Restroom Construction and Drinking Water Project Report
At the Shalom Center in Chile, programs are centered on healing one’s relationship with God, creation, community, and self. Programs are designed to give children, teenagers, and adults a sense of self-worth, develop conflict resolution skills, impart the relevance of environmental stewardship, and create self-management skills.
In recent years, the Shalom Center has begun to develop its infrastructure thanks to the offerings of sisters and brothers in Chile and the United States, and through the many hours of work enthusiastically provided by participants from Mexico, Costa Rica, Paraguay, Chile, Texas, Connecticut, Indiana, and Massachusetts in the Conpaz (Peacebuilding) Camps. The Shalom Center Welcome House was completed at the end of 2007. The Shalom Center has developed a fifty-year construction plan with over 25 different buildings projected in specific places across the 240 acres of land, located in the mountains of southern Chile. One of the projects in the 50-year development plan is the construction of restrooms and the provision of an infrastructure that can provide drinking water to the Center.
Before starting the construction of the restrooms, the Shalom Center conducted an environmental impact evaluation for the project. The Shalom Center was very conscious of their impact on the environment, especially since they are located in a very delicate mountain forest ecosystem on the buffer zone of a National Reserve. Graduating seniors from the Construction and Engineering Department of the Maule Catholic University did their thesis project at the Shalom Center, designing its sewage and drinking water systems. One of the biggest obstacles of the designers was that the Shalom Center could not provide electricity for pumps or water treatment plants.
Construction began in December of 2007. A young woman architect volunteered her time to work on the development of the restroom project at the Shalom Center. For the construction of the bathrooms there was one master builder who worked with two volunteer apprentices. The Shalom Center considered the building of the restrooms as an international, intercultural and peace-building experience. Teen groups from Chile and the United States worked side-by-side together in the building of the restrooms. In total there were 59 people who worked on the restroom project at various times. Three countries and four languages were represented as well as 18 different Chilean congregations from the Pentecostal Church and six congregations from outside of Chile. The hope of the Shalom Center is to also build “shalom” among the different groups of people that came together to work on the shared project of the restrooms. Many divides were broken by such fellowship including language, culture, races, and faith backgrounds.
The Shalom Center is about 1½ hours away from the nearest building supply and the last mile and a half can only be reached in a 4×4 pickup truck. The transportation of building supplies is quite a challenge. The dump trucks carrying the gravel for the septic system, for example, were not able to drive all the way to the site of the restrooms. We had to load and unload the pickup truck and drive it down the winding dirt road to the Shalom Center about 40 times to take in all of the gravel.
The newly constructed restrooms have three sections. Two of the sections have two toilets and two showers. The third section is handicap accessible and has one shower and one toilet. The bathrooms serve 24 over night guests and 40 day guests at a time, and will mostly be used during our spring-summer-fall seasons, between October and March. The bathrooms were inaugurated on April 30, 2008.
One of the main ways we conserve water is our “unique” water heating system. The water comes to the restrooms from a mountain spring, fresh ice-melt straight off the Andes Mountains. So, we have reused plastic beverage bottles by painting them black and laying them out in the field for the sun to heat. Each person gets a couple of these bottles for his/her shower at the end of the day. Everyone has the challenge of washing up with three litres or less of water, and those who choose to brave the water straight from the tap and not use the bottles, take very quick showers! The toilets do not have special water-saving features as we were not able to get these in Chile. They have, however, much smaller tanks that normal toilets.
Our water tests show that we have a very clean water source; however, we do have cows that invade our property, so part of the project was to fence off our water source. The Ministry of Health requires us to filter and chlorinate the water, and we are testing a non-electric system that will operate with the force of the water running downhill. The whole property is on a slope.
The Shalom Center is very grateful for al the generous offerings of time, materials, tools and money which has made this project successful.
Submitted by: Shalom Center, Pentecostal Church of Chile