Nine days grafting... happy birthday!
PUBLISHED: 10:21 22 November 2007 | UPDATED: 13:04 04 May 2010
ELY Sixth Form College director, Mark Sirot-Smith, received a special present for his 40th birthday – nine days grafting on a building site. His family got together to pay for Mark to celebrate the milestone anniversary by mixing concrete and laying brick
ELY Sixth Form College director, Mark Sirot-Smith, received a special present for his 40th birthday - nine days grafting on a building site.
His family got together to pay for Mark to celebrate the milestone anniversary by mixing concrete and laying bricks.
Even his 11-year-old son, Caleb, saved up his pocket money for a year so that he could give his dad £20 tucked inside a birthday card for his trip to help build houses for poor families in Argentina.
Mark joined a team of workers in Lujan on the outskirts of Buenos Aires and spent nine days on the charity project.
"I turned 40 this year and wanted to do something special and this project fitted the bill," he said. "I have three children and consider myself extremely lucky to be able to provide them with a wonderful environment to live in.
"What could be a better way to celebrate a birthday than by helping to build a better future for another family?"
Mark joined the charity Habitat for Humanity after learning about its work during a presentation at his church.
As part of a team of 10 volunteers from the USA and Canada, ranging in age from 24 to 65, he met the family who would eventually live in the house he was building and shared meals with other locals who had benefited from the charity.
"The team dynamics were exceptional," he said. "We were all united by a common goal to help the family we were working with and build them a home in which to bring up their four children.
"We were shocked by the level of poverty there but moved by the spirit and kindness of the locals who were astonished that we should be prepared to travel half way around the world to help their community.
"It was a privilege to work for these people and be part of such an exceptional team. It was one of the best things I have ever done, extremely emotional but wonderfully rewarding."
Mark, who lives in St Ives, plans to return to the country and has pledged to volunteer for another Habitat project in the future.
"I would recommend it to anyone who might be interested," he said.