Long-term International Volunteers from all over the World
Between the months of January and April, the staff and “onda” here at Habitat for Humanity Argentina (HPHA) has expanded with the arrival of a number of long-term volunteers from all over the world. We now have a truly multicultural organisation with Nenna Venema from Enschede, Holland (Loan Portfolio Assistant & Assistant to Salta Project); Júnior Mendonça from Fortaleza, Northeastern Brazil (Loan Portfolio Assistant); Laurent Guillot from Annecy, France (Assistant to Recycling Urban Homes Project); Daniela Rosales from San Salvador, El Salvador (Assistant to Proposals); Megan Kaseburg from Seattle, Washington, United States (Volunteer Coordinator) and Sarah Wattie from Wellington, New Zealand (International Donors). This week we will get together for an Argentina Asado (please join us if you happen to be in the neighbourhood) on the roof-top of our office in Florida Oeste, Buenos Aires.
The long-term international volunteer program is integral to the organisational structure here at HPHA and enables us to optimise the resources entrusted to us by of our partners and donors so that we can assist a greater number of disenfranchised families in Argentina to access a simple, healthy, safe and affordable house.
Atlanta National Affiliate Conference 22 -25 March 2011
Habitat for Humanity Argentina’s National Director, Ana Cutts, and Coordinator of Resource Development, Connie Ledesma, attended our first ever Habitat National Affiliate Conference in Atlanta, United States 22-25 March 2011 along with a number of other Habitat affiliates. The two, who have been carrying Habitat Argentina’s vision since the organizations beginning, developed a lot of positive relationships, shared some Argentinean tango, ‘Dulce de Leche’ and spirit, and returned to the office to continue pressing forward with HPHA’s goals for 2011 and recent changes to the organizations structure.
Global Village: Open Brigade from United States to Recreo, Santa Fe
Between 19 and 26 March 2011 we were visited by a Global Village Brigade organized by Dan Stowers from the United States who all dedicated a week of their time to contribute to Seed House construction and progressive improvements in the community of Recreo, Santa Fe. The international volunteers were from distinct locations in the United States and due to the shared interest expressed by the team, Argentina was selected as the destination of choice!
Most of the group had attended Habitat International Brigades before and so brought a rich experience to their work in the community. A reflection from the group was the high level of interaction with the community in relation to their previous brigades; an important component of HPHA’s Mission to build “Mucho Más Que Casas” or “Much More Than Houses.”
The group encountered rain on a couple of days so to make the most of their time visited an local orphanage and a couple of the museums in Santa Fe. This was Victoria’s first brigade as National Coordinator of Brigades and at the evaluation, everyone was blown away by her competency. One volunteer chimed that if he was ever unemployed, he would ask Vicky what to do. Victoria was supported by a volunteer from Canada, Andrea MacDonald, who the brigade fondly noted “became a part of the team.”
Global Village: St. Luke’s Brigade to La Matanza, Buenos Aires
From 4 to 10 March 2011 we were visited by friends from St. Luke’s Church in Grand Rapids Michigan, United States who participated in their third Thrivent Global Village Brigade in Argentina.
The enthusiastic team contributed their time, labor, skills and energy to furthering the construction of Seed Homes for the family of Victor, Rosanna & Lucas and the family of Daniel & Rosa. They also worked on digging a temporary water source for a single mother in the community and her two children of 8 and 15 years, who are awaiting the installation of plumbing in their home.
The Seed House of Victor and Rosanna is nearing completion with the final tasks such as the concreting of the walls, the home electricals and the painting underway. St. Luke’s Thrivent assisted the family to dig structural foundations to enable an extension of the home to include bedrooms – Victor and Rosanna are expecting another this will be a priority for their growing family.
Victor has been working dedicatedly on the home and was particularly impacted by the dedication of the brigade. Equally, our international volunteers were touched by Victor’s motivation, energy and initiative in progressing the development of his Seed Home. On the last day, Victor gifted each volunteer with handmade plaque, a symbol of his thankfulness for their support in serving him to realize his family’s dream.
The international brigade participated in the final stages of Daniel & Rosa’s Seed Home and began painting the interior, exterior and doors of the home as well as assisting Daniel in plans to begin the tiling of the bathroom floor. Former long-term Habitat volunteer, Gillian Winkler, who participated in the Daimler Day-of-Care in November 2010, commented that she was blown away by how the family had progressed the home since late last year.
Members of the community noted that they were impressed at quantity of physical work carried out by the women! Others were moved by the commitment of our international friends to the housing problems within their communities and hoped that it would encourage the community as a whole to work together more.
Brigade activities are part of a larger program that looks to empower the communities in which we work through education, training, and loans for housing solutions.
Significantly, this was the last Global Village Brigade for Milagros Bernabo, National Coordinator of Brigades, who has moved into a new role after 3 years with Global Village. Victoria Bierdermann, former long-term volunteer from Switzerland, is now our new National Coordinator of Brigades.
“Habitat Tent” Event in La Matanza, 26 February 2011
On 26 February 2011 staff and volunteers from Habitat for Humanity Argentina and volunteer lawyers from ‘Marval O´Farrel y Mairal’ visited the 22 de Enero community for a successful Habitat Tent Event. To ensure a high level of community awareness, a few weeks prior to the event a brigade of HPHA volunteers from Argentina visited the homes in the community to explain the purpose of the day.
The morning consisted of workshops; the first on Financial Education and the second, an educative and information-gathering mission facilitated by our volunteer lawyers, Marval O’Farrel y Mairal, to enable a historical recollection of the land plots and the legal standing of the families in the 22 de Enero community.
Throughout the day, HPHA’s architects, Andrés Maidana and Carlos Horacio Cesar, were available for hour-long technical consultations with families drawing up practical and achievable plans to transform their homes into adequate living spaces. Andrés noted that some of the homes in the community offer worse provision than a tent.
Our architects work in a similar way to a doctor, analysing the situation and then offering a diagnosis. “It is a creative process, working to find a solution within the resources available to the family.” Later, HPHA follows up with families who require ongoing assistance. The families are often the best people to realize their solution and in many instances are best placed to do so. For example, many are able to source supplies from within the community at half the price of the goods available in ordinary retail stores.
For example, during this Habitat Tent, Andrés visited a high-need home to discuss how the family might transform their home to include bedrooms for the girls; one who is suffering from bad asthma due to the housing conditions, and the other who has Hemophilia.