Building a house to reunite a family

Labour market insertion
Colored houses, several floors on narrow bases, streets full of people walking, commercial stalls announcing offers, walls marked by urban art and curious looks at the stranger who enters the neighborhood. We have arrived to Caracolí, a neighborhood in the district of Ciudad Bolívar in Bogotá.

In a small house up a steep hillside, Rafael is waiting for us, he comes down the hill to meet us and warmly welcomes us to his house. A project in which he has been working for 10 years, a project that as he says, has been built with patience and hopes to finish it soon.

Rafael: "I have had this lot for 28 years, here my son's mother abandoned him when he was a little boy, he was just 17 months old. Here I raised him, baptized him, I made his first communion, I humbly gave him the study I could and also taught him beautiful things in life. That it is nice to earn people's will, not their hate. Being helpful does not mean to be fierce, but you can earn a lot. To be respectful too, to have good manners, to be supportive when it you have to. If you see an old man crossing the street alone, go and give him a hand. The ones who work well, receives well ... but my son took the opposite side, unfortunately he was taken from this world."

On June 10, 2012, Don Rafael's son was murdered. Since that day Don Rafael works to finish his house, little by little, as he promised to his son.

Seeing projects in which 30- story buildings are built in a couple of years, you might think that 10 years is an eternity to build a house. However, it is the average time that takes to build a house in the neighborhoods of the periphery of Bogotá, where the scarcity of resources forces families to build in parts, especially, first assembling a small flat and as they have materials, building floors ontop of it. Without knowing, that, due to weak foundations, the communities are at risk, their houses could collapse with an earthquake or they can deteriorate faster, making the habitability of the properties unsafe.

Rafael: “It doesn't bother if it takes me more time to build my house, I care that it is well done, that it meets the safety regulations and it won`t fall with the first seism”.

Mr Rafael has been a construction worker for 29 years and since 2016 he has been a beneficiary of the Safety and Habitability Training of the project Construya, funded by the Hilti Foundation and executed by Swisscontact.

This project was born with the objective of improving the housing conditions of low-income populations, through training in good construction practices, for hardware stores, construction workers and homeowners.

Rafael: "All this construction has been carried out by me, applying the respective rules that I learned through the training courses, as far as it concerns to construction workers. I have applied the corresponding rules to everything".

Rafael is a smiling man, willing to help anyone who needs it. He works for his neighbors and firmly believes that he who does good receives good things in return in life. He has taken advantage of the courses and trainings of the Construya project, to improve the quality of his work and to offer more benefits to his clients on a daily basis.

Rafael: "That has motivated me to be able to give guarantees to people, in terms of work it refers to giving full guarantees and expressing in the most sincere way that I work with quality and honesty, in any area. And by quality, I mean, total quality of work".

When we asked Rafael, why he builds a house with so many rooms, if he currently lives alone, he replied with a smile on his face:

Rafael: “When my son was taken from me, I was left alone, I didn`t have anyone to share my time with. But I don't want to continue like this, that's why I`m building my house with the best inspiration; to be able to bring my daughter and my grandchildren, and that the family can be united again, under one roof ".

This project involves a skills development programme in Colombia’s informal construction sector. Its main objectives include increasing technical skills and incomes for construction workers as well as to improve home construction quality.

Upskilling and Reskilling, Labour market insertion
Colombia: Safe, healthy, and sustainable construction in poor neighbourhoods (Construya)
Three quarters of all Colombians reside in cities, many in densely populated and illegally constructed poor neighbourhoods. Many residents have built their homes on their own steam, with little money or experience and without official approvals. The living spaces are often precarious, construction quality is lacking, and the homes are particularly...