Last week me and a few boys from my company,Revolution Talent Management, headed up to Sichuan last week to build houses for the quake victims. This was something I’ve wanted to do since the earthquake and I finally got my chance. Habitat for Humanity is an organization started back in 1976 with an aim of helping build homes for the impoverished around the world. As we all know more than 70,000 lost their lives in the quake and millions became homeless. Habitat aims to build over 700 homes for families who lost their homes to the quake. We went to the area known as Xiao Yu Dong two hours outside of Chengdu.
Our first stop was to see the Xiao Yu Dong bridge. This bridge was the only way out of the Xiao Yu Dong area. When the quake hit, this bridge went down. Luckily no one was on it but it’s collapse also closed off the only route into Xiao Yu Dong by car making it impossible to drive in ambulances. So the injured had to be carried one by one throught the fast running waist high river to get them to the other side and off to hospitals in Chengdu. That’s real heroism.
We then went to visit the temporary housing shelters where most of the homeless have been put up by the government. Although conditions are good and clean. Each family only gets a 20sqm(200sqft) room. So many are eager to rebuild and move out.
An outdoor dining room. Although these temporary structures are probably not the best to live in, I found them architecturally interesting and beautiful.
Some have even built their own temporary houses out of scrap wood and materials just so they have a place to store their belongings. It’s interesting to note that although conditions are simple, eveyone has a tv and sattelite dishes. These were provided by the govenrment so they could watch the Olympics.
We then went to a farmers house to have lunch. HIs new Habitat house was being built just next door but in the meantime he built his own temporary house because the govenrment provided ones just couldn’t hold all his stuff! His wife prepared an amazing feast for us made up of food fresh from their farm. In fact I actually saw the veggies being picked and brought straight to the kitchen and the chicken pens were right next to our table. Probably the best and healthiest meal I’ve had in a long time. Organic’s got nothing on this.
After lunch we headed over to our building site to get to work. The houses are actually quite simple. They were designed for Habitat by the Sichuan University Architecture department. They are timber framed houses made of light but sturdy materials. The advantage of a wood frame is that it is much more resiliant to the typical concrete slab construction that was used before. In concrete construction, all the structural connections are fixed making it a rigid structure so when the earthquake hit they just crumbled down. In these wood homes, the connections are bolted together making a flexible joint so when there is an earthuake the structure can sway with the movement of the earth, causing less damage. Even if things start to fall the materials are lighter causing less injury than a falling concrete slab.
We spent most of the day moving bricks and filtering stones out of huge piles of sand so it could be mixed with concrete so we could start laying the brick walls. Here are two volunteers filtering out the sand. Looks easy at first but it’s probably the most backbreaking jobs on site.
The next day we stopped by the shleter again this time to play with the kids. Jun Kung taught them how to play musical chairs as well as sang a few songs to them on his guitar. The kids then sang a couple of songs back for us. It was great to see the kids happy and having a good old time.
We also took some time to look at more of the disaster areas. Check out my albums for more photos of the damage. There are too many to put in this blog. In this picture we are actually on a fault line. As you can see the 50m wide bit of road that is rasied up about 2m. The row of building that was sitting on it was totally wiped out almost as if a giant monster just stomped thoruhg there.
We then headed back to work and my goal of the day was to finish laying a brick wall. Don’ have any pictures of it because I was so busy building it but we finally finished off. The family in the middle is who we were building for. It was such a pleasure to actually be able to see and talk to the ones we were helping. I hoped they liked our work. Special thanks to Brandon Ho (Ghost Style) and Phat Chan from 24 Herbs, Jung Kung, Ken Wong for coming up with me to help. Also thanks to Habitat for their work in Sichuan. You can see it is making a difference. If you want to know how you can go and help or if you would like to donate go to their link above.