Wikizine brings you an update on it's September report: ‘Scottish Solicitors to Build Homes for Charity’. The Scottish Solicitor in question, Brian Inkster, and his wife, Nicola Walls, returned from Argentina earlier this month having completed their Global Village Challenge for Habitat for Humanity. Brian now tells Wikizine about the experience:
We arrived in Buenos Aires not really knowing exactly what we were letting ourselves in for. We knew we would be building homes with a group of 13 volunteers from the UK but only found out a few weeks before leaving the UK that this would be in a Buenos Aires rather than elsewhere in Argentina. Indeed it transpired that although we were the thirty-first Global Village Challenge team to work in Argentina we were the first ever to do so in Buenos Aires. We would be helping with incremental improvements in the 22 de Enero neighbourhood located in La Matanza which is one of the poorest municipalities in Buenos Aires with a population of 1.1 million. 22 de Enero was formed through a land seizure with a neighbourhood resistance process taking place in order to ensure that families were able to stay there. Different social organisations helped to sustain the land grab and the neighbourhood is now home to around 22,000 residents.
Ownership of the neighbourhood is complicated with the national, provincial and city governments all being involved. Whilst there is now an agreement in place giving the inhabitants of 22 de Enero security of tenure none of them have, as yet, obtained title to the land that they occupy (20 years or more after the occupation first began). There will be a lot of work for conveyancing solicitors to do at some future date!
It is usual on Habitat for Humanity projects to be working on the build of a complete house. However, our Global Village Challenge was to be more varied with us working on several projects with homes at different stages. This involved levelling a site ready for a home to be built on it, building the main exterior walls of a new home, digging holes, mixing and pouring concrete, making wire concrete supports, building an interior wall to create a bathroom, moving rubble and painting. We met many families as a result and saw a variety of living conditions. It was particularly gratifying to help the poorest of these families who were just starting out to build homes to replace the shacks they were living in.
We also finished the decoration of a new community centre in time for its official opening. This would be used for community projects: principally a project helping victims of domestic violence and another providing food for the elderly.
The families we helped were all very welcoming and grateful. They were, however, somewhat perplexed that we were willing to travel from so far away to help them when most people in Buenos Aires would be unlikely to step foot in La Matanza. Alejandro wrote a heartfelt thank you note that read: “One million of thanks for your help. If all the world helped like you all the world would be better”.
It was a humbling experience and one that has left us wanting to do more to help our new friends in 22 de Enero. Our fundraising efforts resulted in £6,661 being raised to date which will go directly to assist projects in 22 de Enero. Special thanks must go to our corporate sponsors: Inksters, Page/Park, Innovation Digital, The Trial Warrior, Harley Haddow, Theatreplan, Silverman Sherliker, Valentilaw, Barr Brady, Océ, Jeffrey Aitken and Armitage Associates. Fundraising continues (for a little while longer) at www.justgiving.com/argentina2009 and you can read more about the Challenge at www.inkstersgive.com