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NCC-Habitat for Humanity 2002 "Durban Build Team"
Reflections from Durban, South Africa
From Phil LaBelle, a Fund for Theological Education Fellow
June 4, 2002

LaBelle, of New Haven, Conn., is part of a 45-member National Council of Churches team in South Africa through June 8 to help build Habitat for Humanity homes in Durban.  Photos by team member Whitney Dempsey of Bay City, Mich., show a young child who sleeps in the open air market across the street from the team's hotel, and progress on a house.

Durban ChildOn Sunday, many of us walked along the beachfront near our hotel to shop in the markets on the boardwalk.  Many women sat there selling their goods-carved elephants, bead work, material and many other things.  We looked and bought gifts for friends from the women and took pictures of their children.  We left them in time for our orientation.


Early on Monday morning we got up early to take the buses to the work site.  Even though it was 5:30, some of those women were still there in their market stalls, sleeping.  Those market stalls along the beach were their homes.  I heard a baby crying as I boarded the bus.


It is with people like that here in South Africa that we are building houses.  Those who don't have adequate housing or have none at all.  Those who sleep with their children in the cool nights of winter in a market stall to make a living.


In the last two days we have seen houses arise where there were none at all.  The first day was spent constructing block walls, and at day's end there were 100 new home structures on the site.  Today we put up the roof and began framing rooms within the homes.  And while there may be sore muscles or blisters or hands that got hit by a hammer, it doesn't compare to the pain of those with whom we build.  Like Nana, a 28-year-old single mom who is trying to Habitat House Under Constructionmake it in this world.  Or Clarise who is forty-something with five children.


We were told that every house is a sermon.  It is a blessing.  It is more hope then we could ever imagine.  It is the opportunity for a family to move from a place that is unacceptable to a place to call their own.  To move from a boardwalk, to a home.


Every house gives someone a new life.



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