Day 7: Last Day of Construction in La Gallina

March 31, 2012 - 15:21

3.22.2012: Our last day of construction. I woke up with a sense of wonder and disbelief that by the end of the day, we would be done with our build. I thought about the family and the fact that we soon wouldn’t see them again. I imagined how they would continue to move forward, finishing the house and going about their daily lives after we left. I knew I would miss them, miss the experience, and I would especially feel the impact after I returned to the States. For now though, it was time to get up and get ready.

The masons were already at work laying bricks when we arrived. The rest of us started cleaning the site, sorting and stacking the adobe into a more organized configuration. After that Karen, Katia, John, Ace, Terrie and I went up the hill to the school to finish painting. Preschool was in session, and of course we had to take pictures of the little ones during class – they were adorable and boisterous. We finished the front, deciding not to paint the side because as thinned out as it was, we didn’t think we had enough paint. But one of the mothers, Maria, took it upon herself to help us out and started painting the side with the bucket of paint we had left out during our break, so it had to be finished – she and Ace did it, supervised by Katia. Thin or not, the wash of blue paint was a vast improvement over the graffiti-decorated wall it covered.

After lunch, I helped Luis lay more brick at the house. It was short work, and at the end David told us that our group accomplished more than any other volunteer group that has come to build, reaching the highest row of bricks we can lay before the masons take over to finish. Our construction-experienced team members Brad and Michael made the difference; they worked on that task the entire week and we made sure to give them credit.

Soon it was time to return to the school, where the children prepared a special program for our team. They sang their national anthem (see it here: We watched and listened with big smiles on our faces, and gave a round of applause at the end. What our team did not expect was to be asked to sing OUR national anthem; I’m pretty sure the majority of us had not sung it since grade school. We looked at each other a little sheepishly, then jumped right in – not too shabby! Afterward, a group of girls including Yuvelki, Gisela, and Jeiry, came forward in their best party outfits to perform a dance, but technical difficulties prevented their original song from playing. So instead, in what I remember as one of the highlights of the day, someone turned on the car radio and the girls pulled us out of the crowd to dance with them. It was a riot; I tried out some of my salsa steps with Yuvelki before John cut in and brought us to our knees laughing over his wacky moves. The teachers got into it too, and we all had a great time. We then distributed our donation of toothbrushes to the students, courtesy of Global Grins (, split into groups and demonstrated proper tooth brushing techniques.

Returning to the house for the ribbon cutting ceremony, we were met with a lovely surprise: Vittoria and the Habitat Nicaragua team made a poster from our first photo with the family. We all signed it, including the masons. Ismael wasn’t with us that afternoon due to a doctor’s appointment he couldn’t miss, so Martha spoke for the family and expressed her gratitude. As we were saying our goodbyes, I told Martha, “Espero que tus niños sean saludables y fuertes,” which Elisa had to restate for me because I said it wrong, but the meaning was there: 'I hope your children grow to be healthy and strong'. A new house is a good start.

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I believe the most valuable thing we can do in our lives is help others, and Habitat does such a great job in bringing passionate people together who believe this as well. Providing essential services to others in need while gaining knowledge and... More >