A few months ago, I was fortunate enough to spend my weekend taking part in the Habitat For Humanity trip to Ajloun. It’s a volunteer program that collects volunteering students to build houses for the less-fortunate members of Jordan’s community.
I’ll start off bluntly, and confess that I initially signed up for the Habitat trip to add to my college resume. Yet, I began to get this giddiness as the trip got closer.
The Friday morning drive to Ajloun was a relaxing escape from the protective, and yet limiting walls of King’s Academy to the open and calming forests of Ajloun.
Once we arrived at the house we’ll be staying the night in, I felt nostalgic, looking at the plain white walls that reminded me of my aunties’ houses. Despite how simple and “cheap” it looked, I only felt an odd warmth, the same warmth that surrounded my aunties’ homes, whenever I visited.
Inside the house, the walls were a rough cement gray, with the strokes of the trowel used to spread the cement were so clear you could copy the same movements just by following the strokes on the walls. These strokes were oddly foreshadowing, we came to build a house and here’s a preview as to what we’ll be doing.
The students rushed up the stairs to check out the rooms, there were three rooms, 1 for the boys and 2 for the girls. The boys’ room was large singular space with a bunch of mattresses on the floor. I didn’t really care where I slept, I just dumped my bag on the ground and went downstairs for our snack time.
A bag of hummus and falafel sandwiches, a perfect 11:00am snack.
We started heading to the building site at 12:30pm, and we arrived at a house on the hillside with the perfect view of the valleys of the hilly Ajloun. We were introduced to the family who we were going to build this house for. Mr. Ramadan, the man in charge of the whole operation.
He first asked us to line up in a factory line to start getting the bricks from the truck they came in, to the inside of the building site.
It reminded of a song the dwarfs from Snow White sang. I kept chanting “heigh ho heigh ho” in my head as we passed a brick from one person to another.
Once we had enough bricks for the walls, we needed the “glue” that every building needs.
It was time to make some cement.
Mr. Ramadan had me and another student join him and watch the backbreaking process of shoveling the cement powder with the sand and making sure everything gets soaked in water.
Mr. Ramadan did so smoothly that I thought it was going to be a cake-walk.
However, I thought wrong and as I let out a hefty grunt I started mixing the cement, as I shoveled the sand and cement together, all I thought was how strong Mr. Ramadan’s back must be.
Hunter Engle ’20, and Mr. James Magagna mixing cement with the author (middle) in Ajloun
Mohammed Malkawi/Habitat for Humanity
After 4 hours of hard work, we went back to the house to clean up. Afterwards, we had the privilege of eating at the family’s house for dinner. They prepared Maglobah for us, with salad and everything.
What caught my eye was the chicken to lamb ratio. They had 3 dishes of chicken Maglobah and 1 dish of lamb Maglobah.
I soon remembered that chicken was the cheapest meat you could buy and the lamb was a luxury that a lot of us forget sometimes. I understood that despite the fact that this family didn’t have much, they gave us more welcoming faces and food they normally have.
That warm feeling enveloped me and couldn’t help but truly reflect on where I am now. I’m in the best boarding school in Jordan. I’m privileged to have access to a higher education.
On the bus ride back to Kings, I only regretted not thanking the family enough like they thanked us for building a home that will help them in the long run.
All I can say is to be willing to do a thankless job, you’ll understand that you don’t need everyone’s approval and learn how to thank yourself.