Day Two: Building
What a day! Where do I begin? I'll try to start at the beginning.
The first trucks rolled out of the Rui Bachata resort at 8 a.m. with the first shifts of the six teams that will, by the end of the four-day build, have completed new homes for the six selected families in Aguas Negras (Black Water).
Upon arriving, the first thing I saw was the sign welcoming us to Barrio Nuevo Renacer, which translates as New Life. The community petitioned the the government for the name change to reflect it's changing nature, from a squalid choked encampment to a real community with a school and families who had hope for their future.
A hopeful future for these families is being built bit by bit, thanks in part to the efforts of LiveDifferent and their programs to build safe shelter and schools, and offer a hand-up to the most in need in the community.
I say this because today I saw this first-hand.
As the building teams arrived, a group of school children chanted “gringos, gringos, gringos,” their way of welcoming us. It was an amazing moment.
When we arrived at the building sites, local contractors had already demolished the decrepit homes that had stood there, and had started laying concrete blocks. The OHBA members and their families jumped right in and started working ... no standing around chatting, just getting to the task of hand-mixing cement, laying blocks and constructing building forms – including Mountainview Homes' Mike Memme's two sons, Matthew and Aex, and OHBA's Dave Henderson's son, Quinn.
Tight building sites meant that not everyone on each team could work on the building at the same time. But not to worry! Christal Earle of LiveDifferent had a task for the rest of us: cleaning up the beach.
It was a sorry sight, indeed, with mounds of garbage washed along the shore. Such a waste! A beautiful sandy beach covered in garbage – which Earle pointed out is humanity's biggest problem. Garbage. In a community like Aquas Negras there are none of the things we take for granted, like garbage pickup or waste bins. The beach is also located at the bottom of Puerto Plata and collects everybody else's garbage, too.
Back at the build site, I had the good fortune to meet two of the young sisters who would be the beneficiaries of one of the new homes. They were shy but happily posed for my camera.
I might add at this point that it was hot today – 29F with scorching humidity. The build teams had a good workout.
Work shifts are only two hours because of the back-breaking work (there are no power tools on this site) and the heat.
At 5 p.m., LiveDifferent held a “debriefing” session to answer some of the questions that had arisen during the day, and to also help some of the team members deal with the living conditions they had witnessed.
It was an incredibly moving experience, but what I learned first, and will stay with me forever, is the people of Nuevo Renacer. In a word, they are beautiful. Their spirits shine, their smiles are ready and their hospitality is infectious.
I can't wait until tomorrow. But first, early to bed for a good sleep.