Section title text:  Recent News.

The ‘journey’ of the FCJ house in Barrio Libertad, Tarija, Bolivia—April 2010

In 1989 two  FCJ sisters, Paula Mullen and Anne Morrison,  paid deposits to buy a lot of land in a new barrio in Tarija.  At the same time, 60 families who had been squatting to claim land rights,  each paid deposits for a plot of land.  The cost of a  lot then was U$ 275. 00. Now they cost  more than U$2,000.   The new development, Barrio Libertad was being populated by people from other parts of Bolivia, mainly Potosí, Chuquisaca, from La Paz and from rural areas of Tarija.  The people of the barrio were pleased to have the sisters in the barrio.  When the lots were divided up the sisters asked for one with access for a jeep  and were assigned what was then  the last lot on the main street.  (There were in fact  no streets at the time) It was a piece of stony, sloping land.  In January 1990, the land was cleared of  several churquis (a tree native to Tarija) and a short time later, work began on the foundations. The house design made  best use of its position.

During all this time Paula and Anne  were assisting at the barrio meetings and between other activities, were gradually getting to know the people who would be neighbors and friends. Building in Bolivia is a slow process, especially 20 years ago, but by  the end of October 1990 it was possible for Paula and Anne to move in.  To begin with the there were  two small rooms and the kitchen-dining room area but even this  limited space was shared with visitors.  Little by little the rest of the house became available. 

Tarija house 1

Left to Right: Christmas treats for the children 1990, the house takes shape 1990, , women of the barrio, July 1991

At that time the water supply was from  a general tap on the barrio and for just two hours in the morning.    Anne and Paula along with the other families, had to collect  enough water for the day.  Collecting water  was a wonderful moment to chat with the neighbours about the day. There was no electricity and obviously no sewerage. But by  the end of 1991, and after many battles with the electricity company the barrio was connected with electricity.  The first night everything seemed so bright!

As the house was made of mud bricks, it was decided after a year of two to plaster the house so the mud bricks would not disappear when it rained!  Around this time a room was   built beside the house and was used for meetings, catechetics and sometimes little parties.  Almost from the beginning, there were  problems with the roof which it seems had not been built with sufficient slope so that in the rainy season, the water collected between the tiles and it rained inside and out in some of the upstairs rooms. Attempts were made to  rectify this but sadly, the attempts were only partially successful.

Shortly after moving in the sisters  began a garden, at first with fruit trees, vegetables and a few flowers. Watering the garden was always a problem in the months when there was no rain at all, from April to the end of October. However it was successful  especially during the rainy seasons.

In 1993, thanks in great part to Plan Internacional, running water was connected to all the houses in the barrio.  This did not mean that there was always water but it was certainly en enormous help.
During the ensuing years, the community  welcomed  volunteer workers, many visitors, FCJ´s, friends from Canada, New Zealand and Australia. People from the rural area, who had no place to stay were welcomed to the little house.

 Tarija house and countryside.

The FCJ house and a view of the surrounding countryside, Tarija Bolivia

In 2002, two more rooms and an extra bathroom were added to the outside of the house.  

Over the years the house has had various repair jobs and maintenance, but it seems that these were not sufficient, as on the 29 December 2009, when there was  a massive storm, rain entered in several parts of the house apart from the usual places.  Mud and water penetrated the walls, into some bedrooms, the dining area and the bathroom.  The community battled with it all but when the storm subsided an external inspection of the house revealed that the large tree outside the property on the footpath had been partially blown down and the broken branches had completely blocked the gate.  Within a short while several of neighbors came to the rescue and cleared the gate.   The electricity was cut off for several days and it was only in the light of the next day that  the extent of the structural damage was apparent.  Experts assessed the damage and discovered that the house was structurally unsound and that repairing it was probably not the best answer.

Tarija house 2

Left to Right: Our neighbours help move broken branches, cracks in the house, flowering tree outside our rented house

The sisters write, ‘Sadly we came to the decision that we would have to move out, so we spent several weeks looking for suitable accommodation which thank God we have found. We told the people of the barrio in a general meeting and the Sunday before our departure they prepared a supper for us during which many expressed their sadness at our departure and their willingness to help pull down the house and rebuild it for us if that was necessary. The next chapter in our journey is yet to be discerned but for the moment we are living in a house in the city of Tarija.’

We pray God's continuing blessing on the people of Barrio Libertad!

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