People helping people. Is there a better way to burn a few calories?
Habitat for Humanity Jordan (H4H) recently teamed up with Sahhyieh Jamia, a community association in Deir Alla (Salt province), and American Community School to help build homes in a village near Salt. You’d think this architect would record the event with artsy construction snaps: turns out the house was the least important part of the day. I’m guessing that’s should be part of H4H’s motto. The American Community School (ACS) is a private international school in Amman. Rigorous curriculum, great facilities, but its middle name says it all: this place is about community. Look on for our photos and day out with the organization.
Community service is prerequisite for all students, and the school cooks up year-round events that attract enthusiastic participation. House building’s on today’s menu, offering a taste of Salt.
Salt is about an hour’s drive north of Amman. Incredible scenery appears about 20 minutes out, golden mountains and lush valleys.
It’s an ancient farming town founded around 300 B.C. along the old Amman trade highway leading to Jerusalem. It’s nestled within three hills, about 2,700 feet above sea level, near the Jordan River valley. Most of the workers in its 50,000 population are employed in agriculture: the primary crops are grapes and olives.
H4H projects vary with each trip: the high school kids on my bus were old hands, having built walls and fences on earlier excursions. The work can range from site-clearing to full build-out. Today’s job was building walls for an addition, mixing cement and laying courses of heavy cinder block.
Kids are instructed to pay attention to the job foreman and chaperoning adults. Safety’s a primary concern. They listen politely to the briefing, don work-gloves, and break into small groups of cement mixers and block-stackers, bricklayers and tool-cleaners. Splinter groups go play with the mob of village children who come onsite to watch.
The kids get dirty. And really tuck in to task. Villagers gather: super smiley tiny ones, teenage boys (checking out the girl builders), and astoundingly, a big group of adult men pull up lawn chairs. (Really? You guys are going to just sit there and watch?)
It’s common for more than one family to live in the same house, a multi-generational arrangement.
According to Sahhyieh Jamia , each family can be as large as fifteen people, with a resultant lack of living space and privacy. Limited incomes means families can’t easily add rooms.
Formal loans are available but with stringent conditions and collateral requirements.
So Sahhyieh Jamia teamed up with Habitat for Humanity Jordan to create affordable loans with simpler conditions. Add free labor to the mix, like the boisterous crew from ACS, and a micro-housing boom erupts.
So far this program’s served seventeen families. The Jamia says that average cost of new home construction is about $8,500. Rehab projects, general maintenance and new additions range between $200 to $3,000. Monthly pay-back is in the range of $25 to $100. The costs are primarily for materials and for specialty labor.
Foreign groups of volunteers have frequently raised funds to cover the cost of their trip and the building materials: a brilliant way to immerse into a country, really connect with it’s people, leaving the place a tiny bit better than they found it.
Back on our job site, within a few hours a routine’s established. The students have built four block walls, about 300 square feet of building enclosure. Their village peers have joined in, and even the lounging men have gotten out of their chairs, if only to bark orders or chase the little ones out of the way.
After clean-up, there’s a speech from the homeowner and some giant group photos. Local women served up a feast of grilled chicken and eggplant on mountains of spiced rices.
The day was sunny and warm. The work was rewarding. But the feel of the community was astounding. People helping people. Is there a better way to burn a few calories?
If you’re not lucky enough to be connected with ACS, contact Habitat for Humanity Jordan directly to learn how you can get involved.