Building Houses in Colombia

2015_2016_DoE_GoldTrip_Colombia_009Today we got the awesome opportunity to build houses for two homeless families. We met up with five students from a local English school and travelled a few hours out into the mountains to meet with people from a foundation called Catalina Muñoz. This foundation’s goal is to build houses for impoverished homeless families.

One of the most striking things about the whole experience was the drive from our hostel out into the mountains. First of all, the urban sprawl of Bogotá is incredible. The city seemingly goes on forever! And if we thought we knew what bad traffic was in Montreal, we had no idea what we had in store for us here. The streets are extremely narrow and no one really respects stop signs or pedestrians. The drivers seemingly have a code they follow that, to an outsider, seems like complete chaos, with barely a foot between each car and random turns coming from everywhere, no turn signals, and only a few near death experiences. However, the most incredible aspect of the drive was the transition from the most wealthy area in all of Colombia to one of the poorest. We started by driving through an area with beautiful apartment buildings, marked by nice cars and residents who include Shakira and many politicians. As time went on, the buildings started to become more and more rundown and the population became more and more dense. After an hour or so, the once prominent apartment buildings became simple shanties. There is nothing like it in Montreal. To see the contrast between the people who live in poverty and the extreme upper class was something I will never forget.

After about 15 minutes of treacherous driving into the mountains, we reached our destination: a simple concrete slab no bigger than my parents’ bedroom and some supplies. My first reaction was, “How in the world are we going to build a house here in only a matter of hours?” We were then introduced to the families we were building for. They were so nice and the two little boys were incredibly cute. We then set to work. I can’t even describe the amount of teamwork and communication needed to put the house together. Even though there was a clear language barrier, working with the Colombian people was surprisingly easy. It was also really clear how important this was to the native people. At one point towards the end of the day, the leader of the foundation knocked over a bucket of water, which to us seems like no big deal. However, this simple mistake almost brought her to tears. It was a huge sign of how important this project was and how much of a difference we were making.

All in all, day 2 of the trip was so much fun. I got a lot closer with a bunch of people who I was not really friends with beforehand. Working together as a team to make a difference was an experience I will never forget.

– Samuel Freder ’17

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