September 17, 2009
PARAGUAY—Jorge Mendoza and Vanesa Gamarra have a busy week. In just five days they will move into their new home with the help of a group of energetic students, who traveled from the United States to help in the construction.
“All of the families have the desire to have a proper house. We live in a rental, and before that with my in-laws,” explained Jorge during the preparations for the site dedication. The traditional meal and family reunion collided with a gorgeous Saturday morning. They accompanied the team of construction workers and the students, who had traveled from Southern Methodist University of Texas in the United States to help with the construction. Everyone was very emotional for having achieved so much in such a short amount of time.
Jorge and Vanesa met 15 years ago. He works for Grupo Copetrol, a gas fractionation plant, and she works as a Judicial Officer. They have a two year old son, Facundo Israel, who they say is happier than anyone about their new home.
“Marisol” was the Spanish name given to one of the volunteers, a 22 year-old college student majoring in both Spanish and International Relations. Her real name is Katie Brattain. Katie was the “team leader” for a group of volunteers that came together with one intention: to go to Paraguay and help families. Accompanying her on this trip were John Duvenci, Megan Bell, Worlynn Ow, José Campos, Sarah Comodeca, Todd Chiscano and Douglas Reinelt.
This was not the first time for Katie; she had started as a volunteer for Habitat for Humanity in high school in the north of the United States. When she moved to Texas for college, she organized a small group of volunteers through Habitat’s Global Village program. “We spent the whole semester planning this trip with my friends. There were days when we thought we couldn’t do it, especially with the economic situation right now. We raised funds for about six months and here we are; delighted with Paraguay. The people are very kind.”
This team worked for five consecutive days, eight hours a day, working side by side with masons in tasks such as moving bricks, cleaning walls, laying roof tiles and mixing cement. “This is hard work, but this is what we came to do; my muscles are stronger now,” said Katie.
The Gamarra family agrees. “The volunteers are hard working people. We don’t know where they got their strength. They came with an objective: they wanted to know our culture, our food, how we are as Paraguayans.”
For Jose Ramon Campos, a young Mexican volunteer on the team, travelling to Paraguay has been impressive. “We started and finished the house…finished it! And this is important. The family could not help much in the construction but cooked very well. The people here were very good to us.”
For her part, Sarah Comodeca, another volunteer, concluded, “We came here and we felt like part of the house and this family…”
Through programs such as Global Village, Habitat for Humanity Paraguay hosts some 200 international volunteers annually, who help in construction projects around the country.
For more information on Habitat’s work in Paraguay, visit their online profile .
Claudia Caballero is the Volunteer Mobilization Coordinator for Habitat for Humanity Paraguay.