A Future in Latin America

Working in Campana provided me with insight into my future career path. As a student interested in Latin American Studies and working in Latin America in the future I gained ample motivation from working with FOVISEE, Weatherizers Without Borders, and the families of Campana. On the first day of work in Campana I was tasked with the extensive energy audit of Daniella and Sergio’s home. Not only was it was my first time performing an energy audit with a family, I also had to conduct the entire interview/audit in Spanish. My Spanish skills were tested throughout our trip, but the audit was perhaps my greatest challenge and achievement. Part of the audit process is to connect with the family; starting a conversation rather than simply asking the questions on the sheet was important to completing the audit in a comfortable manner for both myself and more importantly the family. I strove to communicate with the family and make a connection beyond the questions of the audit. Performing was not only a challenge of my skills but also one that took both an emotional and physical toll.

Daniela and Sergio’s home was 97 ˚-101˚F throughout the process with about 60% humidity and only two doors to ventilate the entire 2 bedroom home. The roof/ceiling meanwhile was 131 ˚ -143 ˚F, creating an oven like atmosphere inside the home; these temperatures coupled with the poor ventilation and humidity created prime conditions for mold growth. Emotionally, the audit was challenging as I had to listen as the family described their living situation and the incidents and health concerns that they have had because of their home. It was hard to see the conditions that Daniela, Sergio, and their seven children had to withstand.


For the last two days, I worked on plastering a wall on Jessica and Pablo’s home. After the audit was completed by other volunteers, it was determined that the roof and wall should be fixed. The north facing wall was covered with water repellent plaster then covered with a protectant coat of another plaster mix. Overall my experiences in Argentina affirmed by passion for Latin America and its people. I was able to develop my learn about weatherization and most importantly help families live a more comfortable life.



-Written by Oscar Medina

Day 1, Buenos Aires

January 19, 2016

After almost 24 hours of traveling, we finally arrived in  Buenos Aires. The porteña’s hot weather and humidity, as well as two taxis, awaited us at at the airport to transport us to the hostel. After settling in at EcoPampas Hostel, we changed into more comfortable shoes and hit the streets to explore the wonderful city of Buenos Aires, commencing our journey in our neighborhood of Palermo, a vibrant and youthful district in the northeastern sector of the city.

In the afternoon, we rendezvoused with Nicolas Maggio, president of the Foro de Vivienda Social y Eficiencia Energética (FOVISEE) and Weatherizers Without Borders (WWB), and Paula, the programs’ architect. Both Nicolas and Paula warmly welcomed us to Argentina and to the WWB project. Dr. Maggio outlined the details of the following two-days of weatherization training, mentioning topics such as Energy Auditing and the retrofitting of dwellings. He also clarified the details of the three-day trip to the Municipality of Campana, where we would perform energy assessments, provide recommendations, and retrofit the homes of participating low-income families.

– Written by Anna Casals

~Making A Window~

  I clearly remember how I felt when I entered Daniela’s house for the first time. The house was very small, dark, damp and shady. As soon as we started auditing, we realized that one of the biggest issues of the house was the lack of windows. In total, they only had two small windows in the house. Furthermore, those windows were blocked by the pile of garbage and a shelf, so the house got very little sunlight. As a result, walls were damp and full of mold, which could cause the children’s health problems.


With the volunteers of WWB, we hollowed out some walls and put window frames so that they would have a better ventilation system and get more sunlight. As we were working on, Sofia told me the reason why the family had only two windows: they were afraid of windows. The house used to have a big window in the front of the house. However, the window was covered up because when Daniela was living in the house with her mother, someone tried to break in to their house for robbery. As well as the mother, the oldest daughter is traumatized by windows because of her past experience. One time, her uncle intended to surprise her parents through the windows, but he went to a wrong room and woke the children up. Taking these episodes into consideration, we installed bars with the new windows.


kaori 2

With the new windows, the house has drastically changed. Now the gloomy and shady environment has been transformed into brighter and healthier one. Through this experience, I witnessed that such a tiny change can cause a huge impact. In addition, I clearly perceived that we were working not only in the house but also with the people who are living in the house. By transforming the house, we were changing the family’s life too. The significance of communicating with the family besides assessing the house lies in this point. I really hope the new windows will be a good peg for the new departure of the family.

