April 18, 2012
Global Village team is the first to volunteer in a new project launched by Habitat for Humanity Argentina and the Cultural Association for Integral Development.
SANTA FE, Argentina (April 18, 2012) – A team of 14 volunteers from the United States, Canada, Bermuda, and Malaysia recently became the first team to participate in Habitat for Humanity Argentina’s  new project in Villa del Parque, Barracitas Sur and Villa Oculta in the city of Santa Fe.
In 2003, the organization’s first projects in Santa Fe were complete homes and progressive improvements in the town of Recreo. The organization has since hosted 26 international work teams through Habitat’s Global Village  program. This year, Habitat Argentina launched a new partnership with the Cultural Association for Integral Development (ACDI), a local organization that assists families in the neighborhoods of Villa del Parque, Barranquitas Sur, and Villa Oculta.
The area, where numerous settlements popped up after a spontaneous land grab, has two precarious features. One part is a government-declared ecological reserve, as it sits on the bank of the Paraná and is susceptible to flooding. The remaining neighborhoods were built above a landfill. With the intent to transform lives within these challenging contexts, Habitat for Humanity Argentina invited the first volunteer team to engage and empower local residents with a spirit of mutual assistance.
The site that awaited the international volunteers on their first day of work was, at the onset, one of dirt alleyways that had been filled with mud from the previous night’s rain, followed by a ten-minute walk through freshly strewn trash. While several volunteers had previously worked with Habitat for Humanity in countries such as Romania, Portugal, Brasil, the United States and Canada, the conditions that they faced here were unique. Inadequate housing is widespread, and some of the volunteers felt “slum” to be an understatement. Many families have four to nine people living together in single-room homes. Walls consist of corrugated tin, broken bricks, cinder blocks, or flattened pieces of trash. Doors are few and far between; and one is greeted by darkness upon entering most houses, due to a lack of windows and electricity.
Despite the challenges, the team was greeted by families that were ready to put their hands to work alongside the first Americans and Canadians they had ever met. The children smiled playfully from behind their parent’s legs, shy yet eager to meet the new people that had arrived at their doorstep. After approaching the families with a smile and a timid “hola”, the volunteers began to jump in wherever they could.
The team collectively logged more than 250 volunteer hours in construction work and community development activities. Working alongside three different families, the team helped to build one “Seed House” and advance on two “Progressive Improvements.” Part of their job was to dig out two septic tanks, one of which became fondly known as “the hole”. The team spent three days of backbreaking work pumping out the water, mud, and trash to make way for the cement rings that would become the support structure. They moved over 3,000 bricks and countless loads of cement, sand, and rock, laid the foundation for a future living room, demolished a wall and began to raise a new one. They also painted eight windows and three pieces of furniture in the community center, aided in the installation of a new roof, and installed new bathroom plumbing. They also spent a morning with students at the local school, helping them to paint hopscotch squares and other games in the courtyard.
In addition to the physical labor, the volunteers became fast friends with the locals – sharing Argentine máte and a few stories along the way. In the end, they remarked that the experience had opened their eyes to a different Argentine reality and that the build challenged them to look at their own lives in a new way.
Several volunteers called the trip life changing, because of the personal interaction they had with the community members, while the local families described the experience as transforming because of what they were able to learn. Habitat calls that success.
Courtney is a long-term volunteer with Habitat for Humanity Argentina.
About Habitat for Humanity
Habitat for Humanity International is a global Christian nongovernmental housing organization that brings together people of all races, nationalities and religions to build homes, communities and hope. Since 1976, Habitat has served more than 500,000 families by building and improving homes; by advocating for fair and just housing policies; and by providing training and access to resources to help families improve their shelter conditions.
Learn more about Habitat for Humanity in Latin America and the Caribbean.