Brazil ’14 Weeks 5 & 6: Five broken hammers later…

Here’s the story of weeks 5 & 6, all rolled into one!

It’s Par-a-ti time!

Oh. No.

On the way into the TETO office on Monday morning, we took a detour to Sao Paulo’s municipal market, where we showed ourselves up as gullible tourists- we somehow spent about £20 on 4 pieces of “exotic fruit”. Here’s a picture of Izhan and Becky looking embarrassed at our fruity mistake.

We decided to take a break from the hustle and bustle of Sao Paulo! We spent two days in the idyllic seaside town of Parati where we accidentally managed to adopt a number of stray dogs, wandered round the old town and went sea kayaking through a mangrove!

Sea Kayaking in Parati

Sea Kayaking in Parati

Moving foRward

The “PMS”

Don’t worry, it hasn’t been all play and no work! This week Izhan, Jonny and Chico finished their Panel Moving System, or the “PMS” as it’s unfortunately come to be called. Inspired by our experiences of attempting to carry horrendously heavy panels down very narrow alleyways, they’ve made a simple wooden contraption on wheels to help with the process!

A poor attempt at modelling

A poor attempt at modelling

Becky and I went on our own excursion to find materials for our OSB tests. We built 5 small stands holding OSB panels, ready to be painted with 5 different coatings- we want to see which is the best and most cost effective way of protecting the OSB walls of the new house design. We’ll leave them in TETO so people can check up on them, including next year’s placement team. We don’t think the normal paint TETO uses will do the job, but we’ll see! Here’s Becky and me beautifully modelling our creations, admittedly looking a little strange after a long day of building in the scorching heat!

This week we’ve also been putting together a non-technical report on our experiences in the favelas and everything we’ve learnt about the communities, such as the level of access to basic services and community leadership.

“These things takE time”

On Saturday we went to Spama, a very central community situated between towering apartment blocks, where we saw a community meeting- what TETO refers to as their “working table”. We’ve heard a lot about how TETO are trying to move away from being just a housing charity, and want to focus more on long term solutions. They want to work towards the mobilisation and facilitation of communities to solve their own problems. It was great to see this in action in Spama! When we walked in, the TETO volunteers explained that we’re from England. “Where in England?” one man asked. I told them I was from Manchester. “You like The Smiths?” asked a young woman, rocking a baby in her arms. Apparently the appeal of a young Mancunian singing about his problems can reach as far as the Brazilian favelas….

The community members created a list of problems they’d most like to solve. Check out the list they made below! Water and light were popular concerns, but the problem of sewage came top. There was a lively discussion (with an awful lot of expressive hand gestures!) of how the community could implement this project. How could they get everyone in the community involved? Lack of engagement was a problem they’d faced before. They were going to do everything they could, they decided- this was their time, this was their opportunity to improve their community!

Left; the Spama “working table” meeting, photo credit  to Adailton Silver, TETO volunteer and Spama coordinator. Right; the list of community problems identified by Spama residents.

Left; the Spama “working table” meeting, photo credit to Adailton Silver, TETO volunteer and Spama coordinator. Right; the list of community problems identified by Spama residents.


“Ask me, ask me, ask me”

Over the past two weeks we’ve surveyed around 20 families living in TETO houses (In Spama, Anita Garibaldi and more in Vila Nova- the community featured in the week 4 blog) about the conditions of their houses, and their lives in general. In order to get an idea of how the house “ages”, we surveyed families living in TETO houses built at different times- some from 2009, all the way through to brand new builds. We look forward to analysing the answers and using them to inform our future EcoHouse work!

We’ve already picked out some interesting results! For example, we found that problems with the floor occurred often and quickly, while the roof was usually still in a very good state. We also found that most people had phones, but very few had their own computer, which could help us to determine the viability of technological projects such as Keepod (which you can read about back in blog 3)! We’ve also been videoing interviews with community members to help us convey the realities of the favelas to people back in Cambridge.

Vai construção- Go Construction!

The Redesign Prototype

The Redesign Prototype

At the end of week 6, we headed over to the factory which builds the panels for the TETO houses in order to construct a prototype of “The Redesign”- the house with a mezzanine floor that EcoHouse and TETO worked together to design. The Redesign has a smaller footprint than the normal house, so it can fit into the smaller plots in some of more crowded favelas, with the mezzanine providing some extra space. It was the first time this prototype has been built in Brazil! With no one very familiar with building this design, we had a couple of hiccups- putting things back to front, or attaching windows where doors should be. But, only 5 broken hammers later, we finished up with a completed house and a whole lot of ideas on how to improve the building process!

Stay tuned next week for more adventures.

That’s it for now from the Brazil team! Over and out.


“Weeks 5 and 6” refers to the 2 weeks beginning on 01/09/2014