A few facts you may not know about Paraguay. The country is the world’s sixth largest exporter of beef; Paraguay has twice as many cows as people. The cows are so special they are sold and flown live to Peru! It also exports soy, cotton and hydroelectric power. It’s a low-key country that flies under the global news radar with good reason. Paraguayans are a peace-loving, friendly lot who approach life with a relaxed attitude and a smile.
Of the just under 7,000,000 people who reside here, approximately 43% live in inadequate shelter, with great demand for expansion and improvement especially with regard to sanitation. This is where organizations like Habitat for Humanity Paraguay come in to address that need. Riding the social media wave, many potential homeowners learn of the program online, on sites like Facebook.
Like all Habitat homeowners, applicants begin by filling out paperwork and presenting it at the national office so a face to face interview may be conducted. If they meet the selection criteria they proceed to the next step. All applicants need to have a source of income to repay their loan which is held either by Habitat Paraguay or a local bank, dictated by the size and cost of the home. A typical Habitat homeowner in Paraguay repays $100 a month for seven years – total housing cost $8,400 US.
Designed in conjunction with local architects, all houses meet prescribed standards and are safe and affordable, built upon land to which the homeowner must have a title. Otherwise, there is a risk that the house could one day be sized by the rightful landowner. All four houses we worked on this week will use a simple self-sustaining septic system, with waste flowing into two tanks, filtered and then absorbed into the ground. These are the pits you’ve been seeing us dig in the photos!
Because Habitat Paraguay does not work on the weekends (when homeowners would be available to volunteer) they do not require applicants to perform sweat equity; it may put them at risk of losing their jobs. Although homeowners are not required to contribute sweat equity, they are encouraged to participate in construction when international and national volunteers are on site, to attend events or even help with meals for volunteers.
We all feel privileged to be working alongside all four homeowners this week, who took time from their jobs in order to be able to be with us. Their dedication, pride and work ethic only inspire us to work that much harder to help them to make their dreams of home ownership come true.
It was also nice to have a break from our routine and visit a local school where one of our homeowners, Angelica, is a teacher. Two of the brave students performed a beautiful Paraguayan dance, and it gave us a chance to answer questions about ourselves and about Habitat’s work in Paraguay.
That evening we dined at Arpa Roga – the Harp School. Being the national instrument of Paraguay, harp music is very popular here. The talent and passion of these musicians truly showed in their playing. And the BBQ was delicious, particularly the beef!