NCB to build new house for senior who lost home in fireNovember 06, 2023
This article first appeared in the Cayman Compass.
A charred and weathered family bible was all that Marva Bodden salvaged from the fire that destroyed her home in George Town.
On a warm morning this week, she leafed through the tattered pages to find a favourite quote.
“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”
In the three years since the fire, the 79-year-old has been through some trying times.
She was initially homeless, staying on the sofas of family members at a time when fear of COVID-19 was rife throughout the community.
Now she lives in a cramped but comfortable converted shipping container in the yard of the fire-ruined property on Diaz Lane.
Through those times, she says, she never gave up hope.
And as construction workers marked out the red outline of a planned new home in the dusty ground where the old buildings once stood, she was able to see her faith begin to be vindicated.
Charity Acts of Random Kindness has coordinated a group of community donors and volunteers and raised funds to begin building a new ‘tiny home’ on the site.
It is the second full-build project for ARK, which helps renovate unsafe housing for the most vulnerable in the community.
There’s a long way to go, but once the project is complete, Bodden will have a new house, painted white with pink trim, funded and built by the Cayman community.
“I just feel joy,” she said, as she watched preliminary work begin on the land where she has lived since she was a child.
Additions and repairs had been made over the years, but the original structure, built by her father in the 1930s, had stayed in place till the fire in 2020.
“I lived here all my life,” she said recently, recalling a sandy road, with periwinkles blossoming in the verges, that ran down to the sea, by Mr. Arthur’s shop.
“That’s where we learned to swim – the big children used to throw us in and say ‘swim or drown’,” she laughed.
“I just love it here. I can’t even begin to tell you how much it has changed.”
Even now, she still manages to swim at the same spot every few weeks.
“This is where all her memories are of her family, her children, her grandchildren,” said Tara Nielsen, of ARK, whose Cayman CASA project focuses on helping people hold on to their family land and rebuild homes where they have roots.
“She’s just woven into this community here like the trees and the periwinkles,” said Nielsen. “That’s why it was so vitally important for us to rebuild right here.”
Fire destroyed almost everything
Bodden was sitting with her 2-year-old grandchild in the home, when the fire broke out. She lost everything in the blaze – all her clothes, her belongings and treasured family photo albums.
Just the bible, handed down from her mother, survived.
“I came back the next day and this were lying on the floor, not got a burn on it. I wiped it off and put it in the sun for a couple of days and it’s fine,” she said of the bible, which she keeps on her bedside stand.
ARK plans to use the same basic design as its last tiny home – a strategy which will allow for expedited planning approval.
The project is being sponsored by 1503 Property Group, NCB Group, ARTEX and ARCO architectural firm as well as donations from NCB Group’s construction partners.
Workers from NCB Group were onsite last week to remove the foundations of the old home and mark out the perimeter of the new project. The tiny homes – which ARK hopes can eventually be used all over Cayman for families in need – are pre-designed and quick to build, meaning Bodden could be in her new home within just a few months.
“We are praying to get her in by Christmas,” said Nielsen.
Matthew Wight, Managing Director at NCB Group, said its multiple businesses and industry partnerships would help keep costs low.
“We are so proud to partner with ARK to build a safe and comfortable home for Miss Marva,” he said.
“Our aim is to build as much of Miss Marva’s Tiny Home as possible through the donation of materials and equipment, volunteer hours and the support of our valued partners, to save ARK’s funding for the next worthwhile project.”