Although we are now back on campus, our project has not yet ended. We have been discussing what we can do on campus and around campus. One of the things that we decided to do was to invite FOVISEE to our university as a guest because we believe the problem of housing is very crucial, and the project is definitely worth spreading.
Before the presentation, we as students, invited people in the community around campus, promoted the event through social media, and prepared for the part of student presentation.
Finally, on February 23, the beautiful clear sky and the sun of California welcomed the founder of FOVISEE, Nicolás Maggio, and an architect, Paura Stella.
The presentation started at 6:30 with the attendance of more than 30 students, faculty, and community members.
It opened up with the presentation by Sally Andreatta from Community Action Partnership of Orange County about weatherization project in Orange County. The organization was founded in 1964 by community leaders to deal with the emergence of poverty in Orange County. They formed the Community Action Council and were designated to receive the Community Services Block Grant funding. Sally emphasized that even though Orange County is normally regarded as a residence area for middle or upper class, many people are actually suffering from their housing conditions. Thus, Community Action Partnership weatherizes those houses so that the families can live with more energy efficient and comfortable houses. Today, with over 100 employees and a budget of $21 million, the organization can provide solid weatherization service to improve people’s living environment and promote their welfare.
Next, Nicolas took over the presentation and introduced about weatherization project in Argentina. He began with the introduction of Weatherizers Without Borders and the project in the context of Argentina. Although the situation of low income housing in Argentina is even worse than that in the U.S, they do not have enough budget and support from the government to provide sufficient service to a lot of people. Hence, Nicolas stressed that one of the most important goals is to implement the project as a public policy. To accomplish this goal, he insisted, the project needs to be promoted and get more attention.
In addition to Nicolas’s presentation, Joan, MacKenzie and Anna from our learning cluster team shared our experiences with FOVISEE and Weatherizers Without Borders. First, Joan presented on our work and progress in Campana by showing before and after pictures of the three houses with which we worked. Then, MacKenzie displayed our future plan as Soka weatherization project: Learning Cluster 2017 on weatherization in Tijuana, forming a club Soka Weatherizers Without Borders, summer internship in Argentina. Finally, Anna shared her experience about the U.S ambassador’s visit in Campana and readdressed the significance of the project.
The whole presentation turned out to be extremely successful. Many people were genuinely interested in the project and already eager to join the club or start internship. Nonetheless, this learning cluster itself has finished, the project will never stop growing toward the next step and the better future.
In the metropolitan area of Buenos Aires, upended cobble stones, missing tiles, and uneven stretches of sidewalk pockmark the city’s walkways. This poses a mild hazard to unaware American tourists like me, because unlike in the United States, traversing just a few blocks can turn into a perilous feat. Stillettos are completely out of the question, and god forbid you should pull out your phone to snap a photo– because you are much more likely to take a faceplant than a decent selfie.
However, much like Darwin’s finches, the women of Buenos Aires seem to have evolved in consideration of this persistent environmental stressor. In a declaration of both practicality and fashion, these long-limbed and svelte South American women confidently glide down their city’s hazardous sidewalks atop curious pairs of chunky platform shoes. Their footwear can range in form from sandal to tennis shoe to boot to high heel, but one thing remains common amongst them: everything is tall, clunky, and chic. Other members of the Learning Cluster and I quickly grew enamored with these strange shoes. Anna and I did our fair share of oohing and aahing over the colorful arrays of platforms that glowed in window-front displays. “I don’t even look at the people anymore,” Sofia told me one night. “I just look at their shoes.” And for a few days, fantasizing about owning my own pair of platforms consumed me.
January 22, 23, 25, 2016
When the idea of being apart of a Weatherization project loomed this past September I never imagined how transformative the experience would be. Semester came to a close and Learning Cluster approached. Our preparation encompassed an online course a week prior to a two-day session with Weatherization Without Borders founded by Nicholas The first day of our time in Campana was winding down. While at the first home in which I was apart of the energy audit, Axel the ten year old son was full of enthusiasm. As we used high definition technologies he was intrigued by the processes when using a manometer or when taking photos with the camera. We played catch together with his dogs and splashes were exchanged from the makeshift pool. Though he did not live in the ideal housing situation he was content and by this I felt so humbled. He had fun in our company and the enjoyment of interacting with the family on a personal level was apparent on all our faces. In the second home the little girl held onto a stuffed pig like animal as she meandered around the front yard and she allowed me to help her ride her bike around with training wheels in circles. She liked for her feet to be tickled and would giggle as she tried to hide under the foam top. “dónde estás no se puede ver” It was like playing peekaboo. She’d jump up “Aquí estoy” while filled with laughter. She was so sweet and a little shy but liked the idea of having a playmate. The mother felt comfort in this because the process of weatherizing her home became personalized. Though my spanish is not up to par, I could read facial expression and catch onto words to put together their sentences. Her older brother, Joaquin told a lot of stories and he enjoyed sharing with me the stories behind the photos on the wall of his family members. He found this red feather and we kept it up in the air while blowing the feather together. He gave the feather to me and I brought it back for safe keepings. While Sophia and I were speaking with her older brother he told us about some of his past pets and what had happened to them. Without hesitation and the slightest emotion he explained to us that one of his dogs had been taken and left out in the street abused to death. This kind of violence was treated as normal and the fact that he expressed minimal emotions during his explanation revealed to us the slightest reality of how children his age may be subjected a particular harshness early on.
The children of these homes interact with the world in such a different way yet basic communication through laughter and love broke this barrier right away. Taking time to listen to them and give them a positive atmosphere in which they felt safe brought about the comfort of the family. The service we were providing for these families seemingly could be impersonal but I believe it was so important to make it a personal experience so that the families not only benefited from the changes made in the home but also from our presence as a whole. As I went to visit the third house I couldn’t of imagined what I would find there. The close interaction and relationship built with the families was lasting. Not only did we improve their homes but we improved the energy surrounding the process with our personal presence. The children had smiles on their faces when we spent time with them and silly faces and sounds were so much fun for the both of us.
As I visited the last house I understood that previously some of my classmates had to lug two truckloads of trash outside from one of the bedrooms. I had a brief understanding of the situation. The conditions in which the children of the final house, were not ideal and from the beginning I could read their expressions as slighty dimmed especially the older children at the ages of 8 and 10. The rooms were dark and grim as we scrubbed the walls of mold. I understood that this was a chance to change the livelihoods of these families. And so we did we not only improved the physical aspects of the home we also were apart of their emotional health throughout the duration of our time there. I have formulated a short video about my experience in this home.
– Written by Naomi Antinarelli
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