It has been one year since Alicia and I arrived in Guatemalan town of Tecpan to begin construction of the Project Somos Children’s Village. The rental house we moved into was completely bare, except for light bulbs and toilets, so we had to completely furnish and equip the house, not to mention, build the kitchen. The actual excavation and construction of the Village began in May 2011.
I was amazed at how quickly our 10 local workers and foreman learned the art and science of earth-bag construction.
The walls rose so fast that our volunteers had to work long and hard to complete the door and window frames before the construction team reached that level.
They were laying down 3 complete revolutions of earth-bags of the 1400 square foot house everyday. They became a motivated and unified team. It was impressive.
Once they completed the walls, the task of choosing the roof truss and roofing material loomed before us. After researching the best, locally available materials, we decided on large bamboo roof trusses (6”-8” diameter – 33 feet long) with a thermal blanket sandwiched between an opened/flattened bamboo ceiling, and steel corrugated roofing.
Skylights were also included in the design. The completion of this stage of construction, although aesthetically beautiful and structural sound, in my assessment, was painfully slow and too expensive. We have made design adjustments for the third family home.
With the walls and roof complete and the plumbing and electrical systems installed, our team turned its attention to the stuccoing, interior and exterior, the result of which was it covered the individual curves of the earth-filled bags. As charming as the bag shapes were, the stucco walls unified the individual bags into a single wall. Even better, final coat of the exterior stucco carried the warm, earthy terracotta color.
The interior plastering covered the 7000 plastic garbage-filled pop bottles that insulate all the interior walls. The positive collateral effect is that there is NOT 7000 pounds of garbage in the streets and canyons in our surrounding area.
A memorial garden area, in memory of Alicia’s mother, was designed and built with the assistance of her family. It now has earth-bag benches for 128, four gardens and a raised rock center for a fire pit. This area will be known as, Punto de Reunion (Gathering Point) and will serve as a focal point in the Village, for outdoor meetings, presentations and performances.
A team from Agua Para la Salud, came from Quiche and taught our team how to construct our 10,000 liter rainwater cistern and the septic system. The cistern will collect 5000 liters of rainwater from four sides of the roofs with only 1 inch of rainfall. This will eliminate our need to use our electric pump from our well during 6 months of the year of the rainy season. At 7000 feet the sweet rainwater doesn’t fall through any city air pollution.
So here we are, after being here a year and a few days. The construction is satisfying, and yet I do remember that the Somos Village is about abandoned kids having a loving and secure home and I realize that we have a distance to go to reach that first benchmark. I also have to remind people, because of their alterative building enthusiasm that we are a project, for and about children, first and foremost. I am working to be present and patience in every step and yet I am eager to receive the children.
I am so grateful for all of you who have travelled beside us in this journey with your generous spectrum of heartfelt support and encouragement. Truly, it would not be possible for Alicia and I to do this without you – practically, emotionally or mentally. I can testify in the reality of the saying,
“It takes a village to raise a child and a community to build a village”.
The Best to you, one and all,