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24 November
2015
Lifestyle
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TECHO: REDUCING POVERTY BY “GIVING THEM FISH AND TEACHING THEM HOW TO FISH”

On November 13th  and 14th , together with the RedMas team from Buenos Aires, Victoria Morales from Cisneros Interactive, my 13 year old son and my 17 year old daughter, I had the privilege of building a temporal home with TECHO in Moreno, which is about 1 hour away from bustling Buenos Aires.

For those of you who do not know TECHO, it is a non-profit organization whose mission is to reduce poverty in the slums of Latin America by providing temporal homes and working with the local community in education and infrastructure projects.   TECHO defines the 6 meters by 3 meters homes as temporal homes, but I suspect most families do not have the means to build better homes and these homes become “permanent”.

This is the second time I participate in building a temporal home and I am beginning to understand TECHO’s mission much better.   TECHO is sometimes criticized by those who think that providing shelter does not address the core problem of poverty.  We all heard the saying: “don’t give someone fish, instead teach them how to fish”.   Many think that these temporal homes give them shelter but not the tools that the family can use to improve their lives and their children’s education.

After building this second home and interacting more with the family who would live in the home, I am becoming a fervent supporter of TECHO and really believe its approach is effective.   For a disclaimer, this is just my opinion; if you are really interested in learning more about TECHO please visit their website www.techo.org

Why do I support TECHO?

  • TECHO provides an immediate improvement in their quality of life.

It’s easy to dismiss these temporal homes which for example lack bathrooms and plumbing, items most people think are critical for a life with “dignity”.   Well, in the two instances I witnessed, anytime it rained a lot, their old home built precariously with tin, wood, and plastic sheets would flood and rain would pour in.   Babies and young kids who slept on the floor would be swamped.   In the most recent home, we built the house 60 cm off the ground because that’s how much the water would rise when it rained (the house was next to a creek).    You have to see how some of these families live to understand the improvement in their life these temporal shelters provide.   Having a bathroom is a secondary concern when you can’t sleep because of the cold and the flooding, plus the fear of having the roof literally fall on top of you.

  • TECHO does not stop with the construction of the home – they continue to work with the local community in education and infrastructure projects.   This is the “teaching them how to fish” part.   Now I understand that building these temporal homes is a brilliant strategic move.  Most poor families have understandably great mistrust of organizations and “outside” people.    TECHO earns their trust by providing a tangible benefit to the community and afterwards works with the community to help them organize and work on projects each community prioritizes.  In this last neighborhood, comprised mostly of Paraguayan immigrants, TECHO had a permanent center (“mesa de trabajo”).   As a result, we saw a big difference in this neighborhood vs. the one from last year where conditions were much more dire and TECHO was just starting to settle in the community.  This community had managed to raise funds from all families to build a park for the kids and organize a soccer league.  In a beautiful sunny day, there was music in many homes, families celebrating birthdays, kids playing outside, etc.   It looked like a happy neighborhood, and for a moment you forgot that there were no proper streets, no plumbing services, and other infrastructure we take for granted.   TECHO had educational programs for the kids and vocational training for teenagers and adults.

Many people, when they hear about TECHO dismiss it too soon.  In my opinion TECHO provides them with the “fish” (which is the temporal home), and then works with them to teach them “how to fish”.   I, for one, think it’s a great organization and will continue to support it.  Moreover, as you can see from the video and the photos, it’s a great activity for team building and lifting company morale.   Please write to me at vkong@cisneros.com  if you want to learn more about it!

Techo, Moreno Argentina Nov 2015



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