kaori 3

-Written by Kaori Tsuji

Backyard Cleaning


On January 26th, we worked on collecting the garbage which was scattered over Daniela’s backyard. We’d been instructed by staff members to stop working while the US Ambassador was visiting and looking around the house; however, we were eager to do something, rather than just stand and gawk at the ambassador. As the simplest way to improve their living condition while we waited for his arrival, we started collecting garbage in the home’s front and back lawns. When I saw the scene of the backyard, where all different kinds of garbage were just scattered over, I lost my words. There were tiny pieces of broken glass, diapers, food leftovers, and many other hazardous objects, and Daniela’s kids were walking around without shoes. The amount of garbage and the smell just overwhelmed me. More shockingly, as I approached the pile of garbage, I found a girl sleeping in a bed, under the sun. The trash was just an accepted part of their environment.

We spent the whole morning for removing the trash. Meanwhile, Daniela’s children watched us hesitantly in the distance. They looked a little bit anxious, and I figured out the reason why when  the second daughter hesitantly asked me to give her back a doll which I just threw it on a pile of the garbage. The doll had lots of stains and it’s hair was almost gone. But after I passed it to her, she held it tightly and stored it in a broken fridge. For me, the doll was nothing but a trash, but I realized that for them those could be reminiscent of their fun memories. Until then, I had strongly believed that cleaning the backyard is absolutely helpful for them, but I found that it’s also so important to consider what is really helpful for the family. Otherwise, I might violate their memories and lifestyle, like I could too easily threw away the girl’s doll, her treasure.



By the afternoon, however, some kids came out from their house, grabbed shovels, and started helping us removing garbage. One of our members asked one of the kids, who told them to ask us. He just shook his head, and made me filled with warm pleasure. By looking at us, even without words, they were motivated to clean their backyard. When I realized, more than four kids, from the age of 4 to 10, were sweating and working hard with us to clean up the backyard. Thanks to their help, we could end up making two piles of garbage and making some spaces without any bits of glass for them.



However, this story doesn’t end here. The next day, we went to check the backyard. Honestly, I felt sad when I saw that new garbage were again scattered over the backyard. The scene really taught me the difficulties of changing one’s habit and lifestyle. That is to say, we might need more complicated and philosophical approaches to keep a backyard without garbage rather than just setting a trash can there. By realizing the difficulty of actually making a change, I was overwhelmed by despair. That was just too conspicuous to understand that the backyard will be filled with garbage, regardless of our and the kids’ work.  However, I still believe that we could make some positive impacts because our cleaning could show a clean backyard without garbage, and kids experienced the work of removing the garbage. That might be a little change, but someday they may choose a backyard without garbage by remembering the scene of clean garden and the work we did together.

– Written by Yoko Taguchi

Day 2 & 3, Buenos Aires

January 20-21

After a “short walk” across the city (we would quickly learn that Tomas’ definition of “short walk” drastically varied from ours),  FOVISEE and WWB staff members, Laura Brudnick and Paula Stella, met our group in the lobby of the Infinity hotel. There, they lectured us on the vision and mission of the program, their past accomplishments, and the difficulties that the project currently faces.
 On the 21st, we returned to the Infinity hotel, to recieve technical weatherization training and familiarize ourselves with the equipment. Paula and Laura stressed the necessity of clear and open communication with the home owners.  After the day’s lecture, we divided into three groups to conduct mock energy audits and practice the procedure of inquiry and data collection, before we implemented our weatherization training in the field the following day.
Sometimes, learning such professional and technological details seemed overwhelming; however, Lauren and Paula were very open to answer our questions and to share their experiences. I asked them, “How can we, students who have no technical skills, make change?” They answered that one of their biggest struggles as a non-profit organization is promoting the project. As they recognized the significance of the effective social media use, they asked me for advice in effectively navigating social media. That was such a great opportunity to listen to their struggles and experiences because through the interaction, we could figure out what we can really do besides just experience the project.


