A Long Way From Home
13 years ago, I embarked on a project to build my own home. My dream was simple. I believed that a single working woman, who had invested in her education and had a reasonable job in a good company, who had paid her dues and managed her debt, who was good to people, deserved to be able to own her own home. At the time I was eligible for housing trust loan and had saved a small sum but together, it was impossible to afford a 1 bedroom apartment without the additional income and housing trust benefit from a husband or other family member. I decided to buy land instead and save towards building.
I finally sought to start the project in 2012. I fell in love with a man who challenged and inspired me to go after my dreams. Despite my weight and fear of falling, the misstep of his heartbeats, despite our bad knees, we scrambled up the uneven pathway and stood on the land together We ate mangoes from the trees there, we looked out into the valley and he saw a home with me, helped me believe that this was possible.
I gathered a small team of professionals. I wanted people who loved the shape of the landscape, was excited about building green and who believed that construction was a smart alternative to buying in a ballooning real estate economy. If found an architect from the university who was preparing to hang out his shingle and I turned to my brother, who was an experienced contractor, who I had recently helped to fulfill his own dream of building a large apartment complex. My father was a builder, and I have lived in a house built by a Graham all my life. My brother on this project had meaning for me and I ignored my partners caution about business and family.
My project started with a target of 12M JMD and by the time the architect was finished with the design, (this took him 3 years to get approved) and the project was costed by the QS, it turned into 16M for which I got a loan. My brother insisted that the project based on where it was located would need an additional 4M just to get out of the ground. "This 16M is just for the house", he said, there is no road, it needs services, it needs a way! A major design change was imposed based on discussions with the architect and concerns about the topography that were being discussed after the plans were approved. I found the 4M to mobilize and also put aside a 15% contingency. We agreed to the design changes and broke ground while awaiting the revisions.
After spending 6M I had to halt the project. Their were no adequate revisions, the design was in breach, and the money was not spent based on the schedule of work. The QS approved work that was not done, the architect's inexperience caused a number of errors and my brother made some decisions to continue despite instructions to stop.
They say the road to hell, is filled with good intentions. By now, the project was at a standstill for a year and some months. My dream was abandoned and all that stood in its place was a concrete wall 8 inches thick, 20 ft tall and 30 ft long. The land was gone, destroyed and disrespected by an excavator. The mango tree was dead. The root, filled with cement. The architect fired, my brother estranged and the bitterness between my partner and I threatened to break what still struggles to survive.
In 2016 I prayed and moved with resolve to start on my own. A friend had known an architect and asked her to help me. She was a real pro, and she sketched an elegant solution to get the property out of breach. My brother made some effort to help even as his anger and frustration spiraled. I thought he would remember the might of my sacrifices for his dreams, but what he saw was ingratitude and he felt that he had done more than enough, he insisted that I wait so that he could show the costs before beginning again, I waited for months and by 2017 I was still waiting.
The same friend found be a contractor to help me salvage the rotting concrete structure and I have been plodding away till now. I have spent over 18 M dollars to get to this point, while carrying the burden of a construction loan with monthly interest and insurance payments. What started out as a single family home, for myself and my partner to have a child and grow old together, has turned into a never ending project. It has broken my heart and his, I have lost so much of myself and my dream in the process, but I cannot loose hope.
There is so much more i could say, the story is heavy with tragedy, betrayal and disappointment. There is the story of my job and how a tyrannical boss wore on me to break me into pieces, But to tell it all would be to dwell in bitterness and I am afraid it would cause more hurt. So I have tried my best to represent the facts here. I do see now, that we are entitled to nothing in life, that just as people come into your life and break you, it is people who help you rebuilt. No man is an island, (that song ehy) we cannot become who were are without the cruel and the kind.
I am here because need to find a way to have my home and I am asking for help.