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EIT-Strong Team To Build Housing In Nepal

August 1, 2011

Tracey and Jamie Webster led the project to build a playhouse as a fundraiser for the trip to Nepal.

An overseas honeymoon is always welcome time-out after the hectic lead-in to a wedding, but for Hastings couple Tracey and Jamie Webster it was much more than that, triggering their commitment to helping others less fortunate than themselves. 

After marrying last year, the pair travelled to Sri Lanka where, for the first time, they encountered real poverty.   Deeply affected by what they saw, they resolved to give up their leisurely Christmas breaks to do a Habitat for Humanity Global Village trip every year.

“The trip made us think how selfish it is going to places as tourists,” Tracey explains. “We decided we wanted to make a difference.  Rather than hang out doing nothing over the summer holiday break, we though why not spend the time helping someone else.”

This year will be their first experience as Habitat for Humanity volunteers, and they’re not going at it in first gear.  As EIT’s IT project leader, Tracey is used to managing people and handling responsibility so she decided she would like to head an expedition to Nepal herself.

 “I know, being an IT project manager is a bit different, and that is what the organisation said too.  A long-term volunteer had recommended we go as team members but I saw I could do this and talked my way into Jamie and I sharing the team leadership role.

“Yes, there is so much organising to do and it’s pretty hard fundraising when New Zealand has experienced a massive earthquake and times are rough for a lot of businesses.  I do feel guilty asking for money but I keep telling myself that it’s worth it for the difference we’re going to make to these people’s lives.”

Tracey has corralled a team at EIT and, instead of just her and Jamie, there is a group of 24 making the two-week trip to build two homes for families in the town of Nepalgunj, close to Nepal’s southern border.  

The other EIT staff on the team are Sally Woods, Roger Maaka, Stewart Skeet, Rachel Forrest, Janet Turvey and Barbara Stokes and there is also a student, Kristian Day.

 EIT is also putting its weight behind the exercise in providing sponsorship for the trip.

“In exchange for that, we will be helping promote EIT to the people of Nepal,” Tracey says.  “I’m going to be taking photos while I’m there and they will be used in a brochure outlining the benefits of coming to New Zealand to study our programmes.”

The group recently came together to build a playhouse which is now being raffled to raise funds for the trip.  The playhouse can be viewed at ITM Napier, where Jamie is store manager, and tickets can be purchased there and at the ITM stores in Hastings and Havelock North.

ITM supply all the products for local Habitat for Humanity builds and the company also sponsored construction materials for the playhouse.

“Building it was such a good weekend,” Tracey says.  “We put it together in two half-days and it was nice to see we are going to get along and it’s going to work out, achieving what we set out to achieve.”

The group will start work on their more challenging building project on the morning after arriving in Nepal a few days after Christmas.   The houses will be constructed using bamboo for framing, trusses and woven cladding panels, which will be hand-rendered with a powdered concrete plaster. 

“Two local masons and the families themselves will help.  We also have several builders among our volunteers but there won’t be any laser technology to guide them.  It’s going to be measuring by eye, I imagine!”