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#MissionResponsible: Rosaleda Reynoso on ‘Casita para la Vida’

Name: Rosaleda Reynoso
Lives in: Santo Domingo, National District, Dominican Republic
Period in Germany: April 2003 to March 2013
Educational institutions: Goethe-Institut Mannheim-Heidelberg, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Urban Design Institute at the University of Stuttgart

Rosaleda Reynoso is an architect. Between 2003 and 2013 she studied urban design, town planning and urban sociology at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and the University of Stuttgart. She now lives in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic.

In the #MissionResponsible competition Rosaleda Reynoso was awarded first place with ‘Casita para la Vida’. She firmly believes that everyone has a right to decent living conditions.

Ms Reynoso, your project ‘Casita para la Vida’ was awarded first place in the #MissionResponsible competition. Congratulations! What are the goals of the project – and what are you doing to achieve them?

Rosaleda Reynoso: ‘Casita para la Vida’ aims to put an end to undignified living conditions in the poor rural areas of the Dominican Republic. To do this, we are creating suitable living environments for the families affected, either by building new structures or by carrying out repairs. For example, we exchange old wooden walls and zinc sheets for new ones and replace mud floors with cement screed. We also turn latrines into proper toilets that are connected to the water and sewerage systems.

The people living in socially disadvantaged areas in the Dominican Republic don’t have the money or technical knowledge needed to renovate or maintain their homes themselves. Many households are run by single mothers who have several children. Most women have no formal training and receive a very low, irregular income, which means they can’t afford to employ an architect or engineer. But everyone has a right to decent living conditions.

The team is important

What motivated you to get involved in ‘Casita para la Vida’?

Rosaleda Reynoso: I wanted to use my knowledge as an architect to help people living in poverty. But ‘Casita para la Vida’ isn’t just about me – it’s a joint effort, meaning that we cover the construction costs as a team. We buy what we need together and use our own vehicles to transport everything.

The team also helps me to gather data by carrying out interviews with families in different areas and assessing the condition of people’s homes. That’s something else that motivates me.

How have the families responded to your project, and how happy are you with the support that you receive for your work?

Rosaleda Reynoso: The families know that we come to help them on a voluntary basis and that they can have a say in the design of the house as well as the building materials, floor plan and painting. That makes them happy and grateful. And getting the residents involved in the construction project means they are more likely to accept it.

In addition, the mothers and older children often want to take part in the construction process. We think this is great because it gives us a chance to share our knowledge and technical skills with them – the ‘learning by doing’ approach.

The project provides the mothers with a safe roof over their heads and a refuge in the form of a community space where they and their children are protected from the weather and have more room to carry out their day-to-day activities. 

The project is set to continue

What does the future hold for ‘Casita para la Vida’? Is it a model that could also work for other universities and places?

Rosaleda Reynoso: ‘Casita para la Vida’ is set to continue – we have already met more poor families whose houses are very run-down. But I also hope that we can inspire other people or urban development organisations to launch similar projects that create decent living conditions, including in other countries.

In addition, more faculties of architecture and civil engineering should focus on this topic to establish the minimum housing standards for poor people and determine how these standards can be maintained in the long term.

How do you plan to use the prize money of 300 Euros?

Rosaleda Reynoso: We plan to buy building materials in order to add a new kitchen to the back of the community building.

And what are you planning to do next yourself?

Rosaleda Reynoso: I’m an architectural project manager and also a lecturer in urban sociology, town planning and urban design at the Ibero-American University (UNIBE) in Santo Domingo. I’ve already found my dream job!

See Rosaleda Reynoso’s profile in the Community

Interview: Thomas Köster

August 2015

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