Trip to a distant land benefits others

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‘To be able to help improve someone else’s life is gratifying and humbling’

By Lyle Carter
A visit to a Third World country provided many heart-touching experiences for Hilary Paquet.

Habitat for Humanity workers Lisa Clements of Toronto and Tim Cosh of Bible Hill dig a seven-foot hole for a septic tank.

A visit to a Third World country provided many heart-touching experiences for Hilary Paquet.

The Brookfield resident was member of a 14-person Canadian group, which journeyed to Nepal Oct. 18 to Nov. 3 as part of Habitat for Humanity International.

“We arrived at the building site on a clear and sunny day,” said Paquet, 45. “Hemja is a small community near the city of Pokhara, Nepal, which is located between India and China. For the next 13 days our Canadian group worked on building three houses. I worked on house number one.”

Paquet described rugged manual labour, which included moving rocks by hand and mixing cement on the ground by hand.

“You dig holes for foundations and you go to the creek and carry buckets of water,” Paquet said. “I worked with Tim Cosh from Bible Hill and Lisa Clements of Toronto. Besides digging seven-foot holes for the septic tank we basically built the foundation for the house as well as the supports for the walls. It was rugged labour, but when a break was needed, OK.”

The goal of Habitat for Humanity is a world where everyone has a decent place to live. The slogan for Nepal was ‘change hearts, join hands and build homes.’

Paquet said it was interesting work and overall an enjoyable experience.

“We are very fortunate here in Canada,” she said. “To be able to help improve someone else’s life is gratifying and humbling. We had a lot of good laughs every day while doing this very physical work. Even though we’re worlds apart from the people of Nepal, we are still very similar in many ways.”

The Canadian workers, taking a break one morning, met with a local women’s group.

“It was an opportunity to talk with them,” Paquet said. “We asked each other questions. Health issues, micro finance and hopes and dreams for themselves and their children were discussed. Most of the women wanted their children to have a good education, good health and a better life than they themselves had.”

Paquet said it is not mandatory that children attend school and there were always friendly children around the building site.

“The children learn English in school,” Paquet said. “Half the population speak Napali and besides English there are 10 other languages spoken as well.”

Paquet said the Canadian workers stayed in a hotel in Pokhara – a 20-minute bus ride from the building site in Hemja.

“The accommodations were great and the food was excellent,” she said. “Lunch was typically Napali food, rice, chicken, lintels, potatoes and lots of vegetables. A couple times for supper they served curry chicken or goat and rice.”

The scenery and the mountains in the background added to each day, she said.

“To see the Himalaya Mountains behind the hills, it was incredible,” Paquet recalled.What breathtaking scenery. Another highlight for me was watching the sun rise over Annapurna at Sarangkot, near Pokhara. The temperature was in the mid 20s Celsius.”

The final day of the build included the dedication of the three houses.

“The father of house number two was a gentleman around 65,” Paquet said. “With his family and the Habitat team surrounding him, he literally broke down. He said, ‘we were homeless and now we have a home. Thank you.’ His family and team members shared hugs and tears.”

Paquet said the homeowner of the house she worked on was a young primary school teacher.

“I hugged Laxmi as we were saying goodbye. She said, ‘don’t ever forget me.’ I never will.”

For Paquet, it was her fifth trip volunteering with Habitat for Humanity.

In 2003 and 2004 she journeyed to El Salvador. In 2010 she went to Costa Rica and in 2012 she took part in Bolivia.

Hilary and her husband Wayne have one daughter, Meredith, age 8.

To learn more about Habitat for Humanity International visit www.habit.org.

TAGLINE: Lyle Carter’s column appears every Tuesday in the Truro Daily News. If you have a column idea, contact him at 673-2857.

Organizations: Habitat for Humanity International, Truro Daily News

Geographic location: Nepal, Pokhara, Hemja Brookfield India China Toronto Canada El Salvador Costa Rica Bolivia

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  • Anonymous
    December 17, 2013 - 14:42

    Correction - lentils is dal in Nepali, Dal Bhat (lentils and rice) is the staple dish.

  • Anonymous
    December 17, 2013 - 14:38

    While I do not want to undervalue the experiences had by participants, I think it is integral that such experiences and activities be properly communicated. To call Nepal a "third world country" is to do it a great disservice and is to ignore the underlying issues of such development projects. To call nations "third world" only perpetuates the colonial understanding of development and that such nations are inferior to those of us in the "first world". I'm surprised that a journalist would even use such a term and even more surprised that someone who has spent time in developing nations would still have this understanding of superiority over other nations. Nepal is a country rich in diversity and complex in its problems. Any small amount of research would reveal that there are over 80 ethnic groups throughout the country, within which is a myriad of caste systems and within the country they speak over 100 languages (not just 10). The staple dish is lentils (known in Nepal as Bhat), not lintils and the city of Pokhara is a highly developed city with access to all amenities including sushi restaurants and hang gliding opportunities. While I commend the participants for going abroad and having the desire to assist others, you cannot ignore the fact that you have taken away jobs from qualified Nepali's who would have been able to build that house themselves. It is important that as global citizens we support our global community, but do so in such a way that builds capacity not dependence, and values others not for needing us to build them a house, but to supporting their efforts to increase their standard of living. It is important that we understand that our "volunteer" efforts, while good in intention, are not necessarily the right solution. It is important to value that the participants took away more from this than the Nepali's were able to gain. Hopefully in the future, more research will be put into such journalist endeavours in order to properly portray our global neighbours and in with the dignity that they deserve.