During my recent visit to the Sisters and communities in Peru, I had the opportunity and privilege to visit the office of the Adsopur organisation, and meet with the Project team. I visited the sites of two walls undergoing construction and also visited and met with families of some completed projects.
I had last visited the area in 2007, and at that time the people were still carrying water to their homes from large water containers filled by the local municipality. Washing and toilet facilities were very basic. People (especially women) were constantly moving up and down the precarious slopes filling water containers, a chore that was challenging and hard work to say the least. The transformation that the addition of piped water, and the bathrooms (Earlier Project: Water is Life – Baños Solidarios) have made to the lives of the people in this area is transforming and life changing. Not only has it improved the quality of life, health and hygiene of the people, it has also given them a sense of pride and dignity, a greater sense of belonging as well as the desire and determination to improve their homes and the belief that they can do it. The work that has been done is a great credit to the Project Team, and the many people who made this possible not least Sr. Regina Toomey who was an inspiriting and competent Project Leader, and Misean Cara for their financial support and commitment to this development.
The desire of the people to continue to improve their living conditions, and having achieved success in seeing what is possible when people work together for the good of the whole has inspired many. It has also led to the development of the present project (Building from the “Bottom-up” – Enhancing Urban Security in Settlements.)
This current project addresses the desire of the people to build more permanent and stable homes. Many of the homes are made out of simple materials such as timber, and hardboard and often built precariously on the slopes seeming to defy both gravity, and the frequent earth tremors. The project is responsible for building re-enforced foundations/containing walls offering security to existing makeshift homes but also solid and secure foundations for the future construction of permanent homes.
The difference this project has made to the lives of the people was highlighted for me when I visited one of the families. Until recently this young family had been living in a shack on the edge of the rock. Following the building of the bathroom, which had itself been transforming for the family, the young mother was determined to build a more permanent safe house for her family. Her determination to have the retaining wall built, and the foundation levelled to enable the construction of a more solid home eventually won over her husband. This was a particularly challenging project due to the height of the wall, and it being constructed on and in the solid rock.
Having succeeded in building the wall and foundations, the family have gone on to build a cement house. The house is not yet complete, doors and windows are yet to be added and building is still ongoing. The house provides a more permanent shelter for the family, separate living and sleeping spaces as well as a bathroom. Already it has transformed the lives of the family. The pride and determination to improve the living conditions, and quality of life for their children is another factor driving this project.
This pride and ownership was shared by all the project team. I was also struck by the relationship between the team and the young mother, her courage and determination inspired the team and workers, and brought out the best in everyone to overcome many of the challenges in the planning and construction. The funding provided by the project enabled this family, and many others to avail of this necessary work in a way that was affordable for each particular situation.
During the visit to the construction sites we met a number of neighbours and local people who were taking an interest in the development. They asked questions about the project, and sought advice concerning their own situation. People living in houses adjacent to the retaining walls were also benefitting as the construction ensured the houses will not fall or slide on top of them.
I was very impressed by my meeting with the Project Implementing Team. Their enthusiasm, commitment, hard work for the project, and vision for community building and was energising and inspiring. Each person spoke about their role, responsibility and how they work together as a team. They meet weekly together and are in constant contact. They reflected on how they had developed as a team working together, had built on the learning from previous projects and also incorporated learnings from the present project. They spoke about the difference that being involved in the project had made in their own lives, as well as the local community. They spoke of their growth in awareness, self-confidence as well as the opportunities, skills, training and experience that have been developed, and how they are keen to develop and learn new skills into the future.
The inspiring, and effective leadership of Sr. Regina continues to play a key role. She has encouraged and empowered members of the project team to take on leadership, and the fact that the project continued whilst she was absent for a few months is testimony to the ability of the group.
Special Report by Sr. Mary Deane, Congregation Leader of the Presentation Sisters.