New Start: Amber Karaz (centre) with the Mohan family she helped to build a house for.
New Start: Amber Karaz (centre) with the Mohan family she helped to build a house for.

Amber Karaz, a 26-year-old dental assistant, joined a Bermuda Overseas Mission project this summer, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity International (Habitat). She was one of 39 islanders who travelled to Kerala, India in July to build homes for families in poverty. Here, Miss Karaz tells how the project reaffirmed her faith as well as changing the lives of the needy.


It is one thing to travel to another country as a tourist, and another to go there with a definite purpose — the purpose of making a difference.

In July, the Bermuda Overseas Mission (BOM) in collaboration with Habitat for Humanity was able to change the lives of four families in Kerala, India.

The poverty level in India is so devastating, it makes you feel as though you have just stepped onto another planet.

We go on with our day-to-day peaceful lives here in Bermuda, while there are people struggling daily just to survive.

We live in absolute Paradise on this island. We take so much for granted, from having a bed with a mattress to sleep on and a roof over our head, to clean water even just to brush our teeth with.

Our Bermuda Overseas Mission group really got to experience the diversity of the country first hand, as the first 12 days were spent in the mountains of Kerala and then the last three  in the noisy streets of Delhi and Agra.  

Our visit to the Taj Mahal at the end of our trip was definitely a moment none of us will ever forget. To see a piece of architecture constructed purely just to represent a couple’s love was so powerful.

The countryside in Kerala is very peaceful and the locals were extremely friendly, excitedly greeting each of us with a smile and ‘hello’.

The family I was blessed to build for, along with 11 other BOM members, was so grateful and was very emotional on our departure.

Ambily Mohan and her husband and three children, Ahkila, Athira and Arjun, made it easy to wake up each rainy morning and put on our work boots.

We would be greeted with a huge smile and a hug, along with some great black coffee containing cardamom.

The family lived in a very small, unsafe mud brick house, which we demolished in moments just by pushing down the walls.

Our days were spent digging in muddy trenches with hoes, pitchforks and shovels. We carried what felt like endless amounts of cement blocks and granite rocks.

The local masons took me under their wing and I took great pride in helping to construct the walls of the Mohans’ new home.

We were not able to complete the construction of the house before our departure due to a the timeframe, but what we were able to construct gave this family great hope.

The little boy was so proud on the day we laid the cornerstone to their new home, as this is where he will one day raise his family as well.

In the old house, the bedroom and kitchen were one room and the two beds were right next to the stone fire pit for cooking. The beds did not even have mattresses on them.

The new house is much larger and has three bedrooms, a separate kitchen and living area. It also has a proper roof and doors that can be locked. It will also have windows.

The family will however, still use their old stone shed bathroom.

The new house is constructed from cement and cement blocks, with granite stone foundations. Red mud blocks are held together by red mud cement.

It took 12 volunteers, three local masons and a carpenter to construct it. The local workers were all related to the home owners.

In total, we built four homes in Idukki, Kerala. However we were there during monsoon season and there was a landslide, resulting in 40 more people without homes.

BOM will be raising money to send over to help with the construction of new homes for these people. It only costs about $1,500 to construct one house in the village.

The work we did on the build project was very strenuous, particularly on the back, as we were lifting and carrying 30 lb blocks all day long. Some of the granite rocks were very heavy as well.

The mud we dug out for the trenches was very heavy, and the amount of garbage embedded in it was incredible. It was either raining, or hot and muggy.

Some days as our muscles ached you felt like you just didn’t have the energy to keep digging, but then you would look up at the smiles of the children and it would give you the strength to keep going.

We did not complete the house because we lost a couple of days due to the landslide and not being able to get to our site. But since we have left, the locals have been working hard and almost have the roof on now.

I believe each member of Bermuda Overseas Mission arrived home walking a little taller and with our heads held a little higher. We felt rewarded and blessed for what we all had just experienced.

There was a sense of peace in our hearts and the two words which were strong in our minds were ‘Mission accomplished’.

One day on the build site a young man on my team and I had a conversation about how we felt about being on the trip, and what we expected to get out of it.

He said he had initially not wanted to come, and thought it might be boring, but he said it was far from this and that he now felt like a better person.

He also hoped to be able to impact more families around the world and share the same sense of hope with them.

This is exactly what BOM is all about — ‘Being the change that you wish to see in the world’ (Mahatma Ghandi).

I would encourage people of all ages to do some kind of volunteer/mission work in their lifetime.

They say the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others, and there are plenty of great charitable organizations even here in Bermuda in which to do that.

I truly believe we must give to receive and BOM has created a great way to really give back to the world.

I feel my heart is changed forever from my experience in India, and God willing, I hope to be involved in another build project one day.

God bless!


BOM was formed in 2006, at Christ Church in Warwick, and has since undertaken projects for Habitat in underdeveloped countries around the world. Members come from all faiths across the island. For more information on BOM see