– Written by Yoko Taguchi, Video by Braxton Keo

Day 4, Campana

January 22, 2016

At 6 am our alarms sounded to announce the beginning of a long but exciting day. Today was our first day trip to the city of Campana, located at 47 miles from the center of the city of Buenos Aires, to apply the weatherization knowledge we learned in the training. At 7 am, a bus from the municipality of Campana picked us up from the hostel to go to the work site. Around 9 am, we arrived to Campana and met the FOVISEE and WWB team composed of some college students from Buenos Aires and various community volunteers.

Coordinated by Professor Crowder-Taraborelli and Dr. Maggio, we created three teams to work in three different houses:

The first team worked in Jessica’s house, a small, three year old, one-floor residence of built of hollowed bricks and corrugated metal roof sheets. We started auditing the house by asking Jessica questions about the residence and their use of public utilities like water, electricity, and gas. During summer, Jessica told us that the house is extremely hot and excessively humid, while in the winter, it is extremely cold. Some of the issues in the home that were identified was that when there was a rainfall, various walls leaked. We continued by calculating the internal and external temperature of the house as well as the percentage of internal and external humidity. After we finished the audit, we concluded that out of the various potential fixes the house needs, the most important ones were the insulation of the roof to significantly decrease the heat and cold inside the home. Waterproofing the roof and some of the south facing walls with water repellent concrete was also necessary.

The second team conducted an energy audit and retrofit work in Monica’s home. The team identified that there was a lot of water filtration in most of the walls. Such water leakage was caused by rainfall and condensation. The roof in the house is very low; therefore the corrugated metal roof sheets heat even faster the home; thus, the insulation of roof would dramatically increase the home’s livability. Water proofing the home was identified as another key retrofit. WWB had already started some of the work in the home, so the Soka University team assisted them in the installation of fiber glass insulation in the bedroom where all the children of the home slept.

The third team worked in Daniela and Sergio’s house, which was built by her father more than 20 years ago. Although the house is very small, the family of nine includes seven children,  and Daniela and Sergio are expecting an 8th child. We performed an energy audit on the home, and discovered many problems with the house, including: the lack of electricity, high humidity, high temperatures, mold, and gas leaks. The biggest problem was humidity in the house. The lack of windows and sunlight fostered  growth of mold on the damp walls. Some of the children have encountered health issues that are associated with the house’s condition. To solve these problems, we started by cleaning the house. We cleared out a room that was covered in garbage and clothes. Next, we worked on cleaning and disinfecting the walls, and identifying places to install windows so that the house is better ventilated system. Besides fixing and informing the family of technical problems, one of the key factors of the retrofit was social: communicating the importance of taking better care of their house with the family.

-Written by Anna Casals, Video by Braxton Keo


Week 1

Monday Jan. 11:
10AM- 12PM: Review syllabus with the class and course/objective overview. Form groups. Assign group and/or individual research based questions and topics for course. Discuss readings: Rock, Chapters 8 and 9, Sernau Chapter 10 (Social Inequality), and Bird/Hernandez. Screening:Garbage Warrior.
1PM-3PM: First day of online weatherization training

Tuesday Jan 12:
10AM-12PM: Overview of history of urban development in Buenos Aires, Argentina since the 1970’s. Discuss Readings: Wilson, Part 1 and 3 and Carns. Overview of sustainable housing in/around Buenos Aires, Argentina 1PM-3PM: Second day of online weatherization training.

Wednesday Jan 13:
10AM-12PM: Screening:Las manos, el barro, la casahttp://vimeo.com/42583876 and Earthship-Britanny Groundhouse
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=krWgtnJRAUg&feature=related. Discuss documentary and implications. Discuss readings: Carns, Chapter 7 and Sanchez Chapter 1. Form teams.
1PM-3PM: Third day of online weatherization training. Screening: Edwards Aliso Viejo This Changes Everything

Thursday Jan 14:
ON-CAMPUS 10AM-12PM: Discuss readings: Phillips, Chapter 14 and 16. Minke, Chapter 2 and 3, Fryer Chapters 4 and 5. 1PM-3PM: Fourth day of weatherization online training.
Friday Jan 15:No Class
Saturday Jan 16:No Class
Sunday Jan 17:No Class
Week 2
Mon Jan 18:Travel Day Departing Soka at 9 a.m. Flight departs LAX  at 1p.m.

