Sunday, March 22, 2009

Un Techo para mí País – Uruguay

2009 03 UTPMP Desarmar

One thing that I love with all my heart and soul about Uruguay is the non-profit organization called Un Techo para mí País – Uruguay. (The name means “A roof for my country” and we “techeros” say “Techo” for short.) Techo started in Chile and is now in 15 countries or so throughout Latin America. The organization builds very simple houses in the slums (asentamientos) to give families who are living in very poor conditions a sturdier home. These families normally are living in self-constructed houses made of whatever material they could scrap together, often referred to as ranchos. The idea is to give them a reasonable place to raise their kids – a house with a roof that doesn’t leak and a floor that lifts them up out of the dirt. (Often, when it rains in the asentamientos the houses are flooded and filled with mud, which leads to health problems among the families, especially the young, not to mention the inconvenience.)

I got involved with Techo in December of last year. I sort of joined in the offseason, so until now I’ve been helping out in the resources department (fund-raising) and I’ve participated in two “constructions.” The quotes are because these have been abnormal constructions. In a normal construction, a large group of people constructs anywhere from 2 to 10 or more houses in a neighborhood (barrio) – a two day process. In the first “construction” I did we deconstructed a house and reconstructed it in a different spot – all in one day. We started about 9 am and finished around 9 pm.

Yesterday, I participated in another “construction.” We deconstructed a house and sent it back to the warehouse. Both of the deconstructions were the result of a separation between the couples that had originally “bought” the house (the family pays 10% of the roughly $1,000 home). The owner of yesterday’s house was no longer living there and hadn’t made her payments, so the house will not be constructed until she starts to make payments.

In April I’ll be doing a real, normal, full-fledged construction, and will blog about it. Until then, check out the pictures from yesterday (click here or see slide show below). If you play the slide show in reverse you can get an idea of what a construction would be like ;) If you, your company, or someone you may know is interested in collaborating to fight poverty in Latin America, consider making a donation to Techo Uruguay. Contact me for more info, or check out the How to Collaborate section of the Techo website (in Spanish).

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