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Carpenters’ take skills south to build home for disadvantaged family in Jamaica

Angela Gismondi
Carpenters’ take skills south to build home for disadvantaged family in Jamaica
CARPENTERS LOCAL 27 - A group of carpenters from Local 27’s equity, diversity and inclusivity committee built a house for a family in Jamaica. It took the team, who also worked with a local crew, about a day to put up the house. The foundation was put in place by local contractors prior to the Canadian team’s arrival.

The Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee of Carpenters’ Local 27 recently partnered with Food for the Poor to give a family in Jamaica a fresh start by building them a new home.

The home is for Radcliff, a 77-year-old single father, his 19-year-old daughter Joda and her three-month-old daughter Azaria.

Radcliff was formerly incarcerated and struggles to hold down a job but works as a dishwasher and casual labourer to make money. The daughter struggles with health issues and is raising her daughter without the father’s help.

“It was a deeply fulfilling experience to participate in a humanitarian project in Jamaica,” said Rokhaya Gueye, community partnership co-ordinator at the Carpenters’ Regional Council who was one of five women who took part in the build.

“As a woman, providing a safe home to a less fortunate family means offering them a place to live that is secure, stable and conducive to their well-being. This includes a dwelling that is structurally sound, free from hazards and equipped with basic amenities like clean water, electricity and heating. It involves creating an environment where the family feels supported, valued and able to thrive.”

The build took place at the end of October in Chapelton, Clarendon, Jamaica. Food for the Poor Jamaica has a team of people on the ground to help with logistics and scheduling and to provide support, making sure the team had transportation, accommodations and food.

In addition to fundraising, members of the Local 27 equity committee covered their own flight and accommodations and personally supported the cost of the mission. About $20,000 was needed to build the home.

Fourteen people participated in the humanitarian mission.

Rokhaya Gueye was one of five female carpenters who took part in this year’s build. She is planning to organize an all women “sisters” build next year.
CARPENTERS LOCAL 27 – Rokhaya Gueye was one of five female carpenters who took part in this year’s build. She is planning to organize an all women “sisters” build next year.

“It was a team effort. Everybody just jumped in with the right attitude,” said Chris Campbell, equity, diversity and inclusion representative with the Carpenters’.

“At the end of it all we had a little ribbon cutting where we had the local member of parliament for the area and the local parish council, municipal representatives…I put the keys in the homeowner’s hands, letting him know that it was a pleasure for us to do this. We relished this opportunity and we genuinely feel it is the right thing to do for a family in need.”

It took about a day to put up the walls and put the roof on and finish most of the interior, he added. The team finished about 90 per cent of it. A team of contractors in Jamaica started the project by pouring the foundation.

“The concrete foundation was there with the pipes and faucets already sticking out of the ground for the washroom and the kitchen,” Campbell explained. “That had to be done way ahead because that needs to be poured and harden in order to build on top of it.

“We were responsible for framing the walls, putting on the plywood, framing the roof, putting on the zinc roofing, painting the walls, completing the washroom and the kitchen. The kitchen was almost done when we were there. We did as much as we could.”

One of the biggest challenges was the weather. It rained on and off making the site quite muddy but the team was able to complete what they needed to do.

“I was doing everything a carpenter does: the walls, the ceiling. I was up on the roof just working as if I was doing construction here in Canada, but slightly different because of the building code there,” Gueye recalled.

Before their new home was built, the family that will be receiving the house rented a one-bedroom structure with no bathroom or kitchen. The floorboards were rotten and falling apart, the ceiling was severely infested with termites and it leaked when it rained. They didn’t have a proper kitchen so cooking was done on a hotplate and there was no furniture except one bed for the three of them.

“I knew that it was very important for a woman to have a nurturing home, especially if you have a young baby,” Gueye said. “We actually met her. We were able to give her quite a few items but when it came to making sure she has a home and has a good start, that was really important.”

This is not the first build for Campbell and his team. They previously built Wakefield Primary School in Trelawny, Jamaica in 2017.

Gueye, who is also Ontario Chair of Sisters in the Brotherhood of Carpenters’ Union, is hoping to organize a similar project with a group of women.
“The sisters really enjoyed it, so it would be nice for us to hopefully next year be able to do that,” said Gueye.

Follow the author on Twitter @DCN_Angela

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