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Let Us Build Together

Page 8

Tricia Natoli

On day 2 we began to work on our task, building a three-bedroom house in 5 days, a very simple dwelling, no wiring or plumbing required. It was to be high-set to give the family a space underneath where sea breezes would keep them, and the house above, cool. Making the staircase up to the house was extremely hard work. No power tools, just good old-fashioned elbow grease did the job, chiselling rectangles out of the two sides in order that the steps could be slotted in. No Health and Safety regulations here, so no handrails. The women of the team learnt how to use a hammer like a real tradie, not holding it close to the head!   

Day 6 was market day and early in the morning we were taken to a clearing close to the beach where everyone set out their wares. No business could be conducted until all the vendors had arrived, a real level playing field. The team was ushered in first, so we could get the pick of the freshest fruits and vegetables; the playing field is not so level in this regard. Whilst waiting for the market to open we looked around and realised we were at Scarlet Beach, the site of a battle in World War 2 where many Australians lost their lives fighting Japanese forces.

Later that day panic set in; it looked as though the house would not be finished before the planned dedication. People would be walking from far distances to join in the celebrations, it had to be finished. Luckily the generator had uses other than powering a saw. Lights were set up and the men worked through most of the night to get the job done.

The next day we saw the finished house. It was very handsome, constructed of vertical hardwood boards with battens covering the joins. In the afternoon people began to congregate outside. Luckily there were big logs to sit on because the wait for the ceremony was very long and hot. Finally the signal was given for the minister to begin the blessing and dedication. Each member of the HfH team was given a bilum, a large colourful string bag made by the women of the village, a very special gift. With the end of the formal ceremony every adult present went up the stairs to inspect the inside. We watched with bated breath to see if “our” house would withstand the weight. Sighs of relief were heard when people started to leave and the house remained standing.

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