Houses are Just the Beginning
When a family receives a new home it is generally a huge blessing and an astounding feat to consider all of the fundraising and the coordination that made it possible. An easy thing to think is that such a family will then be taken care of because they have had a major portion of their basic needs met. They have received shelter when they had none or it was inadequate.
However, in many places around the world, including El Salvador, the degree to which a solid roof and four walls truly benefits a family depends largely on their surroundings, their education, and many other factors. While any single person or organization likely can not meet every need a family may have, the public works that we participate in can and should be done with a broad vision and appropriate planning. This idea is extremely important in order to avoid wasted resources and effort and to assure that whatever efforts we port forth toward a family benefit them in the greatest way possible.
What Community Means
If a family receives a home that they can not afford to live in, then whatever other problems they have will then simply have better shelter. Concrete walls and a tin roof will not put food on the table. The questions are, What will? Why are they not already motivated? Do they have the resources and skills they need? These questions must be addressed. If their children have no school to attend (or refuse to go) then a new home will not help them get an education.
The homes we build create the controlled environment necessary to do the real work of community building. They are not a waste of time or money; they should and do remain the focal point. However, we can not neglect the common spaces, the importance of vegetation and infrastructure, community cooperation, and the need to train and educate the people. Creating attractive spaces with colorful, vibrant images, gathering places, and playgrounds are among many things that can create a positive environment that resident can be proud of and take ownership over.
If opportunities truly do not exist for people to work and improve their lives then they need to be created with creative solutions. If there simply exists a lack of motivation or skills than these things need to be addressed so that the neighborhood we build does not become a ghetto but a thriving, organized, healthy group of families working together. We strongly believe that we have a responsibility to every person that volunteers or writes a check to create something sustainable instead of something that can decay and fade from our memory.