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View Article  Build 2011

I last posted here in 2008, so here is a quick update!  I lead another team of 12 people out ...   more »

View Article  Back Home

It's back to work and normaility for me now.  I had to leave before the review meetings, but know that the aim will be to return again in September 2009 to build more houses in Mfeleni.  So ...for the experience of a lifetime, how about coming with me next time?

View Article  Friday

We rushed around Friday.  Our crewleader had gone down sick and after I got back on site (after an important meeting ;) I was replacement crewleader.  Of course with such a wonderful team they readily accepted my excuses for lateness and newly elevated position(Archbishop's office eh Roger?  A likely story!  If you want to rejoin the team, you'll need to be re-initiated....). 

The carpenters turned up and put the doors in and fitted the locks.  We fitted the external fascias, pointed up the roof, did some more blocking up of the internal walls and then stopped for the dedication ceremony.  (Just as the glaziers turned up).  The camera and video crew turned up again and after Gemma and Rachel had posed, we gathered in a circle.

I asked Quondile and Nosethu to stand to my right with thier eldest son, Yanelisa.  I said a few words and then passed the key, with each person saying something to the family before passing it on.  It was an emotional moment, a family who have been living in a shack for as long as they can remember finally getting a decent home to live.  It what we had come to do, but what nobody realised was how much we would learn from them. 

View Article  Surveyors Building Decent Homes

Tim Bell MRICS of Glass House Properties and Roger Chisnall MRICS of Aitchison Raffety, both working for companies in the RICS East of England, take time out for a quick pose with the team leader.  The house is approximately 45 sqm and built of single skin blocks and concrete interlocking tiles.

View Article  Thursday...Roof Day

What a team!  Back on target, we get the trusses lifted up onto the roof, secure them in place.  Lifting those tiles onto the roof is hard work!  Two tiles together weigh about 14kg, and the sand gets in your eyes as you do it.  How I ache!!!  Gemma did most of the work, or so you would believe from the number of photos the camera crew took of her.  Just 'cos she's cute ...huh!  Well while Gemma posed, the rest of us got on with the real work.  We laid the last few tiles, put the ridge tiles in position to mortar down in the morning ...and celebrated!  Standing on top of that roof and looking around the township at the 22 other roofs with people on, was awesome.  What a feeling.  What did you do today?  We put the roof on a house in a township in Mfeleni.

View Article  Wednesday

Day 2 and should be Day 3!  We have to get the walls to 12 courses high today on at least the side walls, so that the dugha (concrete) can set overnight and take the weight of the roof.  We have a cracking team and finish to time!

Here's a photo of Quondile our homeowner with Asakhe his two year old daughter.  I saw her tottering around in her Mums shoes just like any other little girl does.  (I have a feeling my brother did this too but thats another story!) I went to take a photo and she got shy until Dad stepped in!  Quondile was amazing!  We usually find ourselves building with the women, they run the families and the townships, but on Wednesday Quondile arrived and pitched in with mixing Dugha, passing blocks and doing all the tasks that needed to be done on-site.  He worked until we finished at about 4.30pm, and then announced he was off to work the night shift at the garage from &pm until 7am.  He was on site Thursday morning and worked all day again and told me he was working again that night.  I asked when he would sleep and he said "When the house is built".  It goes without saying he worked all day Friday and as we left for the closing ceremony he insisted on staying to use the last of the Dugha to build a 'Stoop' or front step.  It's truly humbling working with people like Quondile.

Heres a few photos of some of the other children who seemed to like the AR hard hat!

View Article  We're Here!!

Sorry there have been no postings to date.  We ran into some bad weather at the beginning of the week which has put us behind, and we have been catching up since!  A quick update and I'll try and do more overnight tonight.


I arrived onsite on Friday morning, having been picked up by Stuart Hendry from Habitat South Africa from the airport and taken straight there.  Nothing like hitting the ground running!  We drove around the township and immediately the sense of extreme poverty hit me.  People scratching out a living, the street vendors selling food, and so many shacks.


There are changes.  There were very few children playing in the streets, as most of them are now at school.  The Government has been putting more and more resources into education, and the changes are starting to notice.  We checked the sites over for health & safety (razorwire, deadly electrics) to make sure the volunteers would be OK and enjoy thier build.  We made a plan!


The coach leaves in 20 mins and I haven't had breakfast yet, so I'll post a day one photo and finish later.


We had the walls up to 8 courses high on Tuesday, 12 last night and we're ready to put the roof on, I'll catch up with the blog soon!!




Llangha and Sibongile get the iron profiles in place while Ben poses around in his shorts.


Sabbie, Rachel and Gemma shelter from the rain under the scaffold.


Ian and Llangha sheltering ...after about 20 mins we were back building, and that was the last we saw of the rain!

