Sunday, November 8, 2009

Habitat for Humanity, Global Village – Destination Mozambique!

Chelsie McKnight, a young Toronto business woman, has recently returned from a life-changing mission in Africa. In this powerful letter, she shares her experiences with the hope of "inspiring people to take action, giving perspective, serving as a reminder of how lucky we are, or introducing an important dinner conversation with the kids."

Habitat for Humanity, Global Village – Destination Mozambique!
By Chelsie McKnight

“Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is a protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life” – Nelson Mandela

Back in one piece! Here’s the summary of one of the best adventures of my life: I mixed cement, sawed reeds and trees, pushed wheelbarrows full of sand and rocks, thatched roofs, tamped floors, and put grout between cement blocks. I made 16 new friends. I ate delicious meals, drank cold South African cider, and took cold showers after sweaty 9 hour work days. I danced with children to Michael Jackson. I danced with villagers on my birthday, and I danced with children who followed me around Massaca.

An incredible success!
  •  7 days
  • 16 volunteers
  • 19 houses
  • 19 guardians & approximately 60 children with a place to call home
I saw orphanages, AIDS ribbons painted on walls, children without shoes or toys, medical clinics, and a first hand look at what disparity really is. I was immersed in culture. I learned about hard work and community. I witnessed gratitude. I fell in love with Mozambique the country and the people. I was able to get “back to the basics” and enjoy the company of others, good conversation, homemade meals, working with my hands, and gazing at the stars like I’ve never seen them before. I did not miss my blackberry, my bed, my TV, my fridge or my shower. I did    not want to come home.

Troubling Statistics
  • 1.5M orphans
  • 1.5M people infected with AIDS
  • Average age: 18 yrs
  • Life expectance: 48 yrs
  • 50% live below the poverty line
  • Income per capita: US$340

Let me assure you that your donations were well utilized and will make a difference in the lives of 19 families. I honestly cannot think of a more worthy cause – decent, safe shelter, and a place to call home; seems so simple. These homes will empower the families that live in them and give them a sense of belonging and hope. When one grandmother was asked what she looked forward to the most; she replied; “The concrete foundation. My grand-daughter Juliette will never sleep in the water again”.

I worked along side the mothers, grandmothers and children that will be living in these homes. Despite the language barrier we laughed at the same things, we sang songs, danced together, cried together, shared meals, and helped each other out. It was so evident to me that we are the same. We all belong to the same “Global Village”. It is unjust that I got to leave the village to return to the comforts I take for granted here in Canada. I am no more deserving of the surroundings and life I have here then the people I met.

Habitat Homes
  • Traditional homes the villagers would build could they afford to
  • Concrete foundation will protect from termites and rain
  • Sturdy walls and thatch roof does not allow rain or sunlight in
  • Come with mosquito nets to protect against malaria
  • Latrine built separately

It is so clear to me now that I must share what I have for the rest of my life. I will continue to share my time with those who need a helping hand. I will share my health and able body with those who struggle with theirs. I will share my wealth and belongings with those who were born without the chance to acquire the same things. I will share my knowledge and stories in hopes of inspiring others to do the same.

If you are interested in hearing more please connect with me and I would be happy to share more pictures and stories. You can also check out the Global Village websites to see if there is a country you would like to visit!


Chelsie McKnight

“People are unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered. Love them anyway. If you do good, people may accuse you of selfish motives. Do good anyway. If you are successful, you may win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway. The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway. Honesty and transparency make you vulnerable. Be honest and transparent anyway. What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway. People who really want help may attack you if you help them. Help them anyway. Give the world the best you have and you may get hurt. Give the world your best anyway.” – Mother Teresa


  1. Thank you for sharing Chelsie's moving story. "Decent, safe shelter, and a place to call home." Such a basic human right, and yet so many lack it. Thanks to Chelsie for sharing her time, her health and her knowledge to make so many peoples' lives a little easier.

  2. It's wonderful to see the direction that many of today's teens are heading in terms of community service and volunteering - if we had to coin a term for them - perhaps it should be "Generation Give".

  3. Thanks for sharing this story, Carla. I take such great a pleasure in following your blog. I particularly appreciated the quote from Mother Teresa this week. I just got back from Ethiopia and despite the hard work invested, I and other families continue to face opposition, criticism and obstacles to our efforts here in Canada. I shared the quote with my fellow warriors in this cause and we all took much comfort in it!! Building on....

  4. What an inspirational message from Mother Teresa. Thanks for sharing.

  5. I've just stumbled upon your blog Chelsie and enjoyed (and am enjoying) reading it - as I am heading to Mozambique in October 2010 to do a HFH Build. I have been biting at the bit so to speak to do another build - as I did one 3 years ago in a little town called Tosagua, Ecuador - and share much of the same sentiment as you as a result of that experience. I've done some building at the HFH site in Burnaby, British Columbia and am finally able to go on this build. As there are so many memories to treasure from the Ecuador build - I must say the absolutely greatest moment of joy was in handing the front door keys to the family we built for - and watching them all enter their new home for the very first time . . .