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Volunteers build homes in San José shantytown

December 19, 2010

Martha Rojas stood on a new wood floor with her two-year-old daughter, on a boiling Sunday in La Carpio, the western San José shantytown.

She smiled as a team of young volunteer workers carried a large panel built from two-by-fours toward her.

“I couldn’t think of a better Christmas gift,” Rojas said as she peered out of an old shanty with crumbling walls and a dirt floor where she has lived for nine years.

Doña Martha was one of five residents in La Carpio and one of more than 100 families across Costa Rica that the Chilean-based Un Techo Para Mi País (“A roof for my country”) selected to receive a new home this week during one of the organization’s largest undertakings in Costa Rica.

In total, 500 volunteers from Costa Rica’s public and private universities will spend this week building 115 homes for impoverished families across the country.  Families will cut the ribbons on the new dwellings Thursday, just in time for Christmas.

“The idea is that these families will have a new, suitable place to spend the holidays,” said Vivana Valverde, communications director for Techo Para Mi País.

The volunteers, who have been working in La Carpio since Saturday, will build homes for families with decaying homes in Limón on the Caribbean coast, in Corredores in the county’s southern zone and in Playas del Coco in the northwestern province of Guanacaste. They also will train families in basic construction methods.

 La Carpio is one of the San José metropolitan area’s poorest neighborhoods. The 2000 census registered 2,942 homes in La Carpio and determined that 1,287 of the houses were in “bad condition.” Many of the stacked metal shanties have bare dirt floors and some are covered only partially by a roof.

For Martha Rojas, nine years didn’t pass fast enough.

“It’s perfect,” she said. “I can’t wait to move in.”

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