From October 7th to October 16th, Hábitat para la Humanidad Argentina (HPHA) received the visit of a Build Louder group from Habitat for Humanity of the Chesapeake and the Washington DC office of Habitat for Humanity International. Build Louder is a Habitat for Humanity program, that is focused on influencing U.S. international policies in order to improve access to adequate and affordable housing around the world. The brigade also brought HFH of the Chesapeake’s donation of U$D 100,000 to support HPHA’s work, not only through advocacy, but also with funding.
The group of twenty-six people from the Annapolis, Baltimore and Washington DC areas support Habitat for Humanity in different ways, ranging from Habitat home-owners and staff, to members of the board of directors, donors and volunteers.
From Sunday to Wednesday, these enthusiastic volunteers worked on the construction of four Seed Houses in La Matanza (Buenos Aires). Lunches at the construction site were filled with briefings about the work HPHA does in Argentina and what the Build Louder movement is working towards, and how Argentina fits into its strategy.
On Thursday, the group visited “Villa 31”, a slum which lies behind the central Retiro train station. The tour was conducted by HPHA’s partner organization, ACIJ (Asociación Civil para la Igualdad y la Justicia/ Civil Association for Justice and Equality), which focuses on the rights and legal aspects of the slums to be urbanized in the city of Buenos Aires. In order to have a proper insight in the context in which HPHA is fighting poverty housing, the Build Louder brigade attended meetings with various organizations: AMCHAM (the American Chamber of Commerce of the US in Argentina), FAM (The Argentina Federation of Municipalities), the US Embassy in Buenos Aires and the Corporation of Puerto Madero. The information received allowed for a broader understanding of the housing deficit situation in Buenos Aires, which the Build Louder team hopes to be able to use to advocate and lobby Congress to pass better international aid packages that deal with the roots of poverty housing. Dan Petrie, Associate Director of Congressional Relations for HFHI, and one of the team leaders of the group, summed it up during one of the lunch seminars, “What is the point of giving a kid great ear medicine, if he sleeps on a dirt floor.” Priorities need to be made to help root out the issues that come with poverty, which is what Habitat for Humanity helps to achieve.
On their last day, Saturday October 15th, the “Build Louder” team participated in the closure to the “Seeds of Hope” Construction event. There, they were able to meet with another Global village brigade from Indian River Habitat for Humanity, a very important HPHA partner affiliate. Volunteers from Indian River participated in the Global Village program throughout the week of October 15-22. The group of ten included a Habitat home-owner, members of the Board of Directors and past employees. They worked on the Seed Houses in La Matanza, and their primary achievements were finishing the roofs, plastering the walls, and digging the septic tank hole, one shovelful of dirt at a time.
The brigade did much more than building, they had a huge impact in the community and bonded with the families they worked with. The volunteers did a tour of the neighborhood of La Matanza, during which they could see finished Seed Houses and home improvements and were to speak first hand with the people in the neighborhood that have participated of HPHA´s financial education workshops and other sustainable community developing activities. On Thursday, a visit of the historic neighborhood of La Boca was organized. It is in La Boca, a neighborhood in the southern area of the City of Buenos Aires, that HPHA is beginning its Recycling Homes project. It is worth mentioning that a lot of these achievements, in terms of housing solutions and community involvement, were made possible thanks to the generous tithes HPHA has been receiving from Indian River HFH since 2009.
By visiting the project sites, both teams learned first-hand about the context and solutions. Not only did they contribute significantly to the construction process in La Matanza, but also sowed the seeds of international relations and cultural understanding. Being part of a global “Habitat Family” has a powerful local impact in the communities where HPHA has a presence.