Temporary housing for 18-year-old children/students in need of a safe space to live, learn life skills, and continue their education. We anticipate each child will need up to two years of temporary housing, but those with special needs may require more.
In one of the orphanages in Mahajanga, once the children reach 18 years of age, they can be summarily booted out with no place else to go. In some cases, these children were pulled from toxic home environments, and returning them to those homes could place them in great danger. This Halfway House is a way that they can live, on their own, but on a commune surrounded by dozens of loving, caring, supportive adults, who will help them learn to cook, pay bills, manage a household, for up to two years, while they slowly transition to living on their own, in their own housing.
We started construction April 2021 with great plans to have both apartments completed by July, but our construction costs ballooned like nothing we’d ever seen. The cost of cement rose by more than double, but the river sand, a necessary part of any concrete construction project, was the real problem. With a finite supply of river sand on the planet, local supplies were depleted, so river sand had to be trucked in from a location about two hours outside of town. Coupled with the incredible building boom in and around Mahajanga (over 50 new construction projects), supply v. demand meant the price of river sand went through the roof. At one point, we had to shutdown construction altogether, but in November, we were able to resume construction, but things are still moving far more slowly than I’d like – funds are the main issue. We’ll get there, but it’s just taking us a bit longer than planned.
The Water Situation
When I served in Peace Corps 2017-2019, I was first stationed at a small, private school in the fokotany (township) of Ambondrona, where I lived and worked. The family who owned that school was my host family, and as I lived in a small cottage on their vast property, they provided me with the same type of support they will provide those youngsters who will be living in the Halfway House, also located on my host family’s land.
There is running water for their home, and their external shower and toilet, but when I lived in the cottage, about 200 yards from their home, I had no running water, so my host “brother,” Fidy, would refill jerrycans with water from their house, as I needed. It worked fine, I had a squat toilet, and I used to take “bucket baths” in my shower, using water I’d heated on my propane stove. My home was located on school grounds, literally right on school grounds, and the children didn’t have a water fountain, instead using one shared cup that they would use from a jerrycan of water placed outside the school’s office.
I offered to pay to have a water pump installed, so the children could have access to clean water, and my host father and school Director, Felix, and I submitted the necessary forms to JIRAMA, Madagascar’s national water and electrical utility. We paid all fees and submitted everything in September 2020 – nearly 18 months ago. And we’re still waiting. But that’s kind of par for the course for pretty much everything here. I’ve been told that new homeowners can wait an average of three years for new electrical service installation. Once the water pump line becomes a reality, we will run a spur off that line to provide running water for the Halfway House apartments.
We don’t need to wait for running water, though, since the electrical service has been installed (tapped into a line coming from the family’s house, but with its own meter), so once we can get a few more basics completed, we’ll be set to welcome our first two occupants. Our original plan was one child/student per apartment, but we have since decided that it would make more sense to house one university student with one younger, former orphanage child, so they can learn needed life skills from one another.
One of my dearest friends, Jemima, is the Director of a local language institute where I used to teach English (before Covid, which forced me to retire because pretty much nobody would wear masks), and she expressed that there are lots of needy university students who are truly struggling finding a decent place to live. Where we’d originally limited the Halfway House to ONLY children kicked out of the orphanage, we realized we could actually help both, by providing a home for both types of children, are all in the same age range of 18, both need housing, both need life skills, and both will be attending school of some type. It’s a win-win-win.