By Milana McLead
As the warm sun begins its descent each day, A.K. Mahomed quietly exits the clamor of construction on house #979. His prayer rug clasped under his arm, he heads to a shaded clearing nearby, kneels facing Mecca, and begins his 3 p.m. prayers.
A lecturer in the department of building management at the Durban Institute of Technology, he has come to join thousands of other volunteers who are helping build 100 houses during the 2002 Jimmy Carter Work Project in his hometown.
Mahomed is a second-generation South African. With emotion, he recalls growing up in a segregated land where his family was forcibly relocated from their home to a distant Indian community. The relocation caused his father to travel 25 kilometers each way to work every day. When the government ceased sewage pick up in their neighborhood where there was no “water-borne” sanitation, the young Mahomed and his mother were obliged to haul the family’s sewage bucket outdoors and bury its contents.
“I come from a poor family,” Mahomed says. “I know what it is to be poor, to be oppressed, to be suppressed. To climb out of that hole from no education, you need passion from your heart.”
It is passion that motivates him to share his skills during this project. “This is a wonderful opportunity to give back and make life meaningful,” he says, referring to the JCWP. “You have no idea what this means to these homeowners. When you give them the key to their houses, they will cry. What is better than being part of that happiness? Life is about sharing and giving. While you have the opportunity, why not do what you can for them?”
Milana McLead is editor of Habitat World magazine