Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Building the Wall! Our work on the health center goes forward.

We have built the walls!

Now that we are back in the States with a good internet connection, we can share our latest story...

Our work during the winter and early spring is complete.  We have built the walls of our health care center.  It was more difficult than planned.  A high inflation rate added at least 25% to our costs.  The low level of the river made transportation difficult.  Finding a reliable mason was a challenge.  And now, the story.

Moving 1,300 brick construction blocks was very labor intensive.  After ordering the bricks at the business of Bom Jesus across the shared border of Tabating, Brazil, we had to wait five weeks for them to be fired and delivered.  The delivery day was February 7.  The day started with a hearty breakfast of pancakes.  Three of our scholarship students helped our main crew to move the bricks.

Pan-que-ques! (bread-what-whats)

Bom Jesus is one of the largest brick yards in the Colombian Amazon.  They supply the majority of the material for the region.  Their friendly staff help to coordinate the delivery.  Unfortunately, the orders were mixed up, and the bricks arrived during the second delivery time of 10:30 in the morning.  This caused us some problems, as the trip upriver was planned to take at least four hours, not including the time we needed to load the boats!

Brick making.

And more bricks.

Picking up the smaller brick blocks at the business La Confianza.

We used a combination of a large dump truck and a smaller motorcycle/cart vehicle to transport the bricks to the riverside.  This was about a two-kilometer trip.  Once at the river, we had to carry the blocks and stack them into our two boats.  Each of our boats was 11 meters long and built in the traditional style of the wooden riverboats of the region.  One boat is harbored at our village of  La Libertad, and the other came down from Vista Alegra, Peru.

We stacked about two tons of blocks in each boat.

While the boats may look overloaded, the pilots said they were not.

The day was hot, in the low 90's, with brutal humidity.  Most of us had varying degrees of heat stroke.  We did attempt to stay hydrated by drinking fruit juice and large quantities of water.  When we were packed and ready to go, it was 11:45.

The trip upriver took four hours for the boat on the right.  They arrived at about 4:30 pm.  Their trip was uneventful.  But our other boat ran into problems.  Halfway through the 38-kilometer trip, their propellor hit an underwater log.  This broke off one of the propellor blades.  After looking for a replacement propellor in the nearby river communities, they found and installed an old, used one, enabling them to resume the trip.  The only problem, the cost of the propellor was four times what it should have been!  Gustavo, our pilot, arrived in the village after a seven-hour tip, well after sunset.  We were preparing a rescue to see what had happened to him.  Luckily he arrived before they left.

Now the fun part.  Construction.

At last, the blocks are safely under the health center's roof.

We started the construction one week after the blocks arrived.  We had some problems finding a reliable mason, but we employed Larry after having one person back out.  He has over 20 years of building wood and concrete structures in the area.  His helpers are from the village of La Libertad.  This works well, as they are eager for steady work.

The first days of work.  Luckily, the weather was beautiful during the construction.

All mortar must be mixed by hand on the floor of the center.

Little by little, the walls take form.

Larry, the contractor, and Ben, our project director.

The camera angle makes the center look enormous.
Its dimensions are actually only seven meters by five meters.

Victor, one of the workers, with one of our scholarship students.

Finished at last!  At least for this year.  The planning and logistics for the walls took about two months.  The construction took about three weeks after we had all the materials in the village.  That included wood needing to be cut, more trips to Leticia for missing things, and food resupply.

We had about 500 blocks left from the construction.  That will be enough to build a bathroom for next year's project.  Other improvements scheduled to make include: installing a metal door and window bars, mosquito screening, tile floor, plastering the walls, electrifying the structure, painting, and furniture.  We will be busy!

Moving the extra blocks under Gustavo's house.


Our last work was to move the extra construction blocks under Gustavo's house.  We did this through community work.  All of our neighbors came over to help move everything.  We supplied cookies, crackers, fruit drinks, and soda.  The group work is called a Minga.  Many hands make light work.  Think of this as the barn-raisings we had during colonial times in the States.

Would you like to help?  Our next construction time is planned to be in July/August of 2023.  We are always looking for volunteers.  Plan a trip to the Amazon and join us!

And thank you, from us and everyone in the village of La Libertad, to all of our friends, family, volunteers, and donors, without whose help, this would not have been possible.

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