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Winter 2005
Mauricio Artiñano, A06, working at the build in Puebla.
A Conversation with Mauricio Artiñano, A06

Mauricio Artiñano, A06, is devoted to working on projects that help improve the lives of others in Central America. A native of Costa Rica, he is also a longtime Habitat for Humanity volunteer. In October, Artiñano joined fellow students and alumni in Mexico for the Jimmy Carter Work Project (JCWP), a Habitat build in which the former president lends a hand. Co-sponsored by the Tufts Travel-Learn Program and the University College of Citizenship and Public Service (UCCPS), the trip involved working alongside volunteers to build 150 homes in Puebla and Veracruz, Mexico, and a travel component to Oaxaca. Artiñano spoke with editor Michele Gouveia about his experience and his latest project—organizing a conference on the Central American Peace Plan.

“When I found out about the program in Mexico, I was really excited about participating because of my previous involvement with Habitat for Humanity, and because the people who were organizing the JCWP were all good friends of mine from my past Habitat internships. This year, the JCWP was held in Puebla and Veracruz, where almost 5,000 volunteers helped build 150 houses in each city. It was a “blitz build,” which means that several houses are completed within the space of a week.

“When we arrived in Puebla, the foundations had already been poured and the first three lines of concrete block were laid, but we did everything else, including hanging doors, installing windows, and putting up the roof.

“For me, the best part of working with Habitat is the strong bond that is formed through the team effort, particularly since you work alongside the family who will live in the house you are constructing. You laugh, learn, and get to know each other while pouring concrete, mixing cement, and sanding walls—it is amazing. As a Tufts undergrad, I enjoyed meeting current Fletcher students as well as many alumni; we all became close to each other during the build and also during the time we spent touring the city of Oaxaca after the build was completed.

“In every Habitat house I have helped build, I have become very attached to the family, and it happened this time, too, with Sergio and Martha. Martha became a great friend as we teased and joked around with each other but also shared some very special moments and stories about our families. She expressed how grateful she was to be able to move out of the tiny, expensive apartment they were then renting and finally live in a home, especially one built with so much love. On the last day of the build, we got to meet their kids, ages two and five months, and it was the most incredible experience in the world.

“This past summer I had the opportunity to return to El Salvador to a house that I had helped construct in another build in 2001. It was amazing to stand on floor tiles that I had laid down, but most touching was being with don Alfonso and doña Angelica and seeing how excited they were that I had fulfilled my promise to return some day, which is the same promise I made to Martha and one I plan to keep as well.

“I initially got involved with Habitat in tenth grade, when my class founded the first Habitat student chapter in Costa Rica. The summer after my freshman year at Tufts, I interned for Habitat, organizing their 2003 Leadership Conference for Latin America and the Caribbean, which involved 150 people from 23 countries. It was challenging, but the conference was a great success, and I was able to get to know the people in charge of Habitat in each Latin American country.

“Last spring I wrote to my friends at the Habitat Area Office to offer my services again, with the one condition that I wanted to travel around Central America. As a Costa Rican, I wanted to get to know my fellow Central American neighbors better, and I also had another project for which I needed to travel around the region. This new enterprise came about through my involvement with the Tufts Institute for Global Leadership where I met Timothy Phillips from the Project on Justice in Times of Transition. Together the two of us came up with the idea of organizing a conference on the Central American Peace Plan. We feel that the Central American peace negotiations are one of the few examples of successful regional peace building, and we believe that the world can learn important lessons from this experience.

“The Habitat Area Office asked me to do an analysis of their micro-credit lending practices in Central America, so I decided to integrate my two projects and designed my own trip through Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, spending a week in each country working for Habitat and also interviewing some of the people involved in the peace process. I received funding through an Active Citizenship Summers (ACS) grant from UCCPS, and in the beginning of July I hopped on a bus and left Costa Rica to explore Central America.

“My trip ended up being the most wonderful learning and growing experience of my life. My work with Habitat allowed me to learn the intricacies of micro-credit financing, which I believe is one of the best methods for helping families out of poverty. And my quest to obtain interviews with different participants in the peace process went beyond all my expectations. With the help of Tim Phillips and Tufts professor Consuelo Cruz of the political science department, I interviewed some of the most important figures in the peace process on all sides of the ideological spectrum, including human rights activists, former guerrilla combatants, three former foreign ministers, and even former president Vinicio Cerezo of Guatemala. The experience gave me a unique and comprehensive perspective of the situation in Central America.

“My summer trip was a great success. Not only did I turn in a 75-page report for Habitat, I also secured commitments from nearly all of the people I interviewed to participate in the conference, which I am currently organizing. And most important, the trip enabled me to make new friends, visit some beautiful places, and discover my identity as a Central American.

“All these accomplishments and experiences would not be possible without the support and preparation I have received here at Tufts. I’m so proud to be part of a university that places so much emphasis on internationalism and on active citizenship, and that gives students the tools and the opportunities to pursue their independent initiatives. I plan to take everything I’ve learned at Tufts and return to Costa Rica to help make a difference in my country.”

To find out more about the Central American Peace Plan conference, contact Mauricio at mauricio.artinano@tufts.edu.

To find out more about the Jimmy Carter Work Build in Mexico, visit and read student journal entries and view photos from the build. uccps.tufts.edu/06_Alumni/travellearn.html

Interested in other Habitat projects? The Tufts Travel-Learn Program is sponsoring another build in Hungary, October 1–11, 2005. For more information, visit www.tufts.edu/alumni/ed-travel-learn.html or contact the program’s director, Usha Nand Sellers, J57, G58, at 1-800-843-2586 or usha.sellers@tufts.edu.