Sunday, March 18, 2012

Days 3 & 4: House Building

Hello everybody! It's time for an update from the building crew. We spent the last two days working on a house for Paula, an elderly woman who lives close to the railroad tracks in San Salvador. The tracks are no longer in use, and thousands of people now live on the land in makeshift houses. Most of these people do not own the land they live on. Many of the houses are made from bolted-together sheets of corrugated aluminum. Some are made from cinder blocks or brick with concrete floors. Many houses do not have electricity or indoor plumbing. Because so many people in this area do not have adequate living spaces, the local parish sponsors house building projects. They provide the materials and volunteer labor to build wood frame houses with composite walls and durable lamina roofs. Because of the difficulty of finding people with the time to build the houses, they are only able to construct 3-4 of these a year, and there is a long waiting list.Nan, the Maryknoll lay missioner who works with the local parish, is our leader and guide on this project. Our goal is to build a new bedroom and covered kitchen for Paula this week. Our crew includes Jeremiah, Natalie, Brian L., Brian O., Donald, Derlis, Dillon, Peter, Rick, Jamie, Fr. Dave, and Estevan, a local carpenter who Nan hired for the job. Our bus driver Jorge has also pitched in both days that we have worked, as have a number of young people from the local parish. Upon arriving at the building site on Monday, our first task was to clear the rocks and level the ground where the house will be built. So we all jumped in with shovels and picks and somehow managed to split a lot of rocks without splitting anyone's head. The next task was to dig
postholes and mix cement to set the posts for the frame. Monday afternoon and most of Tuesday
was devoted to this work. We coated the frame with motor oil in order to keep it water proof.Building has turned out to be challenging work, particularly the task of getting the frame aligned and level. We would not be able to do it without Estevan's expert guidance and the help of the other Salvadorean volunteers. Vanessa, Eric, Pablo, and Brenda are teenagers from the local parish who have built many of these homes. They each took time out from school and other obligations to help us on this project. They are missioners in their own country and we have all been inspired by their generosity (and saved from making mistakes by their skill). Jorge, our bus driver, has also been very generous by volunteering his time to help build Paula's new home. Paula has been very hospitable to us. Tuesday she fed us delicious snacks of Yucca root and tortillas.All in all, we have been having a good time. There has been a faux pas or two - Jeremiah managed to cut Paula's leg with a pickaxe on Monday (he swears it wasn't intentional, but we are skeptical). Fortunately she was not seriously injured and very graciously forgave him. And then there was the "Eclipse" t-shirt that Donald wore on Monday. He claims it is from the Red Cross and not the film, but we're skeptical of that as well. After taking Wednesday off to visit the sites of the murders of Archbishop Romero and the Jesuit priests and Maryknoll missioners in the 80's, we are returning to the building site on Thursday. If God is willing and nobody loses an eye, we will finish Paula's house on Friday.-- Peter

(Peter is a first-year seminarian at the Pontifical College Josephinum. He hails from the Diocese of Charlotte, NC.)

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