Friday, July 18, 2014

House building at Lake Muhazi

We went to a village near Lake Muhazi, about half an hour away from Rwamagana,  to “help” to build a house. It is a  self-help community project organised by AEE,  in which a team of neighbours help a children-led household build a house.  

We had to fetch water can carry it uphill from Lake Muhazi to the village, which is roughly 1.5 kilometres from the lake, with an elevation of 100 meters.  Most of us carried one 10 litre yellow plastic jerrycan, some on our heads.  The villagers made a ring with banana leaves to be placed on the head as a cushion.  The 10 kilogram water was easy to carry at the beginning.  But the can felt heavier and heavier as we moved up the hill.  Most of the villagers were actually carrying 20 litre cans.  

The water is mixed with mud to form a kind of mortar, to be used in between the bricks to fix them in place.  The bricks are just mud shaped into a rectangular block and dried under the sun.  We helped to mix the mud, carry the mud, carry the bricks, stack the bricks and put the mud-mortar in between.  When it is dried, the mud bricks are quite hard.  But water can easily weaken it.  Fortunately in this case, Rwanda does not rain too much.  That, of course, causes another problem - water shortage.  The floor plan was quite simple, basically a rectangle divided into 4 rooms: living room, bedroom, kitchen, bathroom.  The total floor area was about 200 square feet.  

It was hard work. But we only had to do it for an hour or so, building may be two layers of bricks around the house.  Such a house takes 3-4 days to build.  We were there for our education, to experience local life in rural Rwanda.  And the villagers were happy to humour us.  

There are many such child-led households because of AIDS and other causes.  Instead of putting the children into orphanages, the government decided it is better to help the children form a household.  This particular one had 3 children, who also worked alongside us.  

It was a good experience.

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