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Valencia pair builds homes in Nepal

Community: Woman and her granddaughter travel with nonprofit organization to make houses

Posted: July 25, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: July 25, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Molly and Kayla Hodson, of Valencia, visited Nepal this June as volunteers for Habitat for Humanity, where they assisted building two homes.

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If Mary “Molly” Hodson, 69, of Valencia, had her way, every American teenager would visit a Third World country. She’s starting with her granddaughter Kayla Hodson, 16, a junior at Hart High School.

The duo traveled to Nepal in June as part of the nonprofit organization Habitat for Humanity, which builds homes for impoverished populations throughout the world. 

“It gives you a view of life you never see as tourists,” Molly Hodson said.

Both Hodsons found Nepal inspiring.

“Nepal is the most beautiful country I’ve been to so far. It’s gorgeous, with rice production and terrace farming everywhere, and lots of mountains,” said Molly Hodson, who’s volunteered with Habitat for Humanity since 1995. “The Nepalese are just the nicest, most gracious people, and the kids are as cute as can be.”

“It was great to see how people lived in other parts of the world — how different it is from my own life,” Kayla Hodson said.
The Hodsons’ 20-day journey began with a four-day stay in Bangkok, followed by three nights in Delhi, India.

“It was hot, humid and really crowded,” Kayla Hodson said of the latter.

“The poverty in India is just overwhelming. We visited the Taj Mahal, and in the five hours of driving to get there, saw countless homeless people on the side of the road,” Molly Hodson chimed in.

That road was shared with camels, donkeys and water buffalo, as well as families of up to five riding together on a moped.

“It’s a whole different mentality. In Nepal, most people have farm plots and extended families. They’re poor but making it. In India, there is no help at all,” Molly Hodson said.

As the American team leader for the Nepal trip, Molly Hodson communicated with representatives from the Shree Gramin Women Development Multiple Purpose Cooperative Ltd. Together the groups built new homes for two extended families in the Kavre district of central Nepal and started on a third house.

Because the families were practicing Hindus, some unique construction elements came into play. Cattle and other livestock are brought into the home at night, requiring an extra story, while kitchens were often just holes in the dirt floor used to cook food.

One house was constructed of brick and mud mortar with stone in mud mortar foundation, finished with kiln brick on the outside and sundried bricks on the inside. The other house featured a stone foundation and brick wall with mud mortar. Both homes featured tin roofs.

Volunteers contributed by preparing and carrying materials, as well as installing the roofs.

“We had some pretty high-profile people with us on this trip: engineers from Colorado and an interpreter for the military,” Molly Hodson said.

It was hard work, according to Kayla Hodson, but worthwhile.

“We were up to our knees in mortar the first day. Everyone else wussed out, but we kept going,” she said proudly. “It was fun to meet new people, to build a house and watch it turn into something.”

When one family insisted on performing a chicken sacrifice to bless its new home, Kayla Hodson couldn’t bear to watch and fled the scene. Afterward, one of the relatives gestured for her to come over, so he could give her a tikka, or red dot, between her eyebrows.

“I could smell the chicken blood on his hands. It was so gross,” she said, shuddering at the memory.

“It was a lumpy red dot, mixed with dirt,” Molly Hodson recalled. “We got so sweaty, the tikka ended up getting streaked across our faces.”

The native cuisine also came as something of a shock to Kayla Hodson.

“Most dishes were very spicy, and I don’t have the tolerance for it,” she said.

For Molly Hodson, who’s previously led trips to Honduras, Guatamela and many other South American countries, it was the generous spirit of the Nepalese, in addition to her granddaughter’s presence, that made this particular trip so special.

“They’re so willing to share. If they have two tacos, they’ll give you one, even if it’s all they have,” she said.

That spirit resonated with Kayla Hodson, as well.

“The Nepalese seemed to really appreciate what they have, unlike (America), where everyone just lusts for what they don’t have,” she noted.

According to Molly Hodson, poverty has one appealing dynamic in countries like Nepal, where an extended community of aunts, uncles and grandparents live in close proximity to nuclear families.

“They say, ‘it takes a village to raise a child.’ Well, they have it right there,” she said.

For Kayla Hodson, coming home was as much of a shock as the sights and sounds she saw while traveling with her grandmother.

“I was used to dirt floors with no running water, so I was kind of starstruck to have running water and a nice, soft bed again. The first night back in my bed, I thought, ‘This is the life,” Kayla Hodson said.

Kayla Hodson will travel again next June with her grandmother, this time to Argentina, as a volunteer.

Meanwhile, Molly Hodson, a semi-retired real estate agent, is planning a solo Habitat for Humanity trip this October to El Salvador.

“As long as these old bones work, even if they’re creaky, I will keep doing this,” she said.

For more information on Habitat for Humanity, visit habitat.org.

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