Los Piletones, Basic Initiative

Los Piletones, Basic Initiative

In Summer 2012, I traveled to Buenos Aires, Argentina with Basic Initiative, led by Sergio Palleroni, to work in Los Piletones with Margarita Barrientos. Los Piletones is one of the villas (informal settlements or slums), in Buenos Aires; and Margarita is famous for her tireless work feeding her neighbors through her comedor (soup kitchen) as well as creating other micro industries and free services for her neighborhood. Many biographies have been written about her, but you can get some more information from argentinaindependent.com.

This was the second summer that Basic Initiative has worked with Margarita’s foundation. Our group this year was tasked with renovating a daycare center for 1–4 year olds.

In two and a half weeks, our group created and designed the following renovations:

  • re-painted over half the daycare center in order to brighten it up;
  • replaced lighting in each room, half of the fixtures we built ourselves;
  • fixed their ceiling fans and added more;
  • built new dining furniture to make the common room more usable, and to make the tables the proper height for the kids;
  • built a large shelving unit to provide more storage and create needed circulation division;
  • re-purposed an un-used room for a nap room and tv room
  • re-painted the entrance mural to clarify its location
  • painted a 57ft x 9ft mural on the courtyard wall of the daycare playground, painted hop-scotch on the ground, and re-arranged cluttered playground features

That last, bold task was my task. I was in charge of conceptualizing, designing, and then painting the mural. Since the daycare is for children at the beginning of their development, I thought it would be a great opportunity to instill in the children a sense of pride in their community. Hopefully being shown images of a clean, beautiful version of their neighborhood would instill in them a sense of ownership and possibility. I decided to make a mural with 5 sections from left to right: a clean pond with happy fish, a clean Piletones neighborhood, a path leading from the neighborhood through the beautiful adjoining park and then into Buenos Aires downtown, bordered by the Mar de la Plata.

I had two people to help me, and we finished the mural in 5 days: 2 days of priming and preparatory work, 2 days of painting, and a final day to finish up the details.