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Volunteers and Villagers ‘Pray. Work,’ for a Better Future

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Student volunteer Julius Wejuli from Uganda paints the exterior of the 200,001st house.

KUTTAPULY, Aug. 11, 2005 — Despite the friendly invasion of foreign Habitat volunteers, the rhythm of the day continues in Kuttapuly.

Before daylight, fishermen go to sea in their open boats. When Habitat teams arrive on site at 8 o’clock in the morning, children in crisp uniforms, the girls with their hair neatly braided, are putting on their backpacks.

As the work progresses and the sun gets higher, the sea breeze picks up a sharp, salty odor of fish drying in the sun. The dogs that have dug into the sand piles find new places to sleep as the workers get busy and the shady places move.

The front of Michel’s house, the 200,001st house, has been whitewashed a pale, sky blue. Two of the tallest volunteers – Julius Wejuli from Uganda and John Smart from Knoxville in the United States – are on ladders wielding brushes at a rapid clip on the side walls. Mark Crozet, Habitat’s senior vice-president of resource development, reaches the high places inside.

The team of volunteer roofers is on top of things at Seelia’s, their fourth house. Seelia keeps an eye on developments when she passes by on her walk from her one-room store to the temporary thatch house she shares with her two daughters and two frisky, week-old goats. Indian volunteer Priyanka Kripalani seems to have mastered the “top-spin forehand” throwing motion needed for applying plaster and Carolyn Beal, USA, gives it a smooth finish.

In honor of Habitat for Humanity, St. Joseph’s Higher Secondary School has prepared a program of dance and a physical exercise demonstration involving all 600-plus youngsters. At the end, volunteers from Knoxville plant a tree near the school entrance that, like the houses, will shelter the next generation in Kuttapuly.

“Pray. Work,” the motto over the school entrance, applies to everyone here as well.