Saving Lampa

Over the past four weeks I have been onboard and intrigued with the Lampa project. Lampa is a large city about 50 minutes from Santiago and a large community of concentrated poverty. I first heard of Lampa my first day at TECHO. My cousin Sofía is assigned to Lampa and she told me that the day after my arrival she was having a meeting with SERVIU to determine if there would be enough funding to start a construction project in Lampa that would provide houses for around 375 families, or as she told me, a lot of families. The news was hard the next day when she informed me, on her birthday to add to the misfortune, that the project didn’t pass with SERVIU. Since the project was so large and required a lot of money it was a challenge to have everything organized and presented in the correct way. The following week we stayed the latest I had ever at the office going over all the information we had regarding the project to make sure everything was prepared for another meeting about changing the decision made by SERVIU. This was the last chance to get the project passed.

The extra time and hard work paid off when we received the fantastic news that the project would go through! It wasn’t until today that we got to share that wonderful news with all the families. The day started off when Sofía and I drove to Lampa, my first trip there. After hearing so much about it I was excited to see what the city looked like. We drove down the long country road that was absolutely gorgeous after the rain from the day before, the green grass was incredibly vibrant and beautiful. As we got closer there were a few camps along the way interspersed with farms and small, local grocery stores. When we continued driving it was interesting because every other five minutes we would pass a type of campamento filled with shacks or a small congregation of what looked like middle class suburbs.  As we came up to the center of Lampa where the campamento we were working with was located there were a lot of homes, as I expected. It was an interested sight to see the middle class suburb-type housing developments literally across the street from the underdeveloped, rundown looking shacks. The dichotomy in such a close proximity was shocking.

We arrived at our destination and entered the home of a family that Sofía has grown very close to while working with Lampa. I had never met them but as soon as I walked in the door for lunch, the mother of the household welcomed me. Her husband got up from his chair and told me to sit as I was served a large hot plate of meat and rice so I could join in the lunch with the couple’s daughter, her husband, two cousins, their grandfather, and 3 young boys and a little girl. It was a lot of people in a small space but it was very homey.

After the delicious lunch and dessert of a manjar-mouse/chocolate cake, we drove to the center of town to a high school where the monthly asamblea was being held. This is where we would announce the news of the project to everyone in the community. It was a big celebration, after the announcements were given everyone gathered for cake and coffee/tea and talked about the excitement of the future. It was a wonderful sight to see so many people clapping. Representatives form the Municipalidad and SERVIU were there and they thanked TECHO for all their hard work and help with making the project a reality. Sofía spoke about how it has been great to work with everyone in the campamentos and she was very happy to see that the project would commence.

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ImageTo follow the asamblea we went back to the campamento where we had lunch, for a barbeque at the TECHO headquarters there. The area was composed of three small shacks, a meeting place and a library but we spent most of our time in the space outside between them. We played music and were joined by many members of the community and all the TECHO volunteers for this camp to celebrate. We gathered around tables and a fire and the barbeque where delicious choripán, which is a popular Chilean type of sandwich with a sausage wrapped in bread, and steak and all sorts of sides and salads that were brought by different members of the community were served. There were speeches made by both the volunteers and several members and leaders from the community and everyone was very happy and content, it was absolutely amazing. The whole day was a wonderful introduction to Lampa for me because I had talked about the community so much that it made it all the more exciting to put faces to the name, especially the happy, celebrating faces I met.

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