Building a House – Mai Chau, Vietnam

Some of the schools I have worked in have always had a program where students collected money to help a poor family in a part of the world by providing them a home. The great thing about it is that they don’t just buy these people a brand new home, but they also travel to that part of the world so they can build that home for them. The program is named many different kinds of things such as Habitat for Humanity or ETR Educational Travel, but the goal is the same thing, bring people together through kindness.

It is a different kind of charity. Instead of just recognizing a problem in the world, and then collecting money so a person can throw that money at the problem and then go to sleep at night thinking that they have done some good in the world, it forces people to go an experience the people who are actually affected by the problem, and do something to fix the problem.

But it is not only meeting the people in the world who you are helping out, but it also taught me the hard work that goes into building a traditional house in Vietnam. Though there were a couple of power tools on the sight, we were not given access to these tools. The material also came from the hills of Mia Chau, so the family whose house we built could have fresh bamboo floors and a roof of palm leaves. I worked mainly with a rusty machete and a block of wood that became a club to unfurl bamboo to eventually turn it into a floor.

I still got to witness the progress as we went and added to many aspects of building the house. I also got to interact with the people of this small village as they showed their appreciation for what we were doing for one of their community. They gave back to us as much as they could, cooking sticky rice for us, and giving us advice when we needed to adjust the way we were building the house.

It was amazed at the progress we made in such a short amount of time as well. We only worked on the house for a couple of days before the family that was going to be living in it could make it their home. Every time I made it up the path from where I was working on the floors, I could take pride in that progress.

And after a couple of days hard work, we were excited to gift the house to the new family. To be fair, the house was not completed, there were a couple of things that needed to take a longer time to finish such as the wood used for the walls, and the stairs which take skilled labors to do correctly, but the structure, the frame, the floors, and the roofs were completed by my students and me. It was an intensive couple of days of labor, but the final product was worth it. I enjoyed the fact that I was able to contribute positively to the world by doing something like this rather than just contributing to charity. If everybody took time out of their busy days to contribute in such a fashion than we would quickly make the world the better place that we are always hoping to live in.

Until next time, keep on living those experiences.