It’s not only what’s on the outside that counts. Improving the interior of a house makes a huge impact on the family’s quality of life, and the hard work of our Global Village team from the United States and South Africa illustrated this with great success. Similarly, having a presence within the community as a whole is just as significant as helping specific families achieve adequate housing.
During the last days of August into the first week of September, the brigade labored away in Recreo, arriving in Santa Fe just in time for low temperatures and heavy rain. While the weather put a dent in the original plans to work on multiple projects outside, the volunteers, with the help of Field Assistant Katie and HPHA staff in Santa Fe, were able to redirect their efforts to more feasible (and drier!) tasks.
The volunteers worked primarily on two houses sitting on land currently owned by HPHA. The families involved in this type of housing solution – in this case, Walter & Soledad and Carmen – are the primary actors in the construction of the houses on this land, using the interest-free loans offered by HPHA to purchase the necessary materials. The loan payments they make on a regular basis will eventually allow them to buy the land and structure so that they can be private homeowners.
After sanding and painting the interiors at both sites, the group put their muscles and stamina to the test by helping Walter make an enclosure around backyard. This work was much more strenuous as it required a lot of digging and carrying heavy loads of dirt. The volunteers also took time to organize the tool shed available to the HPHA families, so that it will be easier for them to make use of all those resources in the future.
In the spirit of community development, volunteers made street signs that are now in place. The group painted them in Habitat colors (blue/green/white) and even put the logo on them. For the football fans of the neighborhood (so basically, everyone!), they made goals with wood and netting for the field in the Plaza Arco Iris. Luckily, everyone was able to see the fruits of their labor when the goals were put to use in a game with the kids on the last day of the trip. The kids seemed really happy to have them; in fact, during a subsequent brigade in Santa Fe, it seemed like the kids spent every waking hour taking advantage of their new goals.
What was most impressive on this trip was the initiative taken by the brigade to do meaningful work despite how uncomfortable it was to be outside. It was volunteers’ idea to make the football nets and they, in their own time, went to buy the netting at a sports goods store. One of the couples had the lovely thought to bring some fruit trees to the area and plant them in a little ceremony with the families as a personal token and commemoration of the collective experience.
Also amazing to witness were the connections that the volunteers made with families in the neighborhood. Toward the end of the week, the group was split into four groups and each went to eat with a different family. Speaking with the participants later, this was one of the experiences that had the greatest personal impact. There was a sincere mutual respect between Walter, Gabriel (a friend of Walter’s who came to help) and the brigade members who worked alongside them on the backyard enclosure. It was incredible to see how people were able to communicate despite language barriers. Of course, the volunteers with some Spanish skills were vital in facilitating exchanges and translating between the brigade and the families, but it was also interesting to see how some group members with the least Spanish were able to make extremely strong connections.