View Article  2008 Build Launched - Come with us!!!

We had so many people come to us in May, to say how much they enjoyed the build.  "If we had know what an amazing experience this would be we would have brought our friends!"  "Please run another biuld next year!"

We are very pleased to announce that the Second Desmond Tutu Community Build will take place in Cape Town, South Africa, from 6-14th September 2008.  Why not come with us?

Further details here 

View Article  Back Home

This build has created quite a stir! Since returning I have had interest from a major UK property firm in taking part/sponsoring a house on a future build, and a number of people interested in coming next time.

Thanks to Lisa and Keith for some of these photos.

Interesting video here to view ...


View Article  Day 5 ... Can I See My Room Again?

Day Five and the final day!  We lay and nail the tiles on the roof, the doors get fitted, and we are all busy filling in the gaps we left to get the roof on.  The carpenter is running behind, so I decide to fit the door locks and handles myself, and finish literally 10 minutes before the dedication service.


It’s a simple ceremony, and as I’d been to one before didn’t think it would affect me that much.  We gathered in a circle, and passed the keys one to another around the whole group of neighbours, friends, builders and volunteers.  Each person took it in turn to say what the week has meant to them, maybe something they have learned.  A number talk about travelling to Africa and thinking they were giving, and yet were feeling that somehow they were taking away than they had given.  (Feel free to read that again, if you were there you would understand this). 


Nokawe thanked us all, turned, unlocked the door, opened the door to her new house, and went in.  As she went in, all of the women immediately burst into song, and danced straight into the house after her!  It was one of those moments.  The reality of what this plain simple house meant to this family, was absolutely awesome.  Some of the volunteers cried, it was a very emotional moment. 


We eventually followed to join the singing and dancing inside.  We stood in a circle, laughing that in the rush we had forgotten to clear up the pile of dugha in the middle of the room.  We had a simple prayer, presented Nokawe with a bible, and then Eric presented us all with certificates.  Just as we were finishing, there was another one of those moments .. the youngest daughter Anita turned to her Mother and simply said “can I see my room again?”.


We went back to the Community Hall for a final celebration, and we are leaving behind 12 families in a decent home, something worthwhile celebrating! The local musicians "The Marimba's" were back on stage as we entered.  We have felt accepted by this community, who brought more singing, more dancing and more food.  There is a joy and a richness here that we seem to have lost in our own society.  Maybe it is us who are poor?  I think Tutu was right.  I think God really did smile down on all in Mfeleni this week.


View Article  Roof Day ...Day 4

Day Four and roof day! My favorite day, the day it all starts to come together!

I spent some time making deliveries to the houses yesterday, and happened across the legendary ‘Scots House.’  These 10 guys had all come down together as a group from a tiny Church, on the basis that "their mate Steve was going, and it sounded like it was going to be fun to let him go alone."  These guys ate girders for breakfast, worked flat out every day, and partied most evenings, and the sight of one of these guys giving wheelbarrow rides to four of the local children at a time (while another dozen waited excitedly) just brought home to me the kind of experience they were having.  You have to do something like this once in your life.  The trusses were delivered and we started putting them up on the roofs.  These all have to be secured in place before the end of the day, strengthened, overlaid with a plastic membrane, battened down and weighted down with tiles.  It’s a heavy day with a fair amount of lifting for those more able bodied.  A truck arrives and seven community builders glaze the whole house in about 20 minutes!!

View Article  Day Three, Archbishop Tutu and "The Best Day of my Life"

Day Three and things are really starting to take shape on the house, but I’m distracted by other things today.  I make numerous calls to Archbishop Tutu's office, and at 11.15am get through and am told the Archbishop can come and will be on his way in around 45 mins!  I make some calls and we get over 300 homeowners, builders, volunteers into buses and to Mfeleni community hall in record time.  We meet the Archbishop and what an honour not only to meet him but be recognised from our previous meeting. I introduce him to Nozuko first (one of the homeowners) and a line of others keen to meet him.  He goes and greets everyone outside including the camera crew, and as he enters the hall the place goes absolutely wild.  What a welcome for this inspirational and godly man, a true statesman of African politics, and he receives the rapturous welcome that he deserves.


He welcomes us and speaks to us for about the effect we can have in the community and what it means to have a decent house.  He describes this as the day that God smiles down on Mfeleni.  I saw people weeping in the hall.  It was a truly awesome experience for everyone, and that energy was turned back into building houses.  One person turned to me and said it was the best day of their life.


We finish early today to head to the wine region for some wine tasting, and then on to Moyo’s for an evening of African food and dancing.  Yes there is time for fun too!



