By Pat Curry
Bheki Nxumalo is a man who has always understood commitment. A high school accounting and business economics teacher, he is responsible for his students. As a husband, he knows his duties as a husband and has been paying for his wife’s college tuition as she studies environmental health.
He’s also a youth leader in church. But in 2001, his responsibilities expanded significantly when his mother passed away and he took on the task of housing and educating his younger brother. Two younger sisters already are married.
Since his brother arrived last year, the three adults have shared one room. It’s difficult, Bheki says, to get ready for the next school day because there is nowhere quiet to prepare his lessons.
He first learned of Habitat for Humanity through his church and was encouraged to apply. When he learned his application had been accepted, he was very excited, he says, not only because he would finally have a home, but because he would have the opportunity to live in a good community.
“I’m so happy,” he says. “I’ve got my own house.”
It came as no surprise that he quickly found himself in a position of responsibility as a leader of a small group of families and began making plans to take on even more duties.” I’m taking full responsibility to train people,” he says. “I’ll be offering extra classes in accounting and business economics.”
He’s applied his usual diligence to the task of building his home. At the opening ceremonies for the build, he says he took to heart the words of Habitat founder Millard Fuller as he introduced former President Jimmy Carter.
“He said that President Carter never comes late and never leaves early,” Bheki says. “It’s a challenging statement.”
It’s a challenge he’s accepted, working long days to help lay the block, set the trusses and roof tiles, and build the exterior walls of his house. He’s been deeply moved, he says, by how far the volunteers have traveled and how hard they’ve worked to help him fulfill his dream of having a home.
Words aren’t enough, he says, to express his gratitude. He has already decided that somehow, he will find a way to go to the United States for the 2003 Jimmy Carter Work Project in Georgia and Alabama.
“I have to come,” he says. “We can’t just say thanks. We need to go help build their houses.”
Pat Curry is a writer based in the U.S.