Florida Ice & Farm Co, Costa Rica’s largest brewery, has teamed up with the non-governmental organization Habitat for Humanity Costa Rica to help those affected by last January’s earthquake rebuild their homes. This initiative, however, is unique in that it is doing so by creating a small environmentally sustainable community.
Thirteen permanent homes will be built in Tambor, a few kilometers northwest of the provincial capital of Alajuela. The project will help families who lost their houses in the Jan. 8 magnitude 6.2 earthquake, centered near the Poás Volcano, that killed 23 and left hundreds homeless. Plans for the project are already underway, with most of the benefactors already chosen and construction set to begin in early June.
The entire community will be built sustainably, with different models of houses incorporating various alternative energyand resource-efficient methods. For example, some will re-use waste water from sinks and dishwashers in toilets. Others will produce their own electric energy using solar panels, or heat the majority of their water by means of solar heating. All this will be possible as long as the community uses reasonable amounts of water and electricity.
“If we are going to rebuild a community, then why not include progressive and environment-friendly strategy,” said Rafael Vargas, national director of Habitat for Humanity Costa Rica. “We can rebuild in the most intelligent way, looking ahead for future generations.”
In addition, the NGO and its partners are ensuring that the natural forest in the area will be preserved to the extent possible, and will plant only native species. A strict recycling program will be implemented for all residents, including a composting effort for organic wastes.
Florida Ice & Farm Co. will be covering the cost of the project as well as providing a major portion of the labor force. The company’s employees, alongside Habitat for Humanity volunteers and the recipients of the houses, will work on the project from beginning to end, from surveying and laying out the property through painting and decoration of the houses.
Twelve of the 13 beneficiary families of the project will be chosen by the Mixed Institute for Social Aid (IMAS). Another will be given to Florida Ice & Farm Co. employee Christian Ricardo Fluce, his wife and his two children.
Fluce has worked at Florida Ice & Farm Co. for 10 years and during the earthquake lost his home in Los Cartagos, near the quake’s epicenter. Since then his employer has been supportive, offering financial assistance throughout the ordeal.
Before, during and after the construction of the houses, Habitat for Humanity – with the help of Florida Ice & Farm Co. – will be providing financial and environmental education to the families, giving the residents of the community a greater opportunity to be successful and productive.
The organization will be offering aid in learning how to manage finances, obtain a loan and start a business. The project itself includes a small business opportunity in the form of small organic vegetable gardens included in the project, ensuring that even in the early stages of the community, the families will have the prospect of generating income.
Fluce’s wife, Floribeth Nuñez, expressed the immense relief she felt when she found out they would be given a house: “I was so shocked, I could barely say thank you,” she said. “It’s a godsend, and I can still barely believe it’s going to happen.”
According to Habitat for Humanity, the government is not offering financial aid to construct the houses. However, when the project is completed, Habitat for Humanity and Florida Ice & Farm Co. will present the results of the project to the government in the hope that the costs of some of the homes will be subsidized based on the financial situation of the families involved.
Jeímy Gamboa, a spokesperson for Habitat for Humanity, said that this doesn’t mean they won’t fund the houses if the families aren’t subsidized, only that if some families are, the money from those houses can be put towards other housing projects where sustainability and education are incorporated.
“We don’t only want to offer financial help, we’d like to offer our knowledge so that this project is more than a donation, but a true social investment for Florida Ice & Farm Co.,” said Ramón Mediola, the general manager of the company.