How Much House Can You Build in Three Hours?

Today was my first Kenyan service project—nine of us went to the homestead of a local widow to help build her a new house.  She is a widowed mother of 8, six of whom are currently still living at home in her 8’ x 8’ mud hut.  Family and friends had set up the project including grading the slope (which probably started at 20 degrees) making the 1”x8”s (by cutting down a large local tree, then planing them with a chain saw) and dug the post holes (with a machete and by hand).  The ~$18 cost of nails had stalled the project, however, as it was one of the few required resources not available on hand for this type of house.

We arrived at about 11:00 am and worked hard for the next hour to get the Kenyan man who knew how to build this house, but didn’t speak English, to delegate the work to the rest of us  Once we had gotten the hang of the work it went much faster and in the three hours we were there, the plot went from a piece of level ground with 7 posts, to a fully walled three room house.  My biggest mistake was to declare lunch at the usual Kenyan lunch time without confirming that food was ready for everyone.  We stopped everyone, got together, prayed, then found out that there was no food yet for the Kenyan workers, so we got back to work again for the next 45 minutes until it was ready.

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