By Kelsie Hoitomt
GLENWOOD CITY – Dave and Joan Bartz recently spent just over a week’s time (June 29-July 9) in Santa Fe, Argentina doing volunteer work as a part of Thrivent Builds with Habitat for Humanity.
Their goal, along with roughly nine others, was to finish construction on two homes in Santa Fe. These volunteers came from River Falls, the Twin Cities and Washington D.C., which also included Thrivent Financial representatives and some family members as well.
These families were selected to receive help not because of extreme poverty, each person works, pays a mortgage and puts their own hours into aiding the volunteers. They were selected instead because they themselves wanted to break the cycle of poverty and make a better world for their children.
These homes are essentially one room and one small bathroom with cement and brick walls and tin for the roof. The toiletry is the bare minimum with no sinks or showers. There was a large oven for cooking, but no ventilation so that had to be built in as well.
Dave spent the majority of his time with two other volunteers, digging with shovels and cracked pails in order to make room for a cistern tank. It took them three days to dig 12 feet down and place five cement rings into the hole for the families’ septic.
The biggest challenge with this project was the fact that Santa Fe is quite a dirty place in the sense that there is no garbage disposal system so piles of garbage fill the streets. With that being said, once the men started digging underground, they ran into mounds of old garbage that they had to shovel through including plastic, paper and even a horse femur.
Joan spent her days helping to lay down brick, plaster walls and applying several coats of paint to doors. Other work including spackling and sanding down doors, windows and walls, which was done at both homes.
The volunteers also spent several hours working at a community daycare, which is a part of the area school district that has around 400 students. The walls were cracked and chipping so the group sanded everything and applied fresh new coats of bright yellow paint.
The Bartzes shared that they went on this trip thinking that they would be the ones who were giving back, but instead they felt they were the ones who truly received the most out of the experience.
“It was exciting to be a part of the change. I truly believe the children in these two families will have a better life in the future because of our work and the work of Habitat teams that came before us. I believe this is true for many more that were affected by the work that we did at the school. They have a new pride and confidence about them,” expressed Joan.
This was Dave’s first trip and Joan’s second worldwide trip, with one previously to El Salvador. The couple has spent countless hours helping local families through the St. Croix Valley Habitat for Humanity including a current eco-friendly housing project in River Falls.