Building homes for Mitch refugees, Municipio de Marcovia, Republica de Honduras
March, 1999

P1N15.jpg (40338 bytes)The Plan: map shows locations for 500+ homes, plus a clinic and a few other "municipal" buildings.  I failed to photograph several steps in the building process and will insert additional images I hope to borrow from other Toledo construction workers.


R2n28.jpg (31591 bytes)7 AM - time to begin work.   It is almost cool in the early morning.  Believers pray for clouds (and there are no atheists here, at least after the first day of working in the sun).

P2N21.jpg (108559 bytes)The chief builder has measured out the locations of the walls.  He set nails in these wooden frames 7 inches either side of each wall center.  These strings are stretched between those nails.  A worker with a pick marks the ground under each string (a heavy chalk line would be better, but "no hay").   Each house will be 6 meters square, divided into 4 rooms.


P2N22.jpg (71101 bytes)Women from Las Peņitas (see map) dig trenches for footings where the ground has been marked.  Each trench is over 6 meters long, 14 inches wide, and 60 cm deep except where trenches intersect.  Reinforcing rod "castillos" are placed at intersection points, where the hole is dug to 70 cm.

P2N23.jpg (59288 bytes)This ground is HARD!  Boulders as large as bowling balls, held together by stiff, nearly dry clay.  Sometimes diggers get lucky and hit a gravel layer without much clay (loose rocks are easier to move than tightly held rocks).   Some Toledo 'excavation engineers' (who took turns with picks and shovels) thought that a backhoe would be greatly appreciated, but were informed by other Toledo workers (who knew about backhoes and their limitations) that this ground is too hard.  Recommendation: jack hammers.  It takes 50 man-hours or more to dig trenches for footings for just one house.  Other thoughts while digging: we should send convict labor to do this (the ACLU would probably declare this "cruel and inhuman"), or, suggest this activity as conditioning for university football teams.  The woman in the red baseball cap is from CARE.  She is documenting who is working today.  In order to qualify for a house, each family must provide labor.  Many of the men are working in sugar cane fields for wages (less than $3 per day) so women and teenage boys are doing most of the digging on this day.  Working here also qualifies Mitch refugees for food provided by CARE.

P2N24.jpg (62099 bytes)Robert and Brad take a break in what shade is available.  Short shadows indicate it is getting close to noon.  The temperature has risen to almost 100 degrees F.  It will he hotter after lunch.


R2n33.jpg (88799 bytes)Roy's trenching team and fan club.  Keep digging, folks, that's not 60 cm deep yet!


R2n36.jpg (70401 bytes)Mixing the "mezcla."  Pile the sand, break apart the sack of cement, mix with shovels.   Add water as needed (note girl carrying bucket - when not carrying water, this 14-year-old bent the steel of her mattock against rocks in the pits) and load into wheelbarrows.  The water tank is located next to the tree, left side of photo, over 100 meters away.

P1N03.jpg (74521 bytes)These wheelbarrows are taking quite a beating.  Some of the tires are ruined.  There are some new and better wheelbarrows in the supply shed but the hardware needed to put them together has not arrived.


R2n35.jpg (68147 bytes)MEZCLA! Dave stands ready to unload the next "cubeta" as Gary guides the mix (3 cubetas of dirty sand to one sack of cement) into the trench.  As many rocks as can be fit into the trench are used - they are cheaper than cement.  It takes about 12 sacks of cement to install a footing and castillos.  The foundation is mixed 1 sack cement to 2 cubetas of sand.  For mortar, the sand is sifted.   Back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest we'd need 8 to 9 cubic yards of Ready-Mix per footing, if we were within the delivery service area.

P1N02.jpg (83550 bytes)Dave scrapes the last bits of mezcla from the cubeta as the project's champion rock-mover packs as many as she can into the wet concrete.




P1N04.jpg (73654 bytes)While the boys are mixing another batch of mezcla, more rocks are placed into trenches.  The man wearing #5 (blue shirt) is a community organizer (social worker?).  Among other things, he supervises use of cement by making certain the cubetas of sand are full.   Despite the "professional" title and responsibility, he does take turns mixing and loading cement.

R2n34.jpg (95401 bytes)Dave levels off the mezcla as this footing is nearly complete.  Tomorrow, we will install the "castillos" in the holes left.  I hope we have enough rocks left for the job, else we'll need to borrow a wheelbarrow and make a few trips to the rock pile (why hasn't someone told the truck drivers to dump what we need closer to where we need it?).  On our best day, we installed one footing by lunch and most of a second during the afternoon.  The team consisted of 3 boys/men with wheelbarrows, 2 men mixing cement, 2 or 3 women fetching rocks and water, and 2 or 3 men in the trenches.  The next day, it took nearly all morning (same team) to set up the 10 castillos for this house.

P4N04.jpg (39177 bytes)In this tent, women assemble wires and reinforcing rod into castillos.   These add strength to concrete corners, window and door frames.


P2N25.jpg (41514 bytes)Jim, John and Miguel raising a wall.  Some of these cinder blocks failed basic stress tests.   The ASTM would be shocked at the lack of quality control!



R2n32.jpg (37152 bytes)This one is beginning to look like a house!


P4N01.jpg (57407 bytes)The overhang will provide shade, once the fiberglass sheeting is nailed in place as a roof.   The exterior will probably be covered with stucco and painted or whitewashed.


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