The United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS)

Fighting for a better life

This article was published more than two years ago. Some information may no longer be accurate.

A mother. A boxer. A jill of all trades. Blanca’s determination is unparalleled …

Blanca Nelly Gonzalez is a single mother of three boys living in the town of Palpalá, in the northwest of Argentina. Her youngest son, Álvaro, is fighting leukaemia and suffers from neurofibromatosis, a genetic disorder of the nervous system.

After being in a difficult relationship for some time, Blanca found the strength to move into a rental home with her sons – the home, however, is in a precarious condition and doesn’t meet the needs of her family. 

Thanks to a government initiative and UNOPS support, several local cooperatives are building a new home for Blanca, her family and several other families living in similar situations. For Blanca, her new house will have three bedrooms and a room designed specifically for Álvaro – doctors predict that his genetic disorder may decrease his mobility in the future.

Some people judge me because I have a little child with cancer. They think that having a child with cancer means that it’s over. But it is not over. This proves that, if they can thrive, we can thrive even more and it's all about our own will.”

- Blanca Nelly Gonzalez

While she waits for her new home to be built, she continues to fight adversity. Blanca is also willing to learn new skills and take on multiple jobs to support her children – including masonry, carpentry and plumbing.  

As part of the project, Blanca took part in a certified masonry course. In addition to that, she took part in several workshops on her own – including workshops on labour law, business administration, health and safety, hairdressing and cosmetology.

"When something happens to you, the idea is to have the will to get up even stronger than ever and remember that you have a goal to fight for," says Blanca. "In the case of single mothers, in particular, let’s get up and continue thriving."

Juyjuy Province

Improving housing conditions

In the town of Palpalá – located around 15 kilometres south-east of the provincial capital San Salvador de Jujuy – makeshift settlements abound. Many homes are disconnected to basic services. Clean water is difficult to access and a lack of drains and sewage can lead to chronic disease.

To help improve housing conditions in the area, 10 local cooperatives are working together to expand the Florida neighbourhood. Land has been provided by the Jujuy local government with the goal to relocate 30 families living in extreme situations of vulnerability such as those living with chronic diseases, those who have disabilities and those affected by natural disasters.

Families will be provided with new homes connected to water and electricity services and will share existing community services including a school, health centre and public transportation services. In addition, the neighbourhood square is being rehabilitated and an outdoor sports park is being constructed for the community to enjoy.

Learning new skills

Together with the National Technological University, UNOPS provided two-month certified training courses to social organizations, cooperatives and families targeted by the project to build new homes in Palpalá, Jujuy province. Around 220 people were trained in a variety of trades, including masonry and construction, computer repair and solar power installation. 

All homes are provided with solar water heaters to promote environmental sustainability and reduce economic costs for families. Installation, use and maintenance workshops were provided to guarantee their durability.

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Programme Details

Together with the Ministry of Public Works, municipalities and community-based organizations, UNOPS is implementing an integral social infrastructure programme that aims to improve living conditions, provide improved access to basic services and enhance public spaces in lower-income areas. The programme is providing improved urbanization, housing, technical assistance and social support to communities in nine provinces across Argentina.

The programme, which is expected to benefit some 50,000 people, operates through financing assigned to local community-based organizations or municipal governments that are in charge of different infrastructure projects. Hundreds of homes are being renovated or newly constructed for vulnerable families while thousands of homes are being connected to essential services. This includes around 2,500 homes connected to water networks and around 1,400 homes connected to sewage networks. Public spaces are also being enhanced in municipalities across the country.

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