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A working vacation: Building homes in Zambia

From bricklaying to pouring cement floors, London’s Kirsty Abbott has learned the ins and outs of home construction after building homes in Zambia with Habitat for Humanity Great Britain.

Kirsty, a Risk Management consultant in Wholesale Banking’s International Group, was joined by seven other Wells Fargo team members based in London and one from Dubai to volunteer for a week.

“I’ve participated in several home builds with Habitat for Humanity locally and wanted to find a way to give back to a community in one of the more underdeveloped countries supported by our region,” says Kirsty, who supports the Europe Middle East Africa region from her London office.

With the help of four local builders, the team members built brick homes for a single mother caring for eight children and an elderly couple raising their six grandchildren who were orphaned. The group was responsible for starting and completing the homes within one week.

Team members and the future residents of the homes

Team members worked alongside the future residents of the homes.

Many of the families living on the outskirts of Zambia’s capital, Lusaka, which is where the volunteers worked, lack secure and safe housing, says Habitat for Humanity Director of Support and Engagement Kate Walmsley. So with help from organizations like Wells Fargo, the nonprofit has trained volunteers and supplied materials for brick homes that are safer and more resistant than the wooden shacks and mud huts common in the area.

The volunteers spent the week working alongside the families, sharing meals, and playing with the neighborhood kids. The neighborhood women even attempted to teach the volunteers to carry jugs of water on their heads like the locals. They also spent time visiting a local school.

“Much to our dismay and their delight, we were never quite able to master carrying the jugs of water on our heads,” says Kirsty.

Before the trip, team members in London and Dubai had donated school supplies and sporting goods for students at the local Zambian school. The students spent an afternoon with the team members learning songs and playing games.

“It was wonderful to see the joy of the children at the school,” says Kirsty. “We managed to have a lot of fun together despite the language barrier.”

In addition to the school supplies, more than 80 team members spread across Europe, the Middle East, and Africa participated in fundraising efforts to raise $20,000 to finance the building of the homes. The Wells Fargo Foundation also provided a grant of $15,000 for the project.

“Our trip to Zambia was a rewarding and humbling experience,” says Chris Read, property manager. “I’m proud of what we achieved in such a short amount of time and grateful for the generous support of our teammates who weren’t able to join us for the trip.”

Kirsty says, “It was a privilege to get to know this community and do what we could to help. We definitely hope to return soon!”