SCCS students help build a better future
By Lucia Landivar
The SCCS bus arrived at the dusty construction site located on a flat piece of terrain outside La Guardia at about 8:30 in the morning. About 20 students, many really just waking up, tumbled out and began preparations for a day of building houses for Habitat for Humanity.
There were at least 20 houses under construction, most about half-finished. When completed they would be sold to poor families who would pay $60 a month to acquire what for many of them would be the first decent housing they had ever lived in. The job of the SCCS students was to provide non-skilled labor to finish these houses, which were being built as part of the world-wide Habitat for Humanity (HFH) program.
“Our main goal is to have an opportunity for meaningful community service”, said Hudson Thurston, the middle school teacher who is in charge of the program at the school, after the first SCCS Habitat For Humanity build of the year. The “builds” will continue through the rest of the year taking place every few weeks.
Habitat For Humanity is an international nonprofit organization that welcomes volunteers all around the world to eliminate substandard housing in their communities. Since 1976, HFH has constructed over 400,000 houses around the world, providing decent shelter for over 2 million people. SCCS is proud to be part of this effort.
Habitat For Humanity has building sites all over Bolivia, from La Paz to Santa Cruz. SCCS has worked in the Chiquitania, La Guardia, El Torno, and Cotoca. This year, students will spend most of their efforts in La Guardia.
In SCCS, students and teachers work as volunteers along with construction workers (and the families who will eventually own the houses ). Students develop a sense of community service, and learn how to work hard. They also learn about partnership, and leadership skills.
SCCS started working with HFH many years ago, but the partnership was suspended for a few years. Three years ago, Mike Vandeloo who was working as SCCS’s school counselor, and Thurston contacted HFH and arranged to renew SCCS’ involvement in the program. Mr. Thurston and librarian Rebecca Battistioni are going to the builds with the high school students.
The SCCS students work on several houses, digging holes for septic tanks, moving bricks, tiles, leveling out the floors, and basically doing whatever needs to be done that doesn’t require training. The students work alongside the masons and other skilled workers and help in any way they can.
It’s hard work. By midafternoon Estefania Sauto, a junior, was so tired and dusty that she said she was ready to go to sleep -- but she kept going.
Tae Ho Cho, another junior, said his arms were aching from taking wheelbarrow loads full of sand and tiles from place to place.
Girls quietly compared their new callouses on their otherwise nicely manicured hands.
Thurston is pleased with the way the program has progressed. “In the past three years, I’ve done a couple dozen builds, and I’m always pleasantly surprised on how our students conduct themselves. They are very polite, and show very good manners with all the workers in the site,” says Thurston. Students from ninth to twelfth grade come out and give their best effort, he says. They work together and get along nicely.
Working in Habitat For Humanity is both rewarding and tiring. When this writer got home she went straight to bed, so tired I couldn’t even take a shower. My body was a little sore the next day from all the shoveling, but I felt a sense of satisfaction and happiness from my work in building homes for those families. It was fun to watch even the small children of the families who would live in the houses passing bricks up onto the roofs.
Habitat For Humanity is a fun activity for students to spend half of their Saturday doing a little labor for families in need to benefit the community.
Afterword: During the school's second Habitat for Humanity on Saturday. Oct. 22, members of the SCCS group were invited to participate in a ceremony at which titles to some of the newly constructed houses were turned over to the new owners, and the school was honored for the work it has done at the La Guardia site over the past two years.The ceremony was attended by Habitat officials, local home owners, and officials from the La Guardia mayoral office. SCCS was also mentioned by name in Habitat for Humanity's most recent annual report.