Those of you familiar with Community Development projects may frequently notice that labor is often listed as a contribution by the beneficiary. What does that mean exactly? Lest we under-appreciate this portion, we should examine it a little more closely. The concept varies from project to project and community to community, but might be explained most easily by the following example. 

The community of Canchias recently executed a project involving twelve pilas (What is a pila?). The project was an outstanding example of local collaboration. The municipal government provided 20 bags of cement. The community’s water council purchased one bag of cement for each pila. An international donor provided the blocks, remaining cement, mason’s payment, and other construction materials. Finally, each of the twelve beneficiaries agreed to provide the sand necessary to make the concrete in addition to working as an assistant in the masonry labor. 
That small word “labor” represents an enormous amount of energy and sweat. The sand mentioned here is one cubic meter of local river sand – which must be dug out by hand, scooped into sacks, and hauled to the work site. Each bag of wet sand can easily weigh in at 100 pounds, if not more. Multiple beneficiaries had to walk nearly one kilometer to arrive home with their sand – only to turn around and make ten more trips just like the previous one. Let us also remember our Geography 101 lessons; rivers tend to be the lowest spot in a given area. The rest of the materials were delivered by truck to a central point in the community for distribution. Each family promptly arrived at this location in order to carry their 60 concrete blocks, weighing 20 pounds each, on a similar journey. They then returned for six bags of cement – each one adding 100 pounds to their every step over the rocky ground. Following those trips they returned for plastic pipes and fittings, steel rebar, scrub boards, etc. As we mentally picture each of these miniature journeys, we should recognize that people live on both sides of the above-mentioned river and that, for many of these people, bridges are more of an out-of-the-way concept than a practical structure that they use to arrive at their homes. Only one bridge crosses the Canchias River, with its function oriented more towards moving vehicles quickly through and out of the village than for aiding heavily-loaded pedestrians. Many denizens cross the swift water on slick rocks, fallen trees, or improvised bridges when the water is low enough for them to utilize these direct paths.

Once the materials are all in place and the construction begins, each family offers up an assistant to aid the mason in his work. This person is in charge of hand mixing all of the concrete necessary for the construction, passing that concrete to the mason, passing blocks to the mason, digging ditches for the footer, finding and hauling stone for that same foundation, in addition to functioning as a general go-pher. Again, let us remember our geography; 80% of Honduras is mountainous highlands, and the topography of Canchias is a fine example of such terrain. 

We try to designate a monetary value to this type of contribution based on local labor rates, but the dollar amount always comes short of recognizing the incredible efforts that some people make on a daily basis to improve their quality of life and the future of their children. In order for a father to save his daughter from sacrificing her back over a stone polished by the families clothes, he will offer his own under the load of rocks necessary to found a pila. These small projects make an incredible difference. (Get involved in pila projects HERE).

In the following video, we join our own Fredy Martinez and two Canchias community leaders, Alexander and Mauro, on the path from a materials distribution site to the home of a pila beneficiary. It is a beautiful five-minute walk, only enhanced by the investment of the family in their own future.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you. Video speaks loudly.