July 9, 2003 - The News Messenger of Central Ohio: RPCV Scott Rosenberg organized Habitat for Humanity in Lesotho

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Lesotho: Peace Corps Lesotho : The Peace Corps in Lesotho: July 9, 2003 - The News Messenger of Central Ohio: RPCV Scott Rosenberg organized Habitat for Humanity in Lesotho

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RPCV Scott Rosenberg organized Habitat for Humanity in Lesotho

RPCV Scott Rosenberg organized Habitat for Humanity in Lesotho

Clyde student helps build housing in Africa

By Jeanette Liebold-Ricker

A Clyde young woman, Laura Seaman, recently spent a month in Lesotho, a small mountainous country in southern Africa.

Seaman is active in Habitat for Humanity at Wittenberg College, where she will enter her junior year. This was the first travel program at Wittenberg that included a service program.

"It's hard to believe that I've actually gone and done it and I'm back," she said. "It was an awesome experience to go out and help others."

Seaman was one of 24 students who volunteered to travel at their own expense to help build houses on land donated by the Lesotho government. The trip was organized by Dr. Scott Rosenberg, a history professor of African studies. He had spent time in Lesotho with the Peace Corps, and wanted his students to learn about the country.

"He was a fountain of knowledge," said Seaman. "He doesn't know if he will ever do it again (work trip), which makes it even more special."

The country is about 11,718 square miles, the size of the state of Maryland. It is mountainous, dusty and very poor. More than half the population of 2.2 million is unemployed, Seaman said.

The country has only one Habitat for Humanity post, which plans to build 200 homes. While they were there, 11 two-bedroom homes were built at the work site of Kheubelu. These students were the first group to volunteer their services there. They worked side by side with the African natives, making cinder blocks from the soil, digging home foundations and digging 8-foot deep latrines with a pick axe. "That was hard work, I had never used one before," said Seaman. She said the soil was layered with sand, clay and pure rock, and was relieved when workers with jackhammers were brought in to complete the digging.

Seaman was amazed to find that Americans are so highly respected in Africa. "Americans don't realize what an impact we have on the world," she said. In spite of the fact that round, stone huts with thatched roofs weathered the seasons better, Africans preferred to live in simple ranch style homes built from cinder blocks, because they were similar to American homes, she said.

In spite of the cultural differences, Seaman made friends with many of the natives she worked with. "There was so much to get used to," she said. "I wasn't expecting them to be so nice."

"The people are so friendly. We formed really awesome friendships with them. It amazed me, that I could come halfway around the world and bond with these people."

They talked about their Christian faith as they worked side by side.

"We're all God's children," her friend, Boking, a 25-year-old man, told her.

The one universal word understood was God, Seaman said.

"It was so impacting to hear this from someone in a totally different nation, living in poverty every day," she said. "They were very religious people."

The natives gave her an ethnic name, Matseliso, which means "honoring or consoling."

Seaman was amazed at the enthusiasm with which the natives met each new day, watching for the work crew to leave for the work site every morning so they could wave to them, she said.

They slept in a compound in the local hotel in un-insulated buildings where guards were posted at the gates for their protection. It was the winter season. "We were excited if the temperature was 60 degrees," she said. "There was frost on the ground every morning."

Each morning they awoke to the sound of donkeys braying and roosters crowing. The maids did their laundry by hand and a cook prepared the meals. The main staple food was similar to grits, she said. They drank only soft drinks and juice because the drinking water wasn't guaranteed safe.

The students also visited an orphanage in the capital city of Maseru, for children with AIDS or orphaned by AIDS. They pooled their resources and donated $100 to the orphanage, which will feed children there for three months. Students also spent two days cleaning the area. Seaman chiseled mortar off bricks so they could be used again for new construction.

Sightseeing included visiting the only museum in the country and pony trekking up in the mountains. They hiked up the mountains to view dinosaur footprints. They visited Kruger National Park, a wild game preserve in South Africa. "It was awesome to see the animals up close and in a natural setting," she said.

She saw birds, hippos, zebras, giraffes, hyenas, baboons, monkeys, huge antelope, warthogs, and a huge mother elephant, which started to charge the open-air vehicle in which they were riding.

Saying goodbye to the people was difficult.

"Some cried when we left," she said. They left most of their clothing behind for the natives, so they would have warmer clothing to wear. She brought home few -- but nice -- souvenirs unique to the culture of the country.

She kept a daily journal of her experiences. Each student on the trip is required to write an eight- to 10-page report, which will be published collectively as a book, and made available in the archives of the museum there. "That's real exciting," said Seaman. "The trip will always be in my heart."

At Wittenberg, Seaman is studying biology and is currently working at Manatee National Park in Michigan for a month, assisting a park ranger in surveying wood turtles with a global positioning system.

Jeanette Liebold-Ricker's column is published each Wednesday and Saturday in The News-Messenger. She may be contacted by writing her at 1134 N. Main St., Clyde 43410 or call her at 419-547-8177.

Originally published Wednesday, July 9, 2003

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Story Source: The News Messenger of Central Ohio

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Lesotho; Habitat for Humanity; Service



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