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Week 4: Interviewing the families

Dsc01613I spent much of this week interviewing hundreds of families to choose the 24 whoDsc01618 will recieve the houses we're building.  Here's how it works:  There are over 3 million homeless displaced victims of violence in Colombia, and the government has a ranking system for them based on their need (# of children, hardships, etc)  The most needy comprise Group A, and from this group the government has an annual lottery to determine who wins a special "subsidiary" receipt.  With these receipts a family can approach an organization like Habitat for Humanity or the UN and request that a house be built for them.  Upon completion of the construction, the organization gets a refund from the government for approx $4,000 per receipt.  Of course only non-profit foundations such as Habitat and the UN are capable of building a house for $4,000 so there is still plenty of need even when the government is willing to pay.  Now how about everybody else?

Of course the number of families who win this lottery is a minisculeDsc01637Dsc01625 fraction of the 3 million homeless. That's where I come in.  In Sincelejo Habitat is building 76 houses for those families who have won the lottery...and I'm building 24 more for those who didn't.  I worked with the government to get a list of the people in Group A who weren't lucky enough to win a subsidiary, and this week I spent time getting to know them in order to determine the most needy.  What a heartbreaking job that was - of course they're ALL needy.  Thankfully I was able to rely on the local Habitat staff and other support organizations in the community who know these people best.  I decided to choose families from the Costa Azul neighborhood, the poorest low-lying area of Sincelejo next to a river/sewer which overflows its banksDsc01619 every winter and washes away most of the houses.  It's the most disease-ridden and temporary of all the homeless shanty town in Sincelejo  In short, no one needs a house more than these people.  The first couple of doors I knocked on revealed families intimidated by the presence of a nosy American asking about their well-being.  But word soon spread that I'm building houses for hard-working yet needy people, and by the end of the day I'd been welcomed into every home...and eaten enough fried plantains to feed an army.  They're all so friendly and hopeful that it breaks my heart I can't build them all a house...

Click here to see more of the families of Costa Azul who will be getting a house I'm building thanks to your generosity and support.  Together we're truly changing lives and making a difference!

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