Learning through play: How to build safe housing for families

Upskilling and Reskilling
Homeowners in the district of El Agustino – a suburb in Lima – received training to "Avoid poor construction practices of houses on slopes". In an interactive session, the participants learned in a playful way how to identify the risks in housing construction and how to work out solutions with the help of a specialist. The training was organised by the local Social Centre for Educational Services SEA and supported by the Swisscontact project Construya. 

El Agustino is a district in Lima where many houses are built along the hillside. These constructions are in poor condition and there are many problems such as narrow passages and broken stairs without railings. This has led to an increase in slums.

Raising awareness of safe housing construction among local residents

The Social Centre SEA has been working with the local population since 1978 to promote social justice and comprehensive development processes in the neighbourhoods of El Agustino. To address residents' concerns and the need for safe construction, the Centre asked for support from the Construya Peru project. The project applies the training method of interactive exchange to raise awareness of safe housing among families.

Raúl Méndez

Houses on the hillside are particularly at risk during earthquakes

"The main problems in El Agustino relate to the higher areas, which are the most vulnerable. There could be a strong earthquake at any moment, which would particularly affect the houses in a hillside location."

Raúl Méndez, Social Centre SEA

Tania Palomino

“Our goal is to identify vulnerable areas in this district. El Agustino is characterised by hills, which are particularly vulnerable not only in terms of the infrastructure but also socially. Thus, the Centre believes it is vital to inform the population about the safe construction of housing.” 

Tania Palomino, Communications at SEA

Ruth Huamancaya

“We  want  to  live  a calm life with our family, without having to fear that our house will collapse on us. If we build it poorly, the house will start to crack over time due to the seismic activity and may even collapse on top of us in an earthquake. We don't want to risk our lives."

Ruth Huamancaya, resident of El Agustino

What the participants learned in the training

In this training, the residents were sensitised to the following topics:

  1. Identifying faults in the structures of a house
  2. Strengthening the building structure for a safe house
  3. Ventilation and natural lighting in the house for healthy living
  4. Basic criteria in brickwork for building safe and resistant houses
  5. How to build sanitation system in the house
  6. How to safely install electrical systems in the flat

Learning through play and interactive exchange

Exchange with the other participants is fundamentally part of the method to raise awareness for safe construction. This interaction enables learning through play and collective reflection.

For example, the residents put together puzzles through which they were able to discover the five structural elements of a safe house. Similarly, by means of a floor game and a dice, the participants followed the path of questions that led them to a "safe and robust house".

"It is difficult to reach this audience and we tend to teach adults in a more serious way. But in practice, we have captured their attention with this participatory method, as we have seen in the workshops with the Construya project. Something as simple as getting participants to play, means that the knowledge is also processed emotionally, which strengthens the learning process."
Tania Palomino
Giancarlo Gaspar

Giancarlo Gaspar, resident of El Agustino, on the importance of this exchange to live more safely in his district:

"I found today's exchange excellent, because we learned many new things. For example, I cannot build a storey or a column without a plan; I have to know why I am doing it because it can lead to accidents for me or my neighbours, as in my construction could fall on towards my neighbour. So everybody has to take responsibility and you have to be well trained to build safely."

The project Construya Peru is financed by Hilti Foundation. It is part of the Swisscontact Development Programme, which is co-financed by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), Federal Department of Foreign Affairs FDFA. 

Upskilling and Reskilling
Peru: Promotion of Safe, Sound and Sustainable Construction Practices in Vulnerable Urban Areas (Construya)
Accelerated urbanization, a lack of urban planning and a significant housing deficit have generated an increasing number of informal dwellings. It is estimated that 500,000 homes and more than 700,000 people in Lima live in conditions that place them at high-risk of earthquakes and tsunamis, making Peru one of the countries most likely to...