We rounded out 2010 with two more Global Village brigades, one in Santa Fe and one in Buenos Aires. An open group from Canada spent two weeks in Recreo and Barrio Mocoví up north. They worked on a variety of construction tasks and had the opportunity to spend a lot of time interacting with the residents there.
The team quickly got their shovels on septic well system that Vero, the owner of the seed house in construction there, was hoping to complete. The volunteers successfully finished the job, adding some depth to the great work the Lincoln School did back in September. They then dug the trenches necessary for the pipe system to connect the well, in the front of the house by the street, to the bathroom inside. They also worked with a group of families that had finished payment on their HFHA loans by painting their houses’ window and door frames as a way to acknowledge their successful participation in HFHA’s Progressive Improvements program.
The Canadian brigade was in Santa Fe during an especially important time for the community in Recreo as it was the 13th anniversary of the local health center. Recreo residents, including the mayor, came from all over for the celebration, which included music, dancing and games. In preparation for the big event, brigade volunteers repainted the walls and, with working with health center staff, cooked thirty (thirty!) pizzas to feed the hungry partygoers. Besides their assistance at the health center, the volunteers helped the community as a whole by painting trash cans for the neighborhood-constructed plaza and by leveling the football field so that the local youth football league could play safely. The group had a lot of fun in Santa Fe, and after returning to Buenos Aires, took advantage of the city holiday for the census to spend the day at a ranch to take a much-deserved break.
Then in late November/early December, HFHA hosted a Global Village brigade from Washington State sponsored by Thrivent Financial. The group worked on progressive improvements in La Matanza, Buenos Aires, as well as with the important task of taking each of our seed houses there to the next stage of construction.
At Victor’s house, located near the entrance of the Un Techo Para Todos neighborhood, the team finished excavating the four-meter-deep well for the septic tank first started by the Daimler corporate brigade. Then, working with the foreman, they laid the upper portion with bricks, cemented the lower section and prepared the iron for a concrete cover. They also flattened the land where the main room will go and created columns for the house’s concrete skeleton. They also worked at Daniel’s seed house. Here, behind the general store owned by his sister, the volunteers helped lay brick for the walls and began work on the roof. They painted the materials with insecticide and weatherproofing agents, and began putting the pieces into place.
When not at the seed house sites, the brigade split up into smaller teams to help other families in the community. At two houses, they painted the ceilings with insecticide and protectant. And of course, there was some moving of dirt, but for a wide variety of reasons: to make space so that a husband, a mechanic, can run his business from the property; to create a floor area for the children’s bedroom; and to raise the land level directly surrounding the house to prevent flooding. At another home, the volunteers helped a pregnant mother by breaking rocks to fill an area in front of the house to create a patio. Her oldest son quickly got ready to give the team a hand (his little brother wanted to help as well, but was finally convinced that looking for frogs was a task better fitted for someone his age!).
Despite the heat, the Washington brigade brought great enthusiasm and high spirits to the work site every day. Rita hosted the group at her house, and her kids had a great time playing games with the volunteers. Rita also runs a bakery out of her home using the solar oven provided by another NGO, so the whole team enjoyed homemade pan dulce (similar to fruit bread and a very traditional Christmas food) at the final lunch. This last meal together also marked the end of the HFHA Field Assistants final brigade. It was a very emotional goodbye (with lots of teary eyes), between the families and the Field Assistants, who have come to know each other quite well over the last six months; and between the Global Village volunteers and the HFHA family in Buenos Aires who, despite only spending a week together, shared this experience deeply.