Task of renovating Venezuelan schools, health facilities falls to volunteers

By Genesis Carrero Soto

Caracas, Aug 11 (EFE).- Their numbers seem small, and for the titanic mission they face they are.

But the volunteers tasked by the Venezuelan government with renovating a school on the west side of this capital are doing all they can to get that public building in presentable shape in the coming months.

Teachers, construction workers and the students at that institution walked past bathrooms, classrooms and mildew-covered walls while informing Efe of the progress they’ve made since President Nicolas Maduro enlisted their service on June 12 to repair schools and health care facilities as members of the so-called Military Community Brigades for Education and Health (Bricomiles).

Work at Caracas’s Antonio Jose de Sucre Educational Unit began on July 11, a month after Maduro announced the creation of those groups and a day before he and other senior government officials paid a visit to unveil their plans for that facility.

Once they were announced, the board of directors of the Antonio Jose de Sucre school – which has 1,260 students and is one of the largest educational establishments in the area – assembled a group of 160 residents, representatives and even students to provide support.

The Bricomil assigned to that school is coordinated by nine political leaders in the community and soldiers who supervise each renovation project, Yarayk Carvajal, an official with the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), told Efe.

“An assessment was made of our parents and representatives in the communities who wanted to help – the people trained in masonry, those who could do painting work, some reconstruction work. And this enabled us to recruit … and put together a work schedule,” Carvajal said.

Brigade members volunteer on a part-time basis, and that means work at the seven-hectare (17-acre) school – whose 43 classrooms, library and more than 15 bathrooms all are in some state of disrepair – is advancing slowly.

To help speed up the process, teachers and other school employees are staying beyond their normal work hours to assist with the renovation work.

The school’s deputy principal, Maria Palma, said goodwill and a sense of belonging are the keys to this government initiative.

“Who better than the parents and representatives with a sense of belonging to the institution and what better than the contributions they can make, they can provide for the institution? Not only because they’re part of the community, but also their children, their representative, are part of the institution,” she said.

The Bricomil assigned to the Antonio Jose de Sucre school is receiving assistance from workers attached to the Caracas mayor’s office, who began carrying out reparation work at that institution last September after teachers complained about the poor condition of the bathrooms.

Those salaried workers are tasked with the most difficult renovation projects and provide guidance to the brigade volunteers when the soldiers are not around.

Their support provides much-needed value-added and helps distinguish that brigade from others that rely exclusively on the work of volunteers.

“It’s been more than 10 years since the school got a little sprucing up. So it was time. I don’t know why people and institutions often didn’t help us before, but now they are. They’ve taken action,” Frank Parra, a laborer and volunteer, said.

His remarks speak to the tireless efforts of a brigade that is working to meet Maduro’s stated goal of having the school in optimal condition by year’s end. EFE


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