Un techo para mi país

9 May

“Wishing you always…
Walls for the wind,
A roof for the rain,
And tea beside the fire.”

~ Irish blessing

TECHO is a youth-led, non-profit organisation that works throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. Their aim is to overcome poverty through the collaboration of youth volunteers and families living in poverty.

Part of their work involves constructing transitional housing to meet urgent and priority needs in slums. As stated on their website:

The house built by TECHO is a prefabricated module of 162 square feet, built in two days, with the participation of young volunteers and families in the community.”

However before the construction phase begins, the volunteer team regularly visits the community and interviews families to determine their needs and establish priorities.

As mentioned earlier, I forwent my post-birthday party sleep-in to volunteer with TECHO. About 30 young Hondurans and I piled into a big old yellow bus on Sunday morning and headed towards one of the marginalised barrios (suburbs/slums) of Tegucigalpa.

We divided into pairs (or in my case, a group of three) and were assigned families to survey. We would either be interviewing families for the first time, or conducting second visits. Visiting families for a second time helps TECHO verify facts as well as build relationships.

My group was given an initial survey to conduct. We wandered along the dirt streets under a hot mid-morning sun until we reached our designated house. It was a small 6 metre x 3 metre wooden construction with corrugated iron roofing.

Once the interview started I was amazed to hear that ten people (5 adults and 5 children) lived in that tiny building. It only had two rooms, a kitchen/living area and a bedroom. The bedroom contained two beds and a mattress on the floor.

They had electricity, but no running water. Marina*, the interviewee, pointed over her shoulder up the road to indicate where the families bathed. I’m guessing this means there was a creek or a small river further along.

It was an eye-opening experience. Working at UNICEF I’ve read countless documents about poverty in Honduras, but it’s not the same as seeing it in person or talking to people who live it every day.

Marina explained that when her husband, who was some sort of construction sub-contractor, had consecutive jobs lined up they could expect their income to reach 4750 lempiras per month. That’s AUD$235 per month to provide for a family of four.

The second house we visited had neither electricity nor water and had one wall made of cardboard and old, raggedy tarpaulins. Rosa*, her husband and three children shared the home.

We noticed they had a television in the main room, which seemed a little odd, considering they had no electricity. Rosa explained that each night her husband, who was a taxi driver, would connect the TV to the car battery and the family would watch one hour of TV together.

Any longer and the battery might go flat. The taxi was their sole source of income so more than an hour of TV was too big a risk to take.

Despite their miserable living conditions neither of the families we spoke to seemed miserable. I got the sense they were living each day as it came but were now quietly hopefully things might improve with some help from TECHO.

I was impressed by how warm and welcoming the community was to the volunteers. You could see there was a strong spirit of cooperation. And with a hospitality that demostrated how those who have the least often give the most, the entire TECHO group was cooked lunch.

I’m hoping to do more volunteer work with TECHO before my time ends here in Honduras. I’ll be sure to write more about it if I do.

*Not real names

3 Responses to “Un techo para mi país”


  1. The photos in my mind | Honduran hiatus - May 24, 2013

    […] the few times I’ve actually been on foot in Tegus was when I visited a marginalised barrio with TECHO. Despite being in one of the poorest areas in town I actually felt quite […]

  2. One year later… | Honduran hiatus - June 11, 2013

    […] volcanic island in a mototaxi …nearly sparked an diplomatic incident while playing paintball …visited families living in extreme poverty …traveled to another country for the love of seafood soup …been bogged in an […]

  3. Money, money, money | Honduran hiatus - June 26, 2013

    […] when you consider the family I met with TECHO had an income of $4750 lempiras per month, HNL$525 suddenly looks like a huge amount of money […]

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