To give you an idea of how The Latitude Project goes about selecting communities and families to be beneficiaries of a new roof, below is an account of a typical ‘community selection’ day.
There are some communities that make such an impression it’s hard to go a day without reflecting on the time spent there, the moments shared with women in their houses or fits of laughter with a group of kids. For me, Collado is one of these communities. Nestled in the mountains about 45 minutes from SJDS, it is home to some of the most warm and welcoming people I’ve ever met. After every visit to this community, I leave with a smile on my face, a warmth in my heart, and a gratitude for the opportunity to be a part of this project.
We’ve spent time in Collado before while building a preschool a few years back and were excited to head back. Early Friday morning, Alanna, Yaoska and I piled into the back of an old pickup truck to head into Collado and begin the beneficiary selection process. Laughter was lost in the wind as we made our way through the dusty roads, weaving our way from the coastline inland towards the hills. As we pulled in, we were greeted by a crowd outside the church where they had arranged plastic chairs in a semi-circle. A community of about 430, people shared seats and leaned against the surrounding trees as we greeted old friends. The meeting was delayed for hellos, hugs, and handshakes.
After an introduction into the voting process, the floor was opened up to the community. Questions fly and families elect themselves or their neighbours in need of a roof. In order to help as many families as we can, we’ve limited the roofs to the sleeping area of the house and the number roofs per community to about 7. With 15 families elected for new roofs and 4 for smaller-scale repairs, we decided to do them all as Collado is substantially larger than many of the other communities we are working in.
After the meeting had come to a close, we travelled to each of the 19 houses to assess the structural stability. When needed, old wood is replaced to ensure the houses will be solid for the new roofs. The group was large in size with 12 kids racing to hold our hands, show us their house, introduce us to their friends. The last house to visit was the house of Julia + Omar Cortez. With 14 kids, the Cortez family have a larger house than others in the community consisting of a kitchen and two rooms. The family sleeps in these two rooms; Julia and 3 daughters in one room, and Omar with 9 boys in the other.
The house needs 15 laminate sheets. When Julia learns both rooms in her house will be protected from the downfall of rainy season, she lets out a squeal, ran first into Alanna’s arms and then at me, jumping and wrapping her legs around my body. The joy on her face was undescribable. It was almost visible – the weight that had been lifted off her.
Wrapping up the day with Israel, the community leader, plans are set out for construction days. Solidarity is important in rural Nicaragua and families come together to help their neighbours with the construction of the roofs. With the rosters in place and days set for the following week, we load into the car and say goodbye… By the time the truck pulled out of Collado, the sun had already set and the sky was growing dark, and we left- already yearning to come back.
paz y un abrazo,