Tuesday, August 10, 2010

That much more of a Habit

Habitat for Humanity is such an incredible partner here in San Salvador, and has been for years now. While many might think that Habitat is in the business of building homes, that's really only a part of what they do, and in some places less of their focus than some of their other "products".

Three times a year Habitat sponsors a "Blitz Build" or what they've titled for this month; Construyendo Sobre la Fe. The first full week of August is time for national Festivales Agostinas or August Festivals. During this time (yes that's right, the entire week!) most businesses close, and everyone has vacation from work (even doctors, teachers, etc!!!). It was interesting to learn how the country dealt with fewer people at work than at any other time throughout the year.

Anyhow, this year Habitat chose the Villas de Jiboa project to be the site for the Blitz, which just so happens to be the site in San Vicente where we've been working the whole summer! Hundreds and hundreds of international and national volunteer teams are formed and team up to build as many houses as possible in a single week. Scattered throughout the week are cultural and community activities. Two of our volunteers even spent the entire week "camping" (in a volunteer house nicer than the HELP house, rough life I know) in San Vicente and worked their butts off all day every day. The rest of the team made the trip out to San Vicente on Wednesday of the holiday week to contribute in the build.

In preparation for the trip the team sat through a Habitat training. For many of the volunteers this was the first formal orientation from Habitat and they were able to learn about these other "products" that Habitat offers. We were very excited and impressed to hear the lengths Habitat goes to in providing affordable housing for Salvadoran families. Homes are available from full credit options with monthly payments, to fully subsidized projects where sweat equity is required instead of any economic contribution.

Habitat also provides home improvement/renovation projects, land loans, help on paying current land debts at a lower interest, used home contracts, as well as property deed support (helping legalize ownership over family land when no paperwork exists). These are all services that are severely needed in many developing countries.

Our contribution to the building is only a small help for the families that are already moving into completed homes in Villas de Jiboa, but helping these families is the least we can do.

This is how we improvise when so many volunteers are on one site that ladders become a commodity.

Cultural music (and dancing) was provided by the future recipients of the homes (and sponsored by Habitat of course), as well as typical food and great conversation. We're not lying when we say that HELP ended up being the life of the party, especially the kids loved having us there.

The whole team together on a single project is a rare site, and always a nice break from the norm. Locals always seem to pop into our pictures, I think they must just like us a lot.

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