One big family.
I became part of the Gracias Group in March 2022.
In the first work meeting with Leticia Romero, telling me everything they do and everything that needs to be done, plus the objectives for this year and all the vulnerability of rights that is experienced in the country where I live, the possibility of going to the Province of Chaco to build a cistern. My eyes could not contain the emotion that was going through my body.
A few months later (two months to be exact) we already had a date and tickets to make this much desired trip. As a future social worker this opportunity was a unique experience that would give me the possibility to see a different reality than the one I currently live in. A reality where people have to walk kilometers to get water, while I have the possibility to choose between cold or hot water in a millisecond.
On May 17, 2022, we arrived at the office of the Asociación Civil Monte Adentro, a partner organization for projects, in Tres Isletas.
There we were welcomed by Marisa, coordinator of the “quemado chico” site where the new cistern would be built. We left the bags, heated water for mate, and left for Maria’s family’s house.
Maria, head of household, greeted us with a huge smile that kept her smiling every minute we talked to her. He showed us their land and the well they had made to install the cistern. This is one of the construction guidelines, where the family digs the cistern well and one member must work on the construction along with the local hired professionals. I think this is a point to highlight, since at this moment we see the responsibility of the family and the incentive to work. The construction of this cistern took four days.
During our stay in the town we visited 13 other families.
The first day we went to two houses in the same place, already with their cisterns working. First we passed by Graciela’s house, who very shyly received us kindly, and then by Olga’s house, who lives with her 5 children under 8 years old. The cisterns were extremely well maintained. Graciela had installed a fence around the perimeter to protect it from animals that might climb it, and a pump to bring the water up. The care we saw in both cisterns is proportional to the need and gratitude for drinking water. How many times have we let a faucet drip because we were too busy to tighten a nut? Here every drop is worth the same as gold.
Another purpose of the trip was to learn about the lives and needs of different families for the construction of future cisterns. So, on the second day, we traveled to the Parajes “Cabañaró” and “Lalelay” together with Naty, coordinator of both. We had previously posed a series of fundamental questions to get to know these families in depth.
The itinerary consisted of visiting three families in each site. And so it was. We stopped in Cabañaró and then in Lalelay. What we live in those houses is what everyone talks about but can’t imagine. Overcrowding, violence, discrimination, poverty, lack of health and hygiene, and the list of violated rights could go on forever. But even though their situation was devastating, service to each other was always there. Those who have a vegetable garden, give vegetables to their neighbors. Who has a well with water, lets 10 families use it. All this without asking for anything in return.
Finally we returned to Paraje Quemado Chico, to the construction of the cistern, and we spent a long time talking and drinking mates with the workers. With the installation of the concrete slabs for additional water capacity, the work was almost complete.
The third day was devoted solely to visiting the families of Paraje “La Peligrosa”. Since 2019, the Gracias Foundation carried out the construction of five cisterns to provide safe water to more people. I arrived at the first house with the suspicion that the head of household would be just as shy as those in the “quemado chico” area, but to my surprise it was quite the opposite. Friendly people, eager to talk, totally grateful for the access to water, always taking care of the cistern as if it were another child. They told us how they took care of the water, what they used it for, when it rained the most, and all the methods they used in the past to have just a little bit of it. I was really surprised that such a basic right and need is totally violated for many people in our country (17% of the Argentine population). And that is how I met the families of Reina, Santos, Lolo, Cinthia and Javito. From whom I take every shared moment, every mate, every story, and that hopefully our lives will cross again .
We returned to the office with an amazing sunset where the sky turned orange and the silhouettes of the palm trees made it look like a painting in a museum.
That night we had dinner with the people of Monte Adentro in a pizzeria where we shared a very nice and fun evening, relaxing from work and going deeper into each other’s lives. A large percentage were from Greater Buenos Aires and had made the decision to move to Chaco to work with the organization and local families. It was noticeable how they hold each other with trust and love, forming a big family.
The last day has arrived. At noon we would have to leave for the airport so, to make the most of it, we went early to Maria’s house. The entire family was there, as well as Maria’s sister and her family, the professionals of the construction site and four members of Monte Adentro. On that day, as planned, the cistern would be completed. To our surprise, the family had organized a lunch of locro and empanadas for everyone. And that is how the last day went. Sharing the day and lunch with people happy and grateful to have safe water just a few steps from their homes. I think about it and I still can’t believe it, but that’s the way it is.
With the cistern almost finished and the group photo taken, we said goodbye to the group and started our way back home from an emotional trip where I will take with me moments and many people that I will remember for the rest of my life.
Catalina del Pino
Thank you Foundation
Buenos Aires, June 2022