Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Making A Ripple

It was a volunteer work that I highly underestimated. I knew it was going to be hard work, I've received a lot of pointers, but it still came as a big surprise.

Now, I am not someone who shies away from work, hard or easy. But on the first day, I was unlucky enough to have a migraine. The hard work combined with the heat was enough to make me gnash my teeth and continuously wish it were the end of the day. I was not prepared for the headache or the heat. I planned to bring medicine but forgot about it. So I endured from morning till afternoon with the migraine and the heat and the aching muscles. I tried to help as much as I can but away from the sun. I was flushed red from the heat and my teammates were constantly checking if I'm okay because I was ready to burst into flames from the redness of my face.

The girls were designated to either push the wheelbarrow from the dig site to the house site. Some cut the metals and some bent those metals into squares. Others would then tie them together for the frame where the cement will be poured. We also had a stomping fun trying to pack the clay down. The boys did almost the same thing but also had the pleasure of digging the clay. So a lot of muscles were flexed and strained to their utmost capacity.

At the end of the day, a good warm bath was such a welcome reprieve from the pain that I visibly shudder from the first touch of the warm water on my skin. I booked myself for a 2.5hr massage that helped to alleviate the pain from my body and my head. All that bliss was marred by the fact that the spa was trying to dupe us into paying more than what we were originally told. We were advised we have a 50% discount only to be told after the massage that it was not available to us. I fought hard, out of principle, to pay only what we originally agreed. Then I was told I'm being given 15% discount so another fight ensued. In the end, they had no choice but to allow me and another colleague to pay 50% as we were originally told. Yes. I can be fierce that way. I can be a pit bull who'll bite once and never let go until I am satisfied.

The second day was better as I was prepared with my medicines. So I flexed more of my non-existent muscles and pushed a lot of wheelbarrows. Again my face was flushed red but the heat did not defeat me this time. The sun's ray was much stronger and the clouds were on vacation that day. But we were goaded on by the fact that we only had to work half day and then we'll be back to Singapore.

The coast guards boarded our boat back to Singapore for reasons I do not understand. One minute they were there and two minutes after they were gone.

It was a very tiring weekend that I will never forget. The family we helped was shy but often helped with small things. The grandfather was a busybody always fixing one thing or another. It was amazing to watch him work his magic and fix a broken tool. He keeps on talking to us in the local language, his toothless grin always present. He enchanted everyone all right. An, the HFH volunteer, was very helpful and always smiling. He did not show disappointment nor did he chastise us when we all stopped working because we were just too tired and we just want to go home.

I guess you have to experience it to be able to understand the hardship involved with building a home. But a lot of people do this every day, a lot to earn their living but some volunteers. While others see this as satisfaction of building a house from scratch, others see this as building a home.

We made a difference last weekend, no matter how small. But everything big starts with a ripple.

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