Earthquake Resistant House Brings Renewed Joy to Family
There is a certain calmness in her face but under that almost serene face lies years of trauma and pain that she has undergone in Afghanistan. Mari is just 35 years old but has lived through more hardship than anyone should at her age. She used to live a happy life with her extended family, her husband and her children. Everything was going on fine until the time fighting started and hundreds of civilians were abducted and killed . The situation was so bad that one could not go out from their homes and there were rocket attacks everywhere and people dying everyday.
One night along with her children, she fled to Pakistan with her brothers’ family. Her husband, stayed behind. In Pakistan she stayed with her brothers’ family and they provided for her and for her children.
A year later she returned back to Kabul with her children but as a full scale civil war was launched in early 1994 and civilians were killed in rocket and artillery attacks and one third of Kabul was reduced to rubble and much of the remaining sustained serious damage…..she fled once again …this time to Shekhabat in Afghanistan.
Again her husband stayed behind to look after their property. But this time, little did she know that this was the last time she was seeing her husband. For soon after she fled from home along with her children including her youngest son who was just one year old, her husband was killed by a rocket that landed on their house. It was only two months later that she got the news about her husbands’ death.
She moved around for the next 6 years , 2 years in Paghman and 4 years in Company.
She came back to Kabul in 1996, just around the time Taliban was gaining power in Kabul .This however did not effect her life as she never went out of her home Ever since she has been staying in the two room house provided by her brother-in-law with her four sons and a daughter.
Her eldest son who is 18 years old works in a store and earns 40-60 afs everyday, and is the only earning member of the family. Mari also sews blankets and washes people’s clothes. The other three brothers go to school. Her eldest, who is 19 years old, has never been allowed to go to school just because she is a girl.
Mari has never been to school too….and she misses her husband a lot because he was a very loving husband and a very kind father who took care of everything regarding the children and the family….but now for they don’t even have a balanced food to eat. Everyday they eat bread and tea. The children don’t remember when was the last time they had eggs or meat.
It was in these circumstances that Shelter for Life came forward to build a transitional shelter for Mari and her children. The total cost of the shelter is $1768. Shelter for Life spent $831.4 and Mari agreed to contribute the rest amount in the form of bricks and labor. This was very difficult for her as she had to borrow money from her brother to buy the bricks for the house. As for the labor her sons were actively involved in the construction of their house. One son would go to the distribution site and bring the stones and beams and then he along with another son would assist the mason as he put brick by brick.
They didn’t have money to buy bricks. So they destroyed the old house and used those bricks to build this new structure.Even lthe youngest son did his share by carrying water and mud for plastering the walls. Mari’s daughter worked hard too as she baked bread everyday and cooked meat for the mason and others who helped in the construction. Mari’s daughter is very brave as in spite of being a young woman in Afghanistan, where she has not been even allowed to go to school. She dares to do what many women even in developed countries perhaps often don’t do. She dares to dream…..a dream of hope about making it on her own. She wants to open a beauty parlour in this new house and contribute to the income of the house.
For building the Transitional Shelter they had to first excavate the ground for foundation and leveled it so that the foundation would be flat. Then with the bricks bought by them the contractor’s masons worked on the foundation and reinforced concrete ring beam. After finishing that the mason laid bricks using mud as mortar. As they did that they left space for doors and windows. When they reach the top of the window and door level they installed the lentil beams to hold more layers of bricks to reach the wooden ring beam level. The carpenter from the project installed the wooden ring beam along the brick walls, ensuring they are tied to the foundation by a six mm diameter steel bar located at the corners of each room. Then they laid the wooden joists on top of the wooden ring beams. The planks came in next which were laid on top of the joist, ensuring that they are neatly abutted.
Mari and her sons and daughter are truly happy with the new house they have built with the assistance from Shelter for Life. The new house has two rooms and a corridor. Now there is so much sleeping space that Mari’s eldest son was rolling from one end of the floor to the other in the first few days that they occupied the house. When asked about what was so special about the house, Mari’s youngest son answered that the way it was built was different. The engineer from Shelter for Life had explained that this was a earthquake resistant shelter. Incidentally, two days after they moved into the new shelter, an earthquake measuring 5.5 shook Kabul and surrounding areas. But Mari’s second eldest son was proud that the house that he helped build was safe and did not fall.