This week we finished the house for a couple, Nick and Dana, who have two young children — Nick Jr., who is blind, and Wyatt, his younger brother. As we learned more about their family, we realized how important the house was for them because it appeared that their current living conditions were not suitable for habitation. The family of four was living in a space no larger than 8 by 10 feet with only a water-stained couch and a make shift mattress on the floor, draped with mosquito netting hung from the ceiling.
Balancing on the narrow walls with impressive agility, we watched as two of our Lucian volunteers put Olympic gymnasts to shame as they secured aluminum roofing to the house. In the meantime, the rest of the crew were either touching up paint or constructing stairs.
On Tuesday Conrad, Lauren, Martha, and Peyton went back to the house site to install the linoleum tile flooring and a room divider. The following day, the homeowners, friends and family, the Good News volunteers, and a local TV station were present for the house blessing. It is a Good News tradition to do a house blessing at the completion of every house before they turn over the keys to the new owner. They do this to show the owner we are not just building a house, but we are making a home. The ceremony was comprised of us reading the blessing and giving the homeowners gifts of bread, so that they shall never go hungry; salt, so that their life will always have flavor; water, so they shall never thirst; and a gift basket, in the hopes that they will extend hospitality to others.
Our Saturday brought us a trip to the local Market in Castries. Instead of the Good News vans we decided to take public transportation, which is a large van that can only fit about 12 passengers. It took a few vans to pass us by before one finally had enough room for most of us, although some of the group had to stay behind and wait even longer. Each of us were assigned a specific object to look for while we were at the market. The items included things like tobacco, jewelry, cabbage, bread fruit, and a dog. When we found our item, we were expected to have a conversation with the person selling it, which was easier for some of us than others. Most of us had never had a conversation with a person who is so different from us, let alone from a developing country. However, we all swallowed our discomfort, and struck up a conversation. The objective of this was to get a stronger picture of a day in the life of a native Lucian, and to connect and talk with them, which can be just as powerful as building any house. We were fortunate enough to see the true spirit of St. Lucia, aside from the beaches and resorts that it is known for.
On Tuesday, Mason, Chris, John, and Joseph took the morning to go visit an assisted living home called the Missionaries of Charity. The facility, founded by Mother Theresa in 1950, is run by a group of nuns who have been placed there by their order. The Missionaries of Charity headquarters is located in one of the worst neighborhoods in Castries, filled with gang violence, drug trafficking, and prostitution, just steps away from the ports where luxurious cruise ships dock. We were greeted by Sister Tesita, the youngest of all the sisters, and were given the full tour before going to visit the elderly women that are taken care of there. The building is made up of three floors; the first being a kitchen and dining table, the second floor consists of the living quarters for the elderly women, and the third floor is made up of living quarters for the sisters and a chapel for prayer and reflection. To break the ice, Chris played a couple songs on the guitar and we sang along with Rose, one of the older women who loved to sing. We then got everyone situated to play a few rounds of bingo and ended with a rousing game of Hot Potato where one of the women was declared grand champion after a good 15 minutes of the game.