Working Together to Bring Positive Change

TECHO Construction – Building Houses to Fight Poverty

Have you ever thought about volunteering? Do it! There are so many opportunities and amazing projects out there that are just looking for enthusiastic people like you. Be it at your won school or in your own community or abroad, there is always a way to contribute and help. You don’t get money for the work you do but you get payed much more than that. This is an example of how volunteers can make a difference in the lives of people.

The past weekend about 120 volunteers mainly from Costa Rica, the USA, and Canada worked hand in hand with the locals of Agriportica to make a dream come true for twelve families – an own house. In total, we built 12 houses in just two days under the heat of the tropical sun.

The construction weekend is just the final step of a long phase of planning and organizing. Probably the hardest part of realizing a construction project like that is collection the required funding. On the contrary, there are more than enough volunteers willing to donate their time and effort to this cause. I’m still amazed by the number of TECHO volunteers all over Latin America that work to fight poverty with all means possible.

This memorable weekend started out in San José where we met and waited for the Bus. The bus would take us to a school in rural Limon where we would sleep. We arrived there at about 11:30 pm and blew up our air mattresses in the school’s gym and those who were hungry had a very late dinner.

The Group – TECHO Construction in Agripotica, Limon

The Group - TECHO Construction in Agripotica, Limon

The Volunteers

The group of volunteers was made up about half of Costa Rican TECHO volunteers and half of participants of a special program present in North America which organized trips for young people who want to volunteer abroad. Even though most people didn’t know each other and despite the language barrier, we managed to work together as one huge team.

Some of the Costa Rican Volunteers were already quite experienced at building houses because they have been to many other construction weekends before. Those were the ones that led the groups and gave instructions to the less experienced volunteers. I was part of a team of 8 volunteers. We were the only group without Gringos. I guess in that case, I was the Gringa of our group.

Saturday, Laying the Foundation

After just a few hours of rest the volunteers all got up at 4:30 am, even before the sun had risen. After eating breakfast, which obviously consisted of Gallo Pinto (a typical Costa Rican breakfast rice & beans dish). Then it was time to go to our construction sites.

Even though all the houses were going to be built in the same town, they were spread out a lot. This is very typical for a rural town like that. There were gravel roads aligned by squares of cow paddocks, banana plantations, and occasionally a few houses. Since this is a very poor area most houses were just made of wood and corrugated metal.

Measuring – TECHO Construction in Agripotica, Limon

On Saturday we spent all day, from sunrise to sunset, with digging holes and putting the 15 poles in place. The holes had to be almost one meter deep which made it hard to get the soil out once it reached a certain depth. It looked quite funny when someone had to stick their head into a hole to reach the ground. The hardest part was that we had to be very exact about the measurements so that the house would be even and not tilt. We first put in a “master pole” as a reference point for the following fourteen poles.

Last Pole – TECHO Construction in Agripotica, Limon

Last Pole - TECHO Construction in Agripotica, Limon

For lunch we had, you have guessed it, rice and beans and some salad. The family cooked it for us and we ate together in the shad of their canopy. Being super exhausted from digging holes in the hot sun, some of us used the chance for a power nap.

In the afternoon we finished laying the foundation of the house. When it already started to get dark we walked back to the school, tired but happy about the progress we had made.

The family

During the time we spent building the house together with the family, we got to know them a little. The family consisted of a young couple with two young sons. They seemed to have lived in the small house of their parents so far together with more family members. They also had an adorable little dog that acted more like a cat than a dog. The kids carried it around in their arms and it snored like a cat when being pet.

On Saturday the father of the family had to work, but the mother joined us all day. Sometimes also her father and some more family members helped us with the construction and the two little boys were always around watching and playing.

The Boys – TECHO Construction in Agripotica, Limon

The Boys - TECHO Construction in Agripotica, Limon

Sunday, Finishing the House

Just like on Saturday, we got up at 4:30 am on Sunday morning. Despite only having slept for a few hours, everybody was enthusiastic and full of energy. We all knew that we still had a lot of work ahead of us. On Sunday nailed down the floor, drove up the walls, put in the door and windows, and put a roof on top.

On the Roof – TECHO Construction in Agripotica, Limon

On the Roof - TECHO Construction in Agripotica, Limon

Roof in Construction – TECHO Construction in Agripotica, Limon

Roof in Construction - TECHO Construction in Agripotica, Limon

Almost Done – TECHO Construction in Agripotica, Limon

Roof in Construction - TECHO Construction in Agripotica, Limon

With the goal of finishing the house early so we could go for a swim in the river behind the family’s house, we worked fast and effective. In fact, we were the first group to finish. So after a lunch of, of course, rice and beans, we went to the little river. It had never felt so good before to go for a swim before. We got to cool down and wash off all the dirt from the construction in this fairytale-like river in the jungle.

The House

The house that TECHO usually constructs is about 6 by 3 meters and meant to fit a family of about 4 people. It’s basically just a room with three windows and a door. It’s not much, but it can change a lot in a family’s life. Of course, they can add things and add their own touch to it. The house is meant to be transitional and to give them a place where they can flourish. In other programs, TECHO helps to empower the communities and provide the kids with educational programs. Everything with the goal that they can make their way out of poverty.

The Finished House – TECHO Construction in Agripotica, Limon

The Finished House - TECHO Construction in Agripotica, Limon

The moment you know everything you did was worth it

The moment you know everything you did was worth it is definitely when you hand over the house to the family. You could see it in their eyes how thankful and happy they were that they finally had their own house. They told us that it had always been a big dream and now it came to reality. The whole group was very moved when the ribbon was cut and the family set their first steps into their new home.

Group Picture - TECHO Construction in Agripotica, Limon

“I hope that this house will be a place of joy and happiness for the family, a place where they can feel secure and comfortable and that it will help them on the way into a bright future.”

4 replies
  1. Tab
    Tab says:

    Wow! That was quite a hard work, Miranda. Houses built in 2 days, amazing! And they look strong, well structured. Well done! I’m impressed and I have more respect than before for the work TECHO does. And I like the Ticos who participated with one and only one Gringo!! And the Gringo is getting quite proficient in making catchy start of her blogs!!

    • Miranda
      Miranda says:

      Thank you! Yes, I also appreciate the work TECHO does more after being able to go to one of their construction projects! And yes, the tico volunteers in my group were amazing! It was a lot of fun to work with them!

  2. Pia
    Pia says:

    Liebe Miranda, es freut mich sehr, dass Du es gut hast und demzufolge es Dir gut geht. Deine Fotos zeigen auf, wie interessant, schön, wunderschön, froh, freudvoll Du Costa Rica erlebst. Alles Liebe Pia:-)


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