Housing Projects in Honduras
On September 1st, 2015, Tzu Chi began a large-scale housing project in Honduras, an impoverished nation in Central America. Tzu Chi Honduras volunteers have been active here for many years, and have a deep bond with the country’s kind-hearted people: Although many endure great poverty and high unemployment, they are always ready to help others.
The story of how Tzu Chi started building houses in Honduras began in late 2011. Following a series of floods, Tzu Chi Honduras brought disaster relief to the regions affected. It was then that Jorge Chang, the head of Tzu Chi Honduras who was in charge of the food distribution operation, noticed that people were not only hungry, but many were homeless and living under plastic sheets in terrible conditions. A number of transitional shelters were quickly imported and erected, but unfortunately the structures didn’t last. And so a dream arose in Jorge’s heart: To build permanent homes for these people.
Not long after in 2012, Quintin Soriano, the Mayor of Choluteca, initiated a Work For Cash Program to help those affected by the floods recover: This region had suffered the greatest devastation in the whole nation. City Government gave out more than 100 horses to flood victims, so they could use them to collect and recycle garbage. The workers, who were called “Cochero” (Rider), also got $100 Lempira (Honduras Dollar) each. But one year later, the Cocheros were making very little money from recycling, and in desperation, were riding their horses to the mountains to get wood to sell in the market. Something more had to be done since they were still living in dire poverty and needed help.
The Mayor had noticed that after the 2011 floods, many NGOs tried to help Choluteca’s people, but most eventually left and only Tzu Chi had stayed. And so the Mayor requested help to build houses for the Cocheros, but for a variety of reasons, it wasn’t possible for Tzu Chi Honduras to get involved at that time.
However, Jorge had not given up on his dream, and in 2013, Tzu Chi Honduras built 161 permanent houses made from concrete blocks in Monjaras, Marcovia, Choluteca. Tzu Chi Honduras also established a block production factory that provided the material to build even more homes, and offered much-needed employment. Seeing what had been accomplished, Mayor Quintin Soriano began to reach out to Tzu Chi again, and would continue to do so over the next 2 years.
Finally, in 2015, Tzu Chi Honduras was able to commit to building an entire village for the Cocheros in Choluteca. The plan is to construct a total of 248 houses by January 2016.
But some families were able to rejoice early. Following an Inaugural Move In Ceremony on October 17th, the 42 families whose houses had just been completed could spend the first night in their own home. For Juana de Vaquedano, the thankful owner of House No. 001, this meant that she and her family would no longer be sleeping under a plastic sheet, but finally had a real roof over their heads.
Tzu Chi Honduras has named the village “Villa Gran Amor” (Great Love Village). And the Choluteca City Council is in full agreement with this fitting choice, and even decided to combine two neighborhoods – Quintin Soriano and Claudia de Quintin Soriano, named after the Mayor and his wife Claudia – and officially put Villa Gran Amor on the map instead.
It’s a perfect name for the place and the project – one where love flows from one person to the next in an endless stream. Those who receive houses are filled with such gratitude, that they in turn volunteer their labor to build houses for others.
For some, like Leon who used to be a gang member, working on the construction site is a cherished new way of life. For Guadalupe, a senior member of the community whose own house is still under construction, helping others build theirs is an opportunity to put her love for her neighbors in action.