderful new friendships. Beautiful surroundings. Interesting cultural experiences.

These are some things a team of Global Village volunteers experienced during ten days in October at the Mughu affiliate in the Northwest Region. We were nine Americans and a New Zealander who came from the other side of the globe to help Jouh Elias and his family build a home.

They live in Baingo, just up the mountain from the Mbingo Baptist Hospital, where we stayed. Their new home is in a beautiful location, with a wide view of a lush valley. The house is a “rehab”, rather than new construction, and Elias had started the house out of mud bricks he made himself. We were impressed by how much work he had already done on the house and by how much of an improvement it would be from the house he had been living in.

The construction work was led by Jonathan Tamankag, Habitat coordinator for the Northwest Region. Global Village coordinator Mirabel Tiapo did an excellent job of organizing all the other details of our visit. Our job was to assist skilled workers from the nearby community. Because the house was a “rehab, we needed to take down part of the walls and rebuild them in a stronger way. This included concrete “lintels” over the doors and windows.

The team’s duties included moving a mountain of sand in wheelbarrows from the road to the work site, then moving the sand in buckets up the hill to the house. We became skilled at mixing sand, cement and water to make the mortar, and much of the team learned to do a decent job laying the bricks.

We also did a lot of shoveling to remove loose dirt left from bricks that had crumbled in the wet weather. Elias and a team of carpenters finished the rafters and put down the “zinc sheets” for the roof. The last step was to install the door and the bars in the windows.

The first several days our work ended early because of hard rain. The team worked Monday through Friday and Saturday morning, and Monday through Wednesday morning the following week. Although the house was not totally completed when it was time for us to leave, we had come pretty close to finishing a home for Elias and his family.
On the last afternoon, there was a moving dedication ceremony, with several short speeches and presentation of the house key and a bible to the family.
There was also a delicious meal for the team, Habitat people, and the Baingo community. Finally, members of the community sang and danced, including songs thanking us for our contribution. The whole afternoon was something that our team will never forget.

During the weekend, we made a very interesting trip to Bamenda to shop for souvenirs. We also visited the Mankon Palace, where we had the honor of meeting and talking with Fon Angwafo III and seeing – and participating in – very enthusiastic dancing.

I have been on eight GV teams and led this team. I told them that, as an entire team, they were the hardest-working and most efficient I had seen. Mirabel and Jonathan also told us that that we worked so efficiently and were so coordinated as a group that we seemed to be a team of people who had done this together before. They even insisted that we call ourselves The Dream Team. We were flattered to hear this, but the reality was that, except for a married couple, none of us had ever met before.

We all made very close friends, both with the Cameroonians who hosted us and within the group. Although we were glad to return home to family and friends, we were also very sad to leave behind such fine new friends. Our time working with Habitat in Mughu was an experience that none of us will ever forget.

About Habitat for Humanity in Cameroon

Habitat for Humanity Cameroon was established in the capital city of Yaoundé in 2000 to enable people living in substandard housing to access decent shelter. The program is working through nine affiliates in the Northwest and Central Provinces and continues to grow, with many new projects being considered. HFHC houses in rural affiliates consist of two bedrooms, a hall and an outdoor latrine and bathing area. HFHC’s urban houses consist of one bedroom and an indoor toilet. Houses are built with cement blocks, which are quick and easy to use, allowing homes to be built throughout the year in Yaoundé. Construction of houses usually takes between four to five weeks to complete. Houses are payable over a period of five to ten years. On completion of repayment, homeowners can easily expand their homes to three bedrooms and a hall through the application of a second loan.