Life on the road
The first Women Build Global Village trip to China
Story and photos by Terry Gaar
The Global Village Asia/Pacific volunteer engagement specialist, Patrick Ettampola, continues to persuade me to lead groups into Asia and I am never disappointed.
This time our Women Build Global Village trip was to China, which is the most amazing country. It is amazing because there is so much going on, and did I mention the food? The food is fabulous.
Our team of 15 arrived March 4 at the Guangzhou airport in Guangdong Province. Susan Latham, a wonderful HFH volunteer and team leader, and I met most of the team as they exited the international arrival area.
It is a great feeling to see your name on a sign as you arrive in an unfamiliar country at a late or very early hour.
Our first arrival at 12:10 a.m. was 20-year old Hannah Knibb from North Carolina. The rest of the group included a physician from Wisconsin, a helicopter pilot from Norway, a mother /daughter team from Montreal, a young woman from Hong Kong and women from Texas, Oregon, New Jersey and Florida.
Truly, it was a great team.
Susan and I continued to greet women all day long and it was wonderful. A few members snuck in at other arrival gates but we found them eventually. We all convened at McDonald’s at 3 p.m. to meet Michael Chen, our China affiliate contact. We hopped on the bus and headed to our hotel in Conghua, which is pronounced “Chong-wah.”
We had traditional Chinese breakfasts all week: noodles, hard-boiled eggs, greens and buns filled with good stuff. Then we traveled to the build site in a tiny village called Shuiweidong, which was about 45 minutes away.
The affiliate plans on building houses for the 110 families in Shuiweidong. In addition to building homes, they will improve the infrastructure of community by installing sewage drainage systems, piping in safe drinking water and building a community center.
Arriving on the site, we donned our raincoats because we had rain all week, but we were able to work, pass bricks and tie rebar even during light showers. Fortunately, the temperature was in the 50s and 60s during the week.
We were often asked to have tea with people from the community and also met some homeowners, who built alongside us.
On International Women’s Day, March 8, the women in the community arranged cooking lessons for us on how to make dumplings. Then we all had lunch, our dumplings, and talked.
We asked questions, talked about our children and what we did during an ordinary day. It was wonderful because we all had things in common and we laughed.
Our helpful, wonderful China affiliate members and translators, Wesley and Shelley made the trip easy for all of us.
Sadly, the week came to an end and we said goodbye, but as usual friendships were made that will last forever and happily, families were served.
Terry Gaar is a Women Build training and outreach specialist for Habitat for Humanity.