From swinging golf clubs in Oregon to swinging hammers in Ethiopia, the Beavers Without Borders crew create quite the entertaining – and inspiring – spectacle, using their unique athletic skills to complete the houses for families in Holt’s Family Preservation program.
This week Holt Senior Writer Robin Munro joins 14 Oregon State University (OSU) athletes traveling to Silti, Ethiopia. On this exciting trip, the athletes — volunteers with OSU’s Beavers Without Borders — will build homes for struggling families in Holt’s family preservation program. Initiated by former OSU football player Taylor Kavanaugh, Beavers Without Borders is an organization that gives OSU athletes the opportunity to travel to developing countries to help families in need.
By Robin Munro, Senior Writer
Silti, Ethiopia–It’s early morning on day two of our work in Silti, and quiet in the village as we arrive. Few people are out in their yards or on the road, and many of the children are in school. Yesterday, it seemed as though the whole village came to greet us – and many people stayed around to watch us most of the day. Today, only a few small children and a few older men have come to observe the students work.
The air feels cool and fresh and the ground is still a bit damp from the rain that fell the night before. It is the beginning of the rainy season in Ethiopia, and the community is busy planting maize, coffee and other local crops in the fields that surround the homes.
After the welcome ceremony yesterday, the students made fast work of the two houses. The local workers had already laid the foundation and raised a portion of the super structure when we arrived. This put us a bit ahead of schedule, which was helpful as the construction process required a bit of a learning curve. Namely, hammering nails proved a bit more challenging than the students might have expected. To some, the work came more naturally – in particular to Seshia Telles, one of the three Oregon State golfers on the trip. Although more accustomed to hitting golf balls, she adapted her swing from club to hammer with ease. Stephanie, the only gymnast on the team, climbed right to the top of the house, where she remained perched throughout the day – holding pieces of wood for her teammates or the local carpenters to hammer into place.
“I felt so comfortable up there,” she says later. Her flexibility and comfort balancing on high, narrow beams gave her an edge that the carpenters quickly recognized. Only initially did she have trouble communicating with them, she says. They soon recognized her value, and began directing her where they wanted her to move.
Meanwhile, the villagers looked on with curiosity and amazement. In this rural, Muslim community in southern Ethiopia, gender roles are firmly entrenched. Women do not wear pants. Women do not hammer nails. Women do not build houses.
“Women don’t do that. They don’t climb up on roofs like that,” says Miruk Alemu, a Holt Ethiopia staff member who traveled with us to Silti. Although she came along to serve as translator, she quickly joins in the construction work. Continue reading “A Gymnast Helps Set the Bar High in Ethiopia”