Why do we Say that we Build Confidence?
During June, we celebrated with five families that had finished managing the construction of their homes in the Barrio Los Ceibos, González Catán, La Matanza as part of Habitat para la Humanidad Argentina’s (HPHA) Neighborhood Development Project.
Home Dedications remind us of the importance of what we do here at HPHA every day. Seeing how families overcome all obstacles and regain self-confidence is the greatest accomplishment of our mission.
There is something that often comes up as families remember their Home construction process: the distrust they felt when they heard about the chance of getting an interest-free loan and technical and social support to build their own house. In many cases, when they first meet and begin to work with the HPHA team they are full of skepticism and disbelief.
It is through the Family Economy, Legal Literacy and Self-building workshops, as well as the social visits HPHA provides, that we are able to build the mutual understanding and confidence necessary to encourage those who wish for change through better housing to apply for and successfully participate in our Nieghborhood Development Program.
A house built by a family with the help of HPHA begins with the idea and the dream of a secure and healthy home. Inspired by this idea and dream, planning begins and designs are put on paper.
Every milestone of the building process is a result of the family’s own abilities and the confidence that grows with each visit, each stage finished, and each smile of a HPHA volunteer who joins them to pursue their dream. This is what we call: empowering through shelter.
When each family finishes building and has moved into their new home, we propose a special celebration to share the moment with all those who were part of the process. As a Christian organization we give thanks to God, and ask His blessing to embrace and keep the house warm from that moment on. Each family guides the celebration according to their own beliefs. In this Dedication, the owners look back and reflect on everything they have achieved so far. They know they are living witness for all those who seek strength and the opportunity to have a better life.
The building of these five houses was made possible thanks to the sponsorship of Bloomberg, IRSA and P&G, and the support of Acindar, BAEL, Holcim and Shell. In addition, the invaluable contribution of hundreds of volunteers helped make this all possible.
Volunteers are the heart and hands of Habitat. In 2018, a total of 877 volunteers became involved in different ways – all with the common goal of giving more people the chance to have a decent place to call their home.
But there is a type of volunteering that specially reinforces our mission: team building. Throughout the process, companies provide “work teams” (as we call them) who help families in Barrio Los Ceibos in Gonzalez Catan and Barrio El Saladero in Ing. White, Bahía Blanca. Some of the same companies that provide work teams, also provide the finances necessary to build the houses.
Helping others to build their homes is a transforming experience and provides invaluable help to the families. Not only does it reduce the costs of construction, but it also provides logistical support to the members of the family. Managing the construction of their homes often takes place at the end of a full days’ work and/or a full day of classes. Under these circumstances, finding a bus at their door full of people willing to give a hand and do whatever is necessary, encourages and supports the families to find the strength to finish the work.
At the beginning, many families find it difficult to trust and work with people they don’t know and who are willing to help them selflessly. But building bridges between different realities is one of the best things about volunteering. Often families will tell us that when the HPHA volunteers arrived it was the first time they had so many visitors gather in their home.
In HPHA we call this Semillas de Esperanza (Seeds of Hope): the program by which companies committed to achieve a more equitable society in our country give their employees the chance to take part in our building days together with the beneficiary families of our projects.
The energy that a group can create and put into volunteering is a transforming experience with a positive impact both individually and collectively: thousands of people have experienced this and are aware of how moving it is to help others to build their home, thus allowing more and more families to have access to adequate housing.
I would encourage any person who has doubts, to try it:
get involved! It means giving a little bit of our time but, at the same time,
it entirely changes the way we see reality.
It makes us responsible for what we see around us.
It makes us stop complaining about everything and it allows us to do something
to change the reality that hurts so much.
Natalia de Quintiles
Norma and Jorge
On June 8th, 2019, we shared Norma and Jorge’s family Seed House Dedication – together with their relatives, neighbors, and friends. It was a moment of celebration that also allowed us to get to know more about their story and to reflect on their journey to get there.
At the end of 2017, they began building their house with HPHA as part of HPHA’s Neighborhood Development Program in the Barrio Los Ceibos, within the González Catán area of Buenos Aires Province. Jorge tells us: “It was a process for us and we learned much, from other points of view. Without any previous knowledge, we built a house. Our dream was to have our own brick house after living 26 years in our little house.”
They have been together for 28 years now. For 26 of those years they have lived with three of their twelve children in a shack. The overcrowding and the poor housing conditions (e.g. with subsiding ground and soils, walls made out of inferior wood and a metal roof that leaked whenever it rains) affected Norma’s health and she now suffers from diabetes, hypertension, breathing difficulties, and reduced mobility. The structure of this shack they call home has also greately deteriorated over time.
Norma is a housewife who teaches Bible lessons at the Sunday School of her Church, where she also cooks for the children who attend that Church. Jorge, who is an electrician, worked for many years as a substitute school janitor and lost his job at the very moment they began building their new house. But they found a silver lining in the midst of their despair: with the assistance provided by HPHA’s Neighborhood Development programs Norma learned how to buy materials and manage other construction administration tasks, while Jorge handled the actual construction work. Jorge was able to do this self-building, with the help of HPHA, while also working temporary jobs and looking for full time work. Luckily, by the day of their Home Dedication, Jorge had found a permanent job and had been working for three weeks already.
In the past, the family had tried to improve the conditions of the place where they lived: However, in spite of having their own land, they had been swindled and forced to leave their home unfinished due to the lack of money. Even so, the drive and determination of this family, together with HPHA’s help, allowed them to take on the challenge of changing their housing reality, something they claim they could not do before.
The most moving moment at the Home Dedication came when they remembered the groups of volunteers and friends such as Juan, a neighbor of the family and a mason, who did not hesitate to help them in their most difficult times and when Jorge was unemployed. They also recalled the Global Village volunteers from the United States: As Jorge put it “We understood each other speaking the language of love.”
Today we celebrate this family’s new beginning: We recall the moment when, with only two layers of bricks, Norma was already thinking about the door she wanted for the bathroom. We recall the joy and devotion of the volunteers Jorge and Norma met and who helped them build their new house. For Nico, one of the children of the family, a new home means having a place to study, with light, completely different from the conditions in the shack. This gives him the chance to think about what to study next. A possible option is English, as he became really interested in other cultures after meeting the Global Village volunteers.