View Article  Day Two

Day two we started on the third wall …well the photos tell their own story!  I went missing a few times as I was trying to arrange the visit from Archbishop Tutu.  He has the most hectic schedule you can imagine, and I am in awe at the energy he has for a man of 76, but there is doubt whether he can make it to the site.  We build on the third wall and start on the front wall.


View Article  Day One - A concrete slab

Day One and we arrive on site at 7.45am for the work to begin. Our homeowner is Nokawe, and with her husband and daughters Anita and Mihele, have moved into the shack of their neighbour (you can see behind) for a few weeks.  We thought their own shack had been demolished, and then learnt that in fact these were taken down and resold to families to improve their shacks!  There is a solid concrete base of either 42, 45 or 50 square metres, ready to start building a house on, and a huge pile of blocks.


We meet our team!, Eric the crewleader, Pumsile our builder, Meg, Keith, Lisa, Alice, David, Louise, Gary, Helen, Ann and Debbie…. None of us are too sure what to expect and we start mixing up cement (dugha) and building the external walls!  It is hard but satisfying work, and we were only working for an hour before we were stopped for tea and doughnuts!!!  We make good progress and with a lot of help from other friends and neighbours built 8 courses on two sides of the house.


View Article  The Welcome! Start Day Minus One

We arrived on site to a welcome in Mfeleni ... and what a welcome!

As we entered the community hall the place erupted with cheering, and what a greeting.  Each team met our homeowner today, the person we would be building a house with....Nocawe told us her story.  Habitat say "As the walls go up, the walls come crashing down." I think I know what they mean.  We ate, chatted excitedly, and then went back to sleep. Tommorrow we build!

View Article  Arrived in Cape Town!

It's great to be back!  I landed around 7am local time (we're an hour ahead of the UK). and booked into my hotel.  It's called the Breakwater Lodge, not a luxury one, but 'good value' and close to the waterfront.  It was originally a prison, google it

I sorted out my internet connections and computer, and went to look at the District 6 Museum.  (This was the area the aparthied government declared was 'for whites only' and started bulldozing people's houses).  It has laid as bare ground, strewn with the rubble of people's houses, to this day.  There are plans now coming together to compensate those who lost thier land and homes, landscape part of the area as a memorial park and redevelop the remainder. It would have been easy to have remained bitter and refused to redevelop the area, and yet the hope of South Africans, and the desire to deal with the past and move on undeterred, shines through again!

I finally get time to update my blog.....!  I'll add the photo's soon...

View Article  Meeting Desmond Tutu

I had an email Thursday from Desmond Tutu's aide, inviting us down to meet the great man, the next day and in Hull.  The Archbishop was in great form, and we spent most of the time laughing!  He has been a real inspiration to me for so long, it was such an honour to meet him.

I also asked him to sign a balloon from the German Jubilee 2000, to go to the G8 leaders telling them to cancel the debts of the poorest countries.  He stopped and went serious for a moment. "You know I have made a statement to the G8 already? That they must cancel debts."  The great leader and me, connected for a moment in our desire to see our Governments be great, and fulfill their promises to Africa.

We parted with "see you next week in Cape Town!" did I really say that? I got home after midnight, and what an amazing day!

View Article  Our Patron
Amazing!!! I received an email late yesterday afternoon, inviting us to meet Archbishop Desmond Tutu to film the welcome video from him for the Desmond Tutu Community Build! Within an hour, Helen at the Habitat office had arranged a video crew, and we're off to Hull later this morning! I am really looking forward to meeting this most inspirational man! Here's a bit more about him.    more »
View Article  Mfuleni, Cape Town

The place where we are doing the Desmond Tutu Community Build is called Mfuleni,  from the Xhosa word meaning “by ...   more »

View Article  Desmond Tutu Community Build

The time for the build is getting closer!  In a little under 3 weeks I will be flying to Cape Town for the start of the build.  Life is hectic with all the normal rush of family and work, and trying to fit in emails with arrangements to make sure everything goes smoothly while we are out there! Phew!  I was in Bristol yesterday looking at a multi-million pound building to purchase for exclusive residential apartments, and ended up taking a call from South Africa to discuss building houses for some of the poorest people ...a world apart and yet connected. We all need a decent home. 

I'm hoping to find time to keep this blog up to date through to the build and while I am out there with some photos!

View Article  Habitat for Humanity - My First Build November 2004

Here are a few photographs from the Habitat build I took part in in South Africa in 2004, and inspired me to organise another event to share the what I hope will be an amazing experience for you!  If you helped fund that first visit, just look at what you started!  Thanks again All Saints Church in Harpenden, UNISON, The Verulam Trust, and friends!!

There are more details of how to get involved in the Desmond Tutu Community Build on .  Let me know if you're interested and I'll put you on the list to contact for the next one!