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Caring is a universal language

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Knoxville volunteer Marv House cuts ribbon on one of the five houses.

Tamil movie music—fast, loud and syncopated, with lots of shouts and claps—is the soundtrack for building. A troop of local youth volunteers sang on the bus all the way to the site. After working all day, they still had enough energy to belt out a few numbers on the ferry ride to the rock monuments that mark land’s end here at the tip of India.

The team working on Antony’s house is encouraged now that the walls are high and the skilled workers are beginning to boss them around. Without a common language, they’ve discovered how much can be conveyed with smiles and gestures.

Knoxville volunteer Marvin House, who nearly missed the build because of visa delays, is an experienced builder, and he fit right in with the construction team. But the highlight of the day for him was the lunch break, when a little schoolgirl who had come home for lunch asked him to help her with her reading. She showed him her torn tablet with a few handwritten verses and together they traced the letters on the doorstep and read out loud.

Then it was back to bricks and mortar, plaster and paint. But this week in Kanyakumari is about so much more than houses.