Building a dream: Tiger Bay women lead the way in house construction at Diamond/Grove
Stabroek News
May 9, 2004

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"It is not an easy task to build houses," said Nellie Gordon. Gordon is the leader of twelve women who have undertaken to build their own houses in the Diamond/Grove area. The group comprises tenwomen and wo men, who are among

the approximately sixty-four persons relocated from the Tiger Bay area to the Diamond/Grove and Tuschen Housing Schemes.

The women, who are mostly single parents, have undertaken to build their own homes, as they see it as a motivating move and want to be totally involved in the entire process.

When the project first started, the women said, there was a contractor assigned to the project, but he has since left them. Undaunted, Gordon said that she would seek out advice from other contractors to get the know-how as to what should be done. "Eventually, after the contractor left, we decided to do it on our own; we do everything: we dig the land, lay the foundation, fetch the cement, tie steel, lay bricks - you name it, we do it," she said.

The government has provided the project with all the materials from foundation to roof for a 15' x 20' house, and if anyone wants a bigger house they have to provide for it themselves. Some of the residents have decided to go ahead with the 15' x 20' homes, but the majority want bigger houses. "If you require a bigger house then we lay foundation for it and start from there," Gordon said.

With no formal training and no plans, the houses are being built to the occupants' specifications, and they are involved in the building too. At the moment the group has twelve houses and has been given a two-month grace period to finish them by June 12.

"All the houses to the front of the Diamond area already have perimeter beams," explained Gordon, "but the houses at the back need casting. The foundation has been laid but with the weather we cannot do any work, the land is flooded."

To ensure that they are doing the right thing, Gordon said she has arranged with contractors from the Habitat for Humanity organisation to keep checks on them. The government also keeps checks on them.

Explaining that it is very tough being a leader of the group, Gordon said, "It is an excellent feeling, building our houses ourselves. It is difficult though, getting from one point to another. There are sixteen roads and I have to walk to wherever I am going. There is a lot of distance between the houses, especially in Grove."

Gordon said that this experience has encouraged her and the group members to pursue careers in contracting, and she hopes that some day they all will be able to fulfil that dream, if only they could find the proper place to teach them the essentials of becoming qualified house builders. She praised the group of women for their cooperation and encouragement, and promised to supervise the next group when they were given their house lots.