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Lessons from Nepal -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

Lessons from Nepal

A Global Village team leader reflects on the joy of the journey.
By Phillip Jordan

Decades from now, certain memories from my Global Village trip to Nepal will remain vivid in my mind.

One is the earth. It doesn’t rain in Nepal outside of the monsoon season each summer. The proof is in the cracked-dry bamboo fields of the village where we worked and in the air of the cities where we visited.

But that dirt also helped build houses. The families we worked with in the village of Baluwa used mud as their mortar, mixing it using one of their most precious resources—water.

Each day, we’d carry jugs of water in baskets on our backs—held in place by an attached rope draped over our foreheads—from the nearest pond back to our worksite. It was about a 40-minute trek round-trip, with the heavy work uphill.

Why go halfway around the world to haul water and mix mud? Why doesn’t Habitat just ask an inexperienced do-gooder like me to only send cash? Because it’s about much more.

Yes, the dollars are important. In 2008, Global Village teams worked in 48 countries and donated more than $3.4 million to Habitat host programs. Equally important, participants return home as advocates to raise more funding and more volunteers. Because GV trips are also about forging a bond between different people, working as equals, engaging an entire community.

There’s another scene I’ll probably always remember from my trip to Nepal.

During our first “brick run” (executed in the same manner as the water runs), a team member named Amy was struggling to find a comfortable walking posture—not an easy task when you’re balancing a load of bricks.

The trick to relieving the strain was to clasp your hands against the back of your head. Amy, however, had made friends with an 8-year-old girl named Nimwala, from our family’s house.

And Nimwala, walking alongside Amy, wanted to hold hands on the way uphill.

I know that had to have been a painful walk for Amy. She had to be dying to put her hands behind her head. But she held Nimwala’s hand the whole 20-minute trek. And Nimwala skipped and sang the whole way.

That’s something you only get to see when you make the journey.