Thursday, 9 August 2016
Volunteering in Palestine and Guatemala
Tod U3A, with speaker David Gilman
U3A Todmorden's July meeting was favoured with an excellent presentation by David Gilman, one of our own members, who described his experiences volunteering on building projects in the Occupied Territories of the West Bank and in Guatemala.
Although a Londoner, David has been in Yorkshire since 1972 and is now retired here. But hardly retired. In 2010 he volunteered in a girls' residential home in Vietnam and visited other orphanages where many of the children aren't actually orphaned, but have been sold or abandoned by families unable to keep them.
Rebuilding a West Bank house
Clearly fired up by his experience – by its usefulness, and the close relationships such work leads to – David kept his eye open for other such opportunities. Thus it was that he discovered himself in a refugee camp in Palestine on the West Bank in 2015 with 30 other people, 5 of whom were vicars. Their aim was to help rebuild a house, destroyed by the Israeli Defence Force, in double quick time.
When they arrived, the foundations were already laid, and the volunteers' first job was to pass the bricks in a line up to the site. Mortar was mixed in huge troughs by hand. Although local brickies built the walls, the volunteers worked hard on setting the steels for the roof which was laid with concrete after a week. The build took a mere 10 days, and concluded with the ceremonial planting of an olive tree.
Building a community hall in Guatemala
Still enthusiastic, David signed up to go to Guatemala in February this year to help build a community hall in a village specially constructed as a haven for indigenous mothers and their children in the Mayan Peninsula in the shadow of a volcano.
The community is run by two Canadians, Heather and Greg Knox. It consists of 5 families and 23 children. There are duplexes for the families, and a nursery school and farm, but water still has to be fetched from a ravine nearby.
This time the project required different skills. No bricks, mortar and reinforced concrete here. This time, the method was a variant on the rammed earth method used in building tyre-walled 'Earthships'. 'Bricks' were made by filling sacks with earth and laying them in earthquake-proof layers. Layers were bound with barbed wire, tamped down and clad in the local clay. The roof was bamboo-pole supported.
The importance of community
When all was done, there was a community get together in the completed building. David stressed how important community was in both these projects because they fostered not only good relations between all parties concerned in the common purpose of building, but also, by providing pre-existing communities with basic security and comfort, they strengthened the possibility of happiness for less privileged people.
David's example has certainly given us an insight into the opportunities for doing good in the world, available to anyone with basic fitness and a love for justice and kindness, and we are grateful to him for his excellent example.
Many thanks to Anthony Peter for this report
Previous U3A reports on the HebWeb
HebWeb News: Snow, Permafrost, Insects, Iron - with speaker Dr Frank Nicholson (7 July 2016)
HebWeb News:Stranger in a Strange Land - with speaker Gill Russell (7 May 2016)
HebWeb News:Life with polio and a career as a TV and Radio presenter. with speaker Jane Shepherd (12 June 2016)
HebWeb News:Small in a Tall Person's World with speakers Hamish Willis and Penny Dean OBE (31 March 2016)
HebWeb News:In the Footsteps of Norbert Carteret (22 February 2016)
HebWeb News:Gallivanting on Public Transport - a Bus Pass from Berwick to Land's End (30 September 2015)
HebWeb News: Magna Carta - A (Mostly) Light-hearted look at 800 Years of History (1 September 2015)
HebWeb News: Summat a' Nowt - talk by Steve Murty (28 April 2015)
HebWeb News: My Convict Ancestors (12 April 2015)
HebWeb News: Aquaponics Lab - A Radical Solution (16 January 2015)
HebWeb News: British Professional Cycling – Tykes and Le Tour de France (11 December 2014)
HebWeb News: Life in La Serenissima, Venice - Kathryn Ogden (9 July 2014)
HebWeb News: University of the Third Age: The Machine that Changed the World (25 February 2014)
HebWeb News: University of the Third Age: Music and the Deaf (12 February 2014)
HebWeb News: University of the Third Age: Psychology and You - Part Two David Groves made a welcome return as a speaker at the October Todmorden U3A (26 October 2013)
HebWeb News: Hebden Bridge Little Theatre, A Short History was recounted by Ray Riches to the University of the Third Age. (28 Aug 2013)
HebWeb News: John Sheard, retired land agent to the Duke of Devonshire, gave his third talk to members of the U3A, this time on Sir Joseph Paxton, Knighted Gardener (26 July 2013)
HebWeb News: Off Stage Choices: Andrew Rawlinson recounts his theatre experience from Tod Operatic to General Manager of a leading Theatre Group. (18 July 2013)
HebWeb News: The Story of the Hebden Bridge Calendar (April 2013)
HebWeb News: Changing Times in the Press (March 2013)
HebWeb News: Cancer from Both Sides (Nov 2012)
HebWeb News: Steve Halliwell outlined the history of the Woodland Trust (Sept 2012)
HebWeb News: Ray Riches talks on Walking the Pacific Crest Trail (Aug 2012)
HebWeb News: Pitch and Pythagoras - Pulse and Prison (July 2012)
HebWeb News - Lord Shutt explains the workings of the House of Lords (May 2012)
HebWeb News - Claire Benedict talks acting to Todmorden U3A (April 2012)
HebWeb News - Kate Moreton-Deakin spoke about her day job as Associate Director - Corporate Social Responsibility with Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust. (Feb 2012)
HebWeb News - Fair Trade Movement (Feb 2012)
HebWeb News - Fancy a cruise to the Antarctic? (Feb 2012)
HebWeb News - Gail Allaby, U3A's Queen of the Underworld (Dec 2011)
HebWeb News - September meeting report - Report of meeting about Walking the Pacific Crest Trail
HebWeb News - August meeting report - Bolton Abbey
HebWeb News - May and June meeting report - Keep Learning: Live long and prosper and the role of the Lord-Lieutenant
HebWeb News - April meeting report - Belt and Braces - An Everyday Guide to Risk and Chance
HebWeb News - March meeting report - Growing Old in the Twenty-First Century