Reflections from the Habitat For Humanity Build program

CAS may be an IBDP requirement but at B.D. Somani, CAS is not just a box to tick off. CAS is introduced as a voluntary program for our students beginning in Grade 5 and it is part of the curriculum from Grade 6 onwards. Our students take part in local, national and international activities to enhance their experiential learning and personal and interpersonal development while developing a keen social and civic conscience.
Community service field trips are commonplace activities for our students. We work with various groups and institutions to help our students explore various aspects of voluntary work. One such organisation that we’ve been working with for the past six years is Habitat For Humanity. Habitat For Humanity India has programs across India to provide shelter and sanitation services to people deprived of those. This year, 36 of our students, accompanied by 6 teachers, visited their Build program at the tribal school in Chafewadi, Karjat. On this day trip, our students helped build a classroom and a ramp for children with special needs and also a wall for the school compound.
Alongwith the hands-on experience and the new skills they learned, this activity also helped our students understand the differences between the haves and the have-nots and got them thinking about solutions to bridge the gap. Group activities like these also help our students understand and analyse geographic information in relation to human needs and economic limitations and investigate and form opinions about current initiatives to address poverty housing.
Equally importantly, this trip gave our students shared lifelong memories and provided an opportunity for them to introspect and reflect. Three of our students who participated in this Build project have shared their reflections and learnings from this trip with us.

Going to Karjat to help build classrooms with Habitat for Humanity was one of the most engaging and enriching CAS trips that I have ever been on as a B.D. Somani student. Going to an IB school in South Mumbai means that we often take things like having air conditioning, a well-equipped school with great facilities or access to the Internet for granted. But a vast majority of India’s population lacks access to the Internet and many Indian children don’t have the financial capability to study anywhere other than under-funded public schools. Visiting the school in Karjat was a massive reality check for us.

We interacted with people our own age who had never even heard of the Internet! Their school didn’t even have enough classrooms for all the students to study in. It was a delight to have the opportunity to help build a classroom for the school’s Grade 5. We spent a large part of the day in the hot sun, laying bricks and cement, and I can honestly say that there wasn’t a moment when I even thought of doing something other than the task at hand. My friends and I were absolutely thrilled to be able to use our hands and actually be able to see the progress we had made. I even climbed up onto the scaffolding to help lay bricks, learning skills that I would never be able to in the city.

The best experiences leave everyone with a smile and from playing “antakshari” with the students to seeing the work other students of our school have done in the past to actually building a classroom, these are all memories I will always cherish.

Our experience during this program with Habitat for Humanity was incredibly enriching. We performed a number of physical activities, from building a brick wall to creating a ramp, which required a large amount of strength, dedication and coordination to pull off successfully. We also had an interactive session which allowed us to engage with the students of the school one-on-one, where we focused primarily on the students’ aspirations.

The physical activities were carried out by creating a human chain and, using not only our individual strength but also our unified fortitude, we had to cover a huge amount of space with bricks and mud. This was a challenging task as we did not have too long to adjust to our groups and the assembly line of brick and cement required teamwork. Nonetheless, I was pleasantly surprised to notice an immediate response and synergy from my teammates as we all fervently raced to finish the given tasks in the few hours we had. I truly felt closer to my classmates and noticed my own personal growth, as this opportunity allowed me to develop my leadership skills and I found myself naturally entering a position of management and control.

I also noticed a strong development in my communication skills and capacity to create spontaneous bonds during the interactive session with the students of the school. I was able to establish connections between our lives that helped establish perspective into our privileged and fortunate backgrounds as B.D. Somani Students. I truly believe that our work with Habitat For Humanity fostered an environment of personal growth and development. Exciting experiences like these truly embody the spirit of our globally aware and community driven school!

The trip was not what I expected at all. First off, I expected a short ride but it took us 3 hours just to get there.The ride was fun though, as I listened to my music and got to hang out with my friends.

Before getting to our destination, we had breakfast at a nearby area. I wasn’t too familiar with the food over there, so I proceeded to help myself to two pieces of bread. Not very substantial, but the bread was actually very enjoyable. Unfortunately, we only had 10 minutes to stay there as we had to reach the school as soon as possible to start working.

Once we reached, we were all ready to do our jobs, which was basically moving bricks and cement. We were directed to the construction site to begin. Once we began, after receiving the necessary safety and protection gear, everyone tried their hardest to maximise the efficiency of the transport of the materials, forming a chain which passed the cement and bricks much quicker than carrying them normally.

About halfway in, a few people started to get tired, and took frequent breaks, leading to holes in our chain. To make up for this, some of us took the initiative to supply the cement as fast as we could. Doing this felt great, and I felt like I was in a position of power, so I decided to take charge of a few things (like regulating the chain and filling in the gaps). I loved the feeling, as well as the exercise. I felt like I was actually contributing and it made the lunch we had later feel well-deserved.

At the end of the day, everyone was exhausted but I felt a sense of accomplishment with all the progress we had made. I definitely want to do this again.

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