Tues Jan 19:
Arrival time: 10:40 a.m.
1PM: Meet at Tomas’ apartment:  Teams discuss reading according to their team topic and assignment while eating lunch. Water, discuss reading: Ludwig, Chapter 7 and Dahlhausen. Schroder, Ogletree, Chapters 2, 3, 4, 5.
2PM-3PM: Meet with Nicolas Maggio from FOVISEE collaborating institution. Conduct short interview to better understand housing development and weatherization in Buenos Aires.
5PM: Dinner
7PM: Daily Reflection on Angel. Dinner with plastic artist Pablo Salvadó to discuss techniques of adobe construction.
Wednesday Jan 20:
7 AM: Breakfast 8AM-1 PM: Sociological perspective for the study of housing, energy and sustainability City, housing, energy, sustainability in Buenos Aires. The social factor of energy efficiency in buildings. The case of low income housing. Research methodologies in housing, energy and sustainability
1 PM: Lunch
2 PM: Return to hostel.
5PM: Discuss reading: Hunter Chapter 4.
7PM: Dinner
8PM: Daily Reflection on Angel. Teams meet to discuss progress of earth building.

7AM: Breakfast.
8AM-1 PM: Explaining the broad gap between theory and practice. Weatherization in Buenos Aires. 1 PM: Lunch
2 PM: Return to hostel.
7PM: Dinner
8PM: Daily Reflection on Angel. Teams meet to discuss progress of earth building.

Friday January 22:
ON-SITE 8AM: Departure to Campana. 10AM: Arrive at location. Real homes Energy and Sustainability Auditing. Participation in real weatherization work. Filming and interviews with families. Measuring results of the performed retrofits.
1PM: Lunch
2PM: Return to city
7PM: Dinner
8PM: Daily Reflection on Angel.

Saturday January 23:ON-SITE 8 AM: Departure to Campana 10AM: Arrive at location. Real homes Energy and Sustainability Auditing. Participation in real weatherization work. Filming and interviews with families. Measuring results of the performed retrofits. 1 PM: Lunch 2 PM: Return to city
5PM: Return to hostel
6PM: Dinner
8PM: Work on short documentary film about weatherization and sustainability.

Sunday January 24:ON-SITE
8 AM: Departure to Campana 10AM: Arrive at location. Real homes Energy and Sustainability Auditing. Participation in real weatherization work. Filming and interviews with families. Measuring results of the performed retrofits. 1 PM: Lunch 2 PM: Return to city
5PM: Return to hostel
6PM: Dinner
8PM: Work on short documentary film about weatherization and sustainability..

Week 3

Monday January 25:
8 AM: Departure to Campana 10AM: Arrive at location. Real homes Energy and Sustainability Auditing. Participation in real weatherization work. Filming and interviews with families. Measuring results of the performed retrofits. 1 PM: Lunch 2 PM: Return to city
5PM: Return to hostel
6PM: Dinner
8PM: Work on short documentary film about weatherization and sustainability.

Tuesday January 26:ON-SITE 8 AM: Departure to Campana 10AM: Arrive at location. Real homes Energy and Sustainability Auditing. Participation in real weatherization work. Filming and interviews with families. Measuring results of the performed retrofits. 1 PM: Lunch 2 PM: Return to city
5PM: Return to hostel
6PM: Dinner
8PM: Work on short documentary film about weatherization and sustainability. .

Wednesday January 27: 9:00 AM: Processing information and video from WWB-Soka experience. Preparation of presentations for the LC and Weatherizers Without Border’s Summit (in Pauling).  Open day
Thursday January 28:
EN-ROUTE Depart from hostel for airport at 6 p.m. Departs EZE airport at 10 p.m.
Friday January 29: Arrives at LAX at 11:10 a.m. ON-CAMPUS
1P.M.-3 P.M.: Continue to edit and work on film material.

Week 4

Monday February 1:ON-CAMPUS
10AM-12PM: Finalize any film editing needed.
1PM-3PM: Film finalizing continued.

Tuesday February 2:
10-12AM: Meet to discuss and launch our short film on YouTube.
1-3PM: Discuss our Learning Cluster Fair Presentation. (TBA) Wednesday February 3: 10 AM-2 P.M. : Learning Cluster Fair 2:30-4:00 Presentation at Soka University of America in Pauling 216.

End of Winter Block