Block Work - Las Flores, Belize (January 23 - 30, 2017)
June 1, 2017
In January 2017, two individuals from St. John's were requested by Luke Boiarski, SCN, to travel to Las Flores, Belize, to assist in the building of a block house. This project differed from the other home-building missions that St. John's had undertaken because it used cement brick instead of wood. In Las Flores, termites are prevalent, so a wooden house would not be feasible.
Volunteers Wayne and Theresa met the Martinez family: Mom, six children, and three grandchildren. The house they lived in was a shack with metal roofing on the side of a hill that was eroding. This was evidenced by the coconut trees behind their home starting to lose footing because of ground erosion.
The team started immediately loading dirt into the already existing foundation and tamping it down to prep for a concrete poured floor. Gustavo, Manuel, and the younger daughter, Reina, helped the team work on the home. The older daughter watched the grandchildren and kept them busy while everyone worked. The team could see her often in the window doing dishes and watching the progress. Valentine, a neighbor who had his house done previously, was the boss, but he spoke no English. Most communication had to be translated by Manuel or a girl on the team from Guadalupe.
On the third day, the team visited St. Michael's School, which St. John's is endeavoring to have as their "partner" school. Many supplies were donated by the St. John's family. The kids were so excited, and the principal was overjoyed and extended a hearty welcome to the team. She even had a class sing the Belize national anthem in welcome.
The next day it was back to the job site. The concrete for the foundation was poured, and work began on the footing for the second part of the house. Thankfully a mixer was available for the concrete task: normally the team mixes the concrete by hand. The concrete had to be carried up to the floor by way of a skinny plank with a wheelbarrow.
The fourth day brought sunshine and more shoveling. Everyone wanted to help with laying block, but no one could keep stride with Wayne (a master mason), who kept at it until his wall was complete. Because Belize is at sea level, the block goes deep into the ground. The wall will be mostly covered up with dirt because it is a foundation wall. The dirt inside will be packed down tight, and a floor will be poured. The team completed most of the foundation wall. The master mason stayed overtime to finish it so the team could pour the next day.
At one point in the day, Valentine needed a form built. Not being able to understand a word Valentine said, Theresa drew a picture of what she thought the form should look like and put question marks where she needed measurements. The form was filled with concrete to hold the corners together with the walls they had built. Then more shoveling, filling in the foundation, and tamping the dirt down. The actual concrete pour would be done after the team left.
It was hard to leave. Previously, the team had built an entire wood house as part of the mission effort. The block structure takes much longer. Several volunteer teams come to help with specific portions of the effort.