New Roof

July 07 2017 | by

ARRIVING in the parish of La Pastora, Caracas, Venezuela, in September 2001, amongst other duties, the Friars Minor Conventual took over the work of renovating the UEP San Francisco Javier school which caters for 736 students in this poor and dangerous area of the capital city. Although a lot of work was possible, the roof on the 4th floor continued to present many problems, but due to escalating costs, its repair was beyond the means of the friars. “We had carried out remodelling and tiling in bathrooms, classrooms and corridors, restoring bathroom fittings, remodelling the auditorium and incorporating new computer labs,” explains Father Eduardo José Soto Seijas. “However, the roof continued to leak. It is only thanks to the intervention of St. Anthony’s Charities that we have been able to carry out the required project for our educational community.”


Integral education


The school is located in the highly populated neighbourhood of Lídice, Caracus, named in honour of the village in the Czech Republic where 173 men over the age of 15 were executed by order of Hitler and Himmler in June 1942 in reprisal for the assassination of Reich Protector Reinhard Heydrich. “The school provides a quality education based on Christian values inspired by the religious order of Franciscan Minor Conventuals,” says Fr. Eduardo. “The school environment is very poor, and many of the people in the neighbourhood are economically disadvantaged. Most of them receive assistance from the Venezuelan State to meet their most basic needs.” It is also an area with a high degree of danger, with crime, alcoholism, and drug addiction all part of the daily lives of its inhabitants. “The school represents a way to inform the children and youth, offering them better alternatives for their personal growth and their cultural and cognitive development,” says Fr. Eduardo.

There is a great deal of cultural diversity in the area as many of the families living there come from different parts of the country. “The school maintains a high level of participation in cultural events in order to keep alive cultural roots and to take full advantage of the artistic legacy of our ancestors,” continues Fr. Eduardo. “The school promotes an integral education based on educational excellence with Christian values centred on ethical and religious principles, and values which allow the development of character. It aids in the formation of a cultured, critical, receptive and committed citizen who will be responsible for the roles that must be assumed within their area, able to discern justice and live in a participatory democracy in the changing society within which they are immersed.”


Extensive works


The project to replace the existing roof was considered to be of paramount importance, since the physical integrity of the fourth floor of the building, where many students attend lessons, was at stake. “The purpose of the work was to provide a safe, healthy, and comfortable environment which would allow teaching to take place such that the students develop their full potential,” says Fr. Eduado. “Unfortunately, we were also not able to enlist the help of people in the community to carry out the project because Venezuelan labour laws are very strict.” Although there was also a lot of correspondence requesting the assistance and involvement of local government agencies, there was no response, so in June 2016, a request was made for financial assistance to St. Anthony’s Charities, and a grant of € 44,000 was subsequently approved.

“During the period of the works, we established a series of programmes and agreements with the teachers and students to use the auditorium and other classrooms of the school,” continues Fr. Eduardo. “Some of their work needed to be done online and then defended face-to-face with the classroom teacher.”

The works were extensive and included the dismantling of the entire existing zinc roof. This required not only the vacation of all furniture from the classrooms, but also the dismantling of the electrical system. “The work of buying all the materials for the installation of the new roof represented the greatest investment of time due to all the problems ever present in Venezuela,” explains Fr. Eduardo. New interior walls were put in place, reinforced with columns and beams. Once erected these were sanded, and painted. Then the entire wooden roof was put in place, waterproofed, and painted.


Uphill battle


“We had many difficulties,” continues Fr. Eduardo. “The first being the shortage of materials in Venezuela, including cement, cables and metal products. Costs were also very high and the number of people we needed to deal with in order to buy something was somewhat of an uphill battle. The shortage of food was also a factor we were up against: sometimes we had to search for meals for the workers so that they did not stop work. Then there was the bad weather: throughout the period, work had to stop due to the incessant rain. We also had a power cut due to the explosion of some transformers in a sector close to the school, which stopped work for three days. And then, during the Christmas holidays, we needed to allow workers some days to share with their families.” The project work was finally completed on 24 March 2017, and school life is finally returning to normal.


Enhanced performance


“The remodelling has left us with innumerable positive aspects, reinforcements and tangible signs of improvements that have a profound impact on the school environment and that will help us to train better professionals for different fields of work, and better citizens for the progress of our nation,” says Fr. Eduardo. “The Community of Lídice, and other neighboring sectors have benefited greatly from the school since its inception. It has provided educational support to all children and youth of these sectors, giving them the opportunity to go directly to work. With the remodelling of the 4th floor, all the high school students have presented highly positive changes in their performance in school, in their behavior, in the sense of belonging to the school, and in development with their classmates and the educational community.”

Many of the students have written to offer their thanks, too: “We were very happy when we started classes and saw the new roof,” write two students. “We lost two weeks of classes for the repairs, but it was worth waiting for, since the old roof was full of holes, and now when we see it totally new, we are filled with emotion and happiness because the school is in perfect condition.” And another writes, “When I saw the ceiling after the works, I loved it and I was very excited! And all this was thanks to the readers of the Messenger of Saint Anthony who are dedicated to helping schools like ours and others in difficulty. God bless you and help you to continue to provide help to those who need it.”

“We send you a warm and cordial greeting from the entire UEP San Francisco Javier de Lídice,” concludes Fr. Eduardo. “Once again, we thank St. Anthony’s Charities and the readers of the Messenger of Saint Anthony from the bottom of our hearts for all the generosity you have shown us, for your kindness and your great support. We can never repay you for your gesture towards our college, so we will always keep you close in our most sincere prayers. A thousand thanks, and may God bless you.”

Updated on July 07 2017