Over the course of 5 days I have been working with Tito to improve his home for his family: his wife Graciela, and daughters Beba, Daniela, Daiana and Camila.
They are a very close family, and were very happy to share what little they have with us volunteers.
I have been working with a number of different people from team GB, but latterly with Rob and Jas. Our task was to construct internal walls to create a bathroom, using the lightweight ‘honeycomb’ bricks commonly used in Argentina. We had to mix the mortar by hand in buckets, and I assisted Habitat for Humanity’s technical advisor, Hernán, in setting out the walls.
The mortar mix differed for the bottom 2 courses, with more cement included in that mix. The walls are built directly off the concrete floor slabs, which are far from level, and I had to use my ‘architect’s eye’ quite a lot for judging the level and straightness of the walls as we did not have such luxuries as spirit levels. That is why there are quite a few pictures of me ‘squinting’ at the wall!
Understandably Tito, like many of La Matanza’s residents, needs his materials to stretch far and nothing is wasted. Mortar was scrapped off the floor for re-use, and we made our best attempts at hand cutting the bricks to achieve cuts for the stretcher bond of the wall.
The work got hotter and slower the higher the wall went. The heat of the sun on the crinkly tin meant that the underside of the roof became unbearable hot, and the house had minimal ventilation making it very stuffy. After a day of balancing on plastic crates we were able to borrow a pair of step ladders from Concordia which certainly helped. After 5 days of building we finished our task and completed the wall – with Rob having to finish off the highest course due to mine and Jas’s lack of stature!
Hopefully we have given Tito a good start towards completing his bathroom. He and his family certainly seemed very grateful for our assistance and also the opportunity to meet people from abroad.
Hernán and his assistant were very impressed with the work of 'las chicas', bricklaying being regarded as a male task up to now. But our efforts have persuaded them that they should train females for bricklaying tasks in the future!
[Nicola and Tito]
A brick wall, yellow paint and a concrete column
A higher wall, more yellow paint and a bedroom extension
Nicola & Brian work together on Tito's wall
Nicola & Brian at Tito's House
Day 10 at Tito's House in Pictures