TECHO - Building Houses in Argentina

 
 
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Building a roof is not that hard to do!

- Renee McConnell - Creative Director for San Telmo Group

Today I want share our story about our involvement with TECHO, a charity organisation in Latin America which builds homes and assist’s communities of more than three and a half million people who live in the slums of Argentina. Our group of partners travel to South America every year for inspiration and passion for this wonderful country that we call “our second home”. During our travels, we have covered some vast land, from inner city Buenos Aires to the rugged desert of Mendoza, the high altitude of the Andes and the lakes of Patagonia. As exciting as this sounds, we have also discovered that the land does not discriminate. There is a constant battle of extreme poverty and so our partnership began with TECHO. For the past seven years we have been raising funds to build affordable housing, $1 at a time. 

On our most recent trip in December 2018, we made a trip to Belén de Escobar to visit a settlement with the idea of delivering our cheque in person to the TECHO volunteers. We were so privileged to be invited to sit with these amazing humans who work together with the inhabitants that reflect and make decisions about the interests of the neighbourhood. What we understood from this is that they don’t just arrive in these shantitowns and build houses and move on. They work closer with the community to ascertain their individual needs. On the day that we arrived we were set to work with Maria, who needed help setting up her new home for her elderly frail mother. 

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First job was to unpack a bed that was loaded on the roof of a car. This was the easy part, there were eight of us including my own three kids and even my Mother in Law got involved. We were expecting to help build a kitchen but on the day we arrived, the TECHO team had prioritised Maria and her Mum. For this, I was glad as I think our painting skills were far superior than kitchen building! It had been raining so there was lots of mud and minor flooding but this didn’t stop us. With little or basic equipment we managed to paint the whole house, fix the door, clean out garbage and unblock gutters. I must say I was very impressed with my 16 year old who got his hands dirty and pulled weeds out of a blockage. Personally I don’t think he wanted to be shown up by the seemingly much larger and stronger 16 year old nephew of Maria. 

“Poverty is a state, it is not an identity Just because you are born poor, doesn’t mean you will be poor for the rest of your life.  Poverty is not only needs that need to be fulfilled but rights that are not being given" - Sixto Christiane General Coordinator - Techo  

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As the day came to a close we teamed up with some of the local kids for a game of street football (soccer). My eight year old Finn was impressed with their skills but upset when we could not convince a little Nino to accept a gift of his own wet muddy shoes. The Nino was playing seemingly happy in his sole-less shoes; running and jumping in contaminated puddles. I wished I could have returned with new shoes for everyone. Next time! 

Nothing gave us more pleasure and gratification than to give to TECHO, the $10000 that the San Telmo Group had raised. This equates to 10 houses! This couldn’t have been achieved if we had not been supported by our customers and friends. Thanks Dave and Michael Parker for your big rides which raised more than half of this. In the near future we plan to raise more money and more awareness to this constant state of emergency and the organisation that is close to our heart.

“TECHO is an organisation present in 19 countries in Latin America, which seeks to overcome the situation of poverty that millions of people live in popular settlements, through the joint action of its inhabitants and young volunteers.

Recognising this situation of constant emergency, the model was taken to El Salvador and Peru, and that is how the organisation undertook its expansion under the name “A Roof for my Country” until it became the institutional challenge that today, more than 20 years ago later, it is shared throughout Latin America.” 

 
Clive Morley