We arrived to St. Lucia with plenty of bug spray and sun screen on hand, and were ready to work. After settling into our rooms at the Archdiocesan Pastoral Center in Castries City and catching up on some much needed rest, we were ready to get down to business. We came to St. Lucia to work under the larger umbrella of the Good News Project — a humanitarian non-profit organization based in Wausau, Wisconsin. Good News Project volunteers have been working side-by-side with native St. Lucians for over 30 years building houses for those in need.
Our first day included hauling boxes of windows, nails, and floor tiles from the main building down the hill to a storage container that was to be transferred to the building site. It was during this first task that we realized the extent of St. Lucia’s heat and humidity and how important it would be for us to stay hydrated.
To keep things simple and to be as efficient as possible, we used the spacious backyard of the main building as an area to cut and paint the lumber, rather than all trying to squeeze into the less roomy building site. To start the building process, we hauled lumber from the delivery truck to the backyard, and stacked it in neat, organized piles. From there, we split up into two groups: one group to start sawing the lumber, and the other group to begin painting. The group that was cutting had to meticulously and precisely measure and mark the boards to the necessary length and then slice off the unneeded sections with a power saw (after a safety lesson, of course). After much deliberation over which of the donated paint colors should be used for the house, a decision was finally made and the painters could begin their work. The interior of the house was to be painted a pale pink while the exterior was to be a brilliant bright red. Because this color combination reminded us of Valentine’s Day and love, we dubbed the house-to-be the “Love Shack”; a place, we hoped, would foster a loving and caring environment. Upon completion of most of the painting and cutting, the ready materials were loaded back into the lumber truck and hauled to the building site.
“Let us build a house where love is found and all can safely live” may have been on our minds as we started our first building project. We are building a house for a young couple who have two young children, one of whom is blind. We put down our school books and picked up a hammer and paintbrushes to construct a home for this family in need.
The first challenge for us was actually getting to the worksite. Our trek started out by driving on roads that make San Francisco look flat. Once at the site, we had to hall the lumber down a steep road, that may have been paved at one point, and then up a muddy embankment to where the foundation had previously been set by Lucian Good News volunteers.
Nick, the father who we are building the house for, came up to the site and helped us carry lumber and also got to choose where he wanted the doors and windows on his house. We started building the “Love Shack” by first constructing a stable, level floor. We all picked up a hammer and some nails and proceeded to “bang bang on the love shack”. After the floor was completed, half of the group went back to the Pastoral Center to continue painting while the other half stayed to put up two walls. The walls went up easily, except for a slight blip where we had to re-build one of the walls because we did not take into account that the walls had to fit together.