This past weekend, the high school and the PTA had set up a volunteer opportunity for the high school students, teachers, and other school families. The orgranization that they worked with is a South American volunteer organization called Un Techo Para Mi Pais (a roof for my country). This organization builds 6 x 3 meter houses for the most poverty stricken families in Paraguay. The organization started in Chile, and has only been in Paraguay for about two years. The families need to sign up and do a lot of prepatory work (pay some money, volunteer their time as well, and demonstrate strong financial and circumstancial need).
Jesse and I volunteered to help for one day. And it was a long day. I really admire those people who worked both days, because it was a very difficult project. The school volunteers were divided into seven groups, each one building a house. Where the families lived was in a small community outside of Asuncion, right by a landfill and a small pond. The water level was very close to the surface, so every time we were digging holes to place in posts, the water rushed in a filled it. There was also a lot of trash, since the families in this community make their living by sorting out trash, selling what they can, and taking the recyclables to the recycling plant for money. The living conditions of the families were very, very poor. Houses are basically any scrap piece of metal or cardboard they can find to put together, electricity is wired in with system that literally electrocuted someone on Sunday, and in an easily flooded region where every time it rains, the houses flood. I don't think anyone living in the U.S. can really even imagine what this was like.
We worked all day on Saturday, (leaving our house at 6:15am and returning after 9pm) digging holes in the mud to place the posts that will support the floor. During our lunch time break, the family and two volunteers made us spaghetti and we all ate together. On Sunday, our neighbor Chaya and some other teachers and students returned and finished the house by placing on the pre-fab floors, walls, and the corrugated tin roof. Chaya told us that our family was very emotional when they were done, because this house is sturdy compared to their old house, and this will protect them and their belongings from a large amount of the flood waters. Spending a day surrounded by poverty really makes me grateful for what I have been given and reminds me that I should not take anything I have for granted.