Ahuachapán II

Here is where we’ll keep you updated on your community’s progress.

El Salvador Overview

Population: 6.3 million
Language: Spanish
Major religion: Christianity
Life expectancy: 68 years (men), 77 years (women)
Currency: USD
GNI per capita: $3,560

The city of Ahuachapán was founded in 5th century by Mayan Tribes. The city of Ahuachapán is named after the Nahuatl word, “Ahua,” oak tree, and “Chalcha,” house.

The name loosely translates to “The House of Oaks.” Ahuachapán is the westernmost municipality in El Salvador near the Guatemalan border and about 60 miles from the capital of San Salvador. The town is on the small Molino River at the foot of a volcano. The terrain is hilly and covered in dense dark green forest which will add some difficulty to the construction process, but makes this one of our most beautiful communities yet. 

The municipality of Ahuachapán has 130,000 people and quite a bit going for it. Starbucks even has a coffee blend sourced from here! The region is great for growing coffee which is one of the main exports and there is also a geothermal plant and a hydroelectric station. The main industries outside of geothermal energy and coffee are textiles and construction materials. There are a variety of jobs and opportunities here and we are so happy the families will be able to access these from their new homes.

Updates to come below!

Keep up to date with progress on the community below where we will post updates, pictures and more. We will post updates as soon as we receive them from our field team and local partners. Expect an email from us once a month sharing more in-depth stories, progress, victories and more!

June 1, 2019

Signing home contracts

In this picture, our local partner meets with the families of Ahuachapan to prepare them for move-in and sign their home contacts. They are so ready to move-in and we can’t wait to finish up the retaining walls. We should be done in the next month with families moving in sometime in July. Updates to come! 

May 10, 2019

Sewage has been installed! 

This is a biodigester. We couldn’t connect easily to the towns main plumbing because of the hills so we are trying out biodigesters as a solution. Waste is pumped from in-home toilets through the pipes and into the biodigester which then naturally breaks it down. This is our first time using biodigesters and we are curious to see what the pros and cons are of using them over a long period of time. We will update you as we study them. 

April 22, 2019

We now have power and water! 

Ahuachapan 2 now has energy and water. The families are working with the local contractor to build the small retaining walls between each house. These walls have been a major challenge to install during the rainy winter months which loosen the soil and cause delays. We are really glad we took the time to build these as we are already seeing how much erosion has happened since we started construction. The inside and outside walls around the community will be finished very soon! 

March 12, 2019

Slow but steady, closing in on completion!

The community completion has been delayed by a few weeks because the installation of water, electricity, and retaining walls have taken more time but all are underway. We are very near the end, families will soon sign an updated housing contracts and hope to move in sometime during July.

February 03, 2019

Electrical Surveying visit to Ahuachapan

Happy New Year! Yesterday a surveyor from the electrical agency came by to record technical data for the distances and location of poles, and wiring. It was a 4-hour job measuring the entire community to have all the exact data for the implementation of the entire electrical system.

December 16, 2018

Installing Water Pipes 

Good news! The mayor is already working on making the excavations to start introducing the pipes for the water supply. We have currently scheduled agencies from the government to come and start installing plumbing, sewage, and power in early 2019. We wanted to get this started by the end of the year but we had to reschedule for 2019 because of rain. 

While we wait, painting of homes has begun when weather permits and you can see one of the first painted homes in the picture below. 

October 24, 2018

Rain Delays, Retaining walls, Roads 

City hall is on-site and finally finishing compacting the roads in Ahuachapan. Now that the ground has been set, plumbing can begin installation soon. 

We have had significant delays over the last month or so due to rain. But, thanks to the rain, we realized that the community needs retaining walls in order to maintain its infrastructure and not become a muddy eroding mess. Building retaining walls will add time to the project but it is better we caught this now instead of when it’s too late! 

 

August 21, 2018

The Escobar family takes a lunch break 

Doors and windows have been installed, home interiors are coming together and the hard-working Escobar family takes a well-deserved break! Many families are involved with work on the community and we appreciate all their hard work and involvement in making this community their own! 

In the second picture, a young man works to build a path to connect the outdoor sinks to the plumbing that hopefully we can start installing soon. The community is almost done and it is time to install services! Services can be one of the slowest parts of the process because of the many parties involved in installing power, sewage and running water. Cross your fingers that all goes smoothly so we can get these families into their homes! 

July 30, 2018

Finishing the last homes, then on to the interior and services

The last row of homes is currently being roofed and then we will start on the interior and installation of services. The families have been hard at work on their new homes and have helped keep up construction despite further rain delays. 

July 1, 2018

11 Homes roofed and ready for interior work

The first row of homes has been roofed and interior work is ready to begin. This will include installing doors, windows, outdoor and indoor sinks and preparing to install services. There have been some delays because of heavy rain in Ahuachapan. Hopefully, we will be done installing the rest of the roofs in the next month or so if the weather holds out.

