An emotional farewell concluded our build and it’s taken me a few days to really collect my thoughts and feelings before summarizing my experience with Jar and June (the happy new homeowners), the local building supervisors, and of course this incredible team of volunteers that became a family of sorts focused on a common objective.
Our time together here in Chiang Mai has ended now and today many of us are on our way home via Bangkok, Vietnam, Laos, etc., while a few are staying behind to tour more of this fabulous Chiang Mai region. Although the chances of us all reconnecting on another build somewhere else is unlikely, I think all of us now fully understand the meaning of the "Hab-addiction" Dave told us about and we all feel a connection to each other.
The days of labor under the hot sun and humidity were not easy and certainly not recommended for anyone looking for a typical holiday. But the reward of seeing the reaction on the faces of Jun and Jar were more than any of us could handle and it’s the perfect experience for anyone looking for a holiday experience they’ll never forget.
Jun is a single mom and has been living next to the build site in an over-crowded house with relatives and her teenage daughter, Jar, who was actually the sparkplug of this experience. Jar heard about Habitat for Humanity and was the one who saw the application process through to the end, right to the point of contributing herself to the build when she wasn’t off working.
Our last few days were especially hard work as we scaled the scaffolding with buckets of mortar, bricks, bottles of water, and loads of desire. The hard hats worn by all were the one noticeable safety measure and we poked fun at the differences between our western standards for site safety and what we novices were doing here. Regardless, the construction concluded with an emotional celebration, a few speeches from our team leaders Dave and Barb, and some translated words from Jar and Jun whose appreciation for what we’d accomplished over the last 10 days will change her life and that of young Jun forever. It was more than any of us can handle and there really wasn’t a dry eye in our group as we listened to her translated words of gratitude and felt the thunder of her warm heart thanking us all for the contribution we made – one that she’ll certainly not forget.
The celebration prepared for us by the family and villagers included a musical parade from the house to the river where we lit the candle in a flower wrapped floatable offering we launched into the river. We then returned to the home site to light and release the hot air balloons that filled the night sky over Chiang Mai at the celebration of the full moon. I’m not sure what the name of the celebration was and significance for me may be very different from what’s intended.
I’m so happy to have come across Habitat for Humanity! I’ve learned so much about what a home is and the real value of having one. It really takes so little to make such a massive difference. I’d encourage anyone to consider it – you’ll never be the same.