There is a term that's used in Nicaragua, “casas dignas” that refers to the idea of dignified housing for all people. This is what the Nicaragua Pueblo Project is all about and what we are striving to achieve. I've been thinking about that term 'casas dignas' a lot as the impact of NPP grows. I know we will not see dignified housing for all by us building houses for Nicaraguans, but rather in the training and transference of sought-after skills directly to the people whose homes they are.
NPP focuses on skill building for women and young people, as well as some men in these rural pueblos. With the question of how we can support a growing, dignified housing movement in communities 'where many folks barely have two cordobas to scratch together,' NPP works to honor, support and adapt to the actual needs and resources of the communities we work with. We've learned that when you do this, beautiful things can happen!
This past season six families were supported by NPP; I used my teaching skills to share lessons on building and home improvements with members of these families who then shared their learning and new-found skills with others. Many homes have been transformed and each season more families are inspired and excited to be involved. The people who have been involved in the Natural Building and Home Improvement Projects now speak knowledgeably to visitors about the home assessment and preparation process and the local materials used. They share a project's final results with great pride and tend to speak excitedly of what is still to come. I remember Vilma, a new participant, proudly showing off her new common space with its beautiful wall plasters made from vibrant red soil found 100 feet away and sharing how the exterior plaster was next. She was going to be able to show her husband and pass the skills to other family members. Others would then be able to replicate the results in their homes as well. It is the skill sharing and collaboration among families and community members that brings not only the sustainability to the project but also so much of the 'digna' to the casa. NPP directly supports the process with organizational collaboration with other organizations, continued trainings in the communities to build on skills, and provides tools and materials where needed.
Below is a story from this winter, told mostly in photos, of Vilma, Darbin, Hilario, Darling and Yuliet, Eusebia, Mayra and all their families, who continue to support the improvement projects with stomping mud, cooking food, providing coffee breaks and helping however they can.
First we meet the families and assess their housing situation and their needs and goals.
Then they work to access the raw materials and test their soils for potential plasters
They prep their spaces and we jump in on the improvements as a team. Each household receives an improvement of either wall plaster or a finished earthen floor. We love to encourage the addition of artistic elements! Each household gains the skills to continue the improvements to their homes and we offer a stipend to them for the materials to finish the work.
Beautiful, functional, and playful results. In addition to easier to clean surfaces for greater health benefits, the families get to explore their creative expression and customize their work. There is a lot of pride that seems to inspire them to continue with the improvements on their own.
And best of all is the cultural sharing and mutual appreciation that seems to be felt by all!