June 04, 2018

Community Innovation – Storefront windows

Here is local partner lead Lisselot and Chele in front of the latest homes to be completed. We are now ready to put on roofs and start finishing off the interior. In this picture, you can see each home features a huge main window. As we explained, this is to encourage families to start businesses from the safety of their new homes. This will be a test we compare to phase I of Ahuachapan where they have normal-sized windows. In Ahuchapan phase I, nearly 30% of home recipients started a business. Will more families open businesses thanks to these windows? We will survey families after the community is built and let you know! 

May 13, 2018

Happy Mothers Day! 

Meet Chele, he is the project manager for Ahuachapan and we have worked with him on a variety of projects through our connection with Gente. For mothers day Chele had a pizza party he paid for out of his own pocket for all the mothers in the community! They took a break from construction (on a Sunday) and sat around the new community appreciating our incredible mothers. 

Chele is an absolute rockstar and lives to be out in the community with the people. He oversees the project and helps in training community members and involving them in various aspects of construction. Chele is a man of the people and an inspiration to our whole team so we wanted to recognize him and introduce you to the people we get to work with. 

April 28, 2018

Walls are going up fast 

The main walls are up for 32/55 homes and the community is starting to take shape! The community is centered around this middle triangle where you can see a single tree. This tree is a mango tree that is really old and dear to the community and drops huge mangos! Preparations for the roofs are underway and then we will start working on the interiors. 

 

 

April 2, 2018

Preparing for the foundation 

Currently, the contractor is laying out the homes and getting ready to pour the foundation. The hilly terrain and dense forest have slowed work down as getting heavy equipment, trucks, and materials into the area have been a challenge. Many locals live in unstable homes on muddy eroding hills, we are excited to build this community properly so they don’t live in fear of losing their home in bad weather. 

March 17, 2018

Selecting families to receive homes

Below our partners at Gente work to select the families that will receive homes in Ahuchapan II. We have a strict set of criteria that families must fit under in order to qualify to receive a home. This includes living within 10 minutes of the new land, making under x amount per year, not owning any land or assets. Gente knows the families very well and takes our criteria and helps us find those that are in the most need. There are plenty of families in the area that qualify for these homes and live on treacherous hills and muddy slopes.

February 24, 2018

Land cleared and ready for construction

The local contractor has cleared and leveled the land and we are now ready to start construction. The families are eager to help out and can assist with construction moving forward. 

February 9, 2018

We have land!

In the first picture, Ops team member Joanne and our local contractor survey the new land in Ahuachapan. The plot of land the mayor gave us is literally right next to the first community we built in Ahuachapan which is very convenient. The second picture shows cofounders Allie and Matthew discussing community designs with the local contractor. The families in phase I and phase II of Ahuachapan are both from the local community and know each other well which is great. We are excited to start clearing the land! 

 

Community & Home Design

Community & Home Design:

This project consists of 55 homes which makes it one of the smaller communities that New Story will build. As mentioned above this project is part II of the Ahuachapán community. Part I consists of 91 homes, and families moved in September 18, 2017. Part I and Part II are literally right next to each other and are separated by a small but beautiful local cemetery. This land was given to us by the mayor of Ahuachapán when we committed to doing phase I of Ahuachapán and we couldn’t develop it until now. 

Community Design:

Here we have an early-stage design for the community layout of Ahuachapán phase II. In the center of the community is a triangle with some communal space and a few homes. The tree that was left on the center of the triangle is a beautiful big mango tree that everyone agreed had to stay. This community was designed with safety in mind. Parents want to be able to watch their kids play and keep them in the community and this setup offered the most protection and comfort to the families.

New Story works with a fabulous team of volunteer urban designers who help us create designs like the one above. Our designers create a few options we present them to the future home recipients for feedback in our Lean Participatory Design Session. The design above is the result based on the feedback the community gave on the initial designs. It is key to our process that the families have a say in how their community is built, since they know the area best and will be living there for generations to come.

Home Design:

In the picture above you can see the floor plan for the homes we are building in Ahuachapán. Each home costs $6,948 to build and has three bedrooms, a kitchen, living room, and a bathroom with a flushing toilet!

The homes in Ahuachapán have unique features designed to best complement the lifestyles of the local Salvadoran people. For example, each home has a roof overhang on one side and under that overhang is an outdoor sink. The overhang offers them a shaded space to rest, cook, socialize or work during the day when it is hot out. Salvadorans enjoy eating and cooking outside, so the homes were uniquely built to accommodate their lifestyle.

Community Innovation Test

In Ahuachapán 2 we are currently testing a data-driven home improvement. Next door, in Ahuachapán 1, post-construction surveys showed that almost a third of home recipients started a business. When asked about their business, numerous people said they wanted to be able to sell items over the counter from the safety of their home. After getting this feedback we decided to test out large rectangular windows in the homes, facing the main street of the community, specifically designed to act as shop windows. Our hope is to see if these larger, front-facing windows encourage and support local businesses. Ahuachapán 2 is the first community we have tested these windows in and we are excited to see how the local economy responds.

Even though a window may seem like a small detail, these details add up to what is a loving, comfortable home in a thriving community. Measuring our impact and finding ways to improve these small details is a crucial part of our process. We will keep you updated on the results after families move in and we can collect data.

 

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