Social transformation in the most dangerous place of Costa Rica

Designed and developped in FabLab Veritas

Social initiatives Community Education Humanitarian

SIFAIS is more than a foundation. It’s a place of 10 000m2 near San Jose in Costa Rica. It’s also a community of people who learn and teach in order to transform the fatality in opportunity. Every day, volunteers are teaching to inhabitants of La Carpio, the most dangerous place in Costa Rica, more than 105 workshops (music, sports, english, …) and organized programs such as Montessori pedagogic training. A Fablab should open in August 2018 and they already use mini-fablab to empower abandoned citizens so that they can transform their living conditions while building a strong and pride community.

Technologies used

Computing & softwares Electronics Recycling Robotics Textile machines Music & sound devices Traditional tools
  • What’s the project story?

Imagine two rivers separated by a long road. On your left side, the waste water of the city, on your right side, the most polluted river in the country. Every day, this road is taken by waste trucks to pull urban trashes in the district of La Carpio where 50 000 people lived. This isolated and garbage place is called the frogs cave. 7 years ago, no one, even the police, dared to venture over there. But one day, one of its inhabitants who worked in the moratorium I used to go, asked me to create a symphonic orquestra in this dangerous place. “You have a big company, you can do it”. I only had 20 persons in my communication company and no music background. But her determination and this crazy idea challenged me. I overcame my doubts and fears and started to go there to teach music with 20 flutes. Gradually, people came. I found musicians who learnt them new music instruments. After 2 years, we had a music band. This social initiative started to go beyond the district boundaries and many volunteers joined the team to provide their core competencies. We started to teach judo, replace the temporary walls in real concrete, looking for fundings to create our own place, participating to events, … We brought light in this place which used to be called “Frogs cave”. Now it’s called cave of light.

  • How the workshop was useful to the maker(s)?

Fablab Veritas were the first organisation to help us training the kids. They performed fablat kids workshops, a new pedagogic approach with digital fabrication. The first session was at the Kid day here in Costa Rica. They brought with them a mini fablab with all the material and machines required. It was a success.Then two architecture teachers of the Veritas University designed the SIFAIS edifice built in the District. They designed it around the values of the community (ecofriendly, lightly, opened, multiactivities and to include our own fablab.

  • What’s the project’s greatest success so far?

The successes of this project overcome our expectations and they are many. First, we have been invited to festival to play music with our orquestra, including one international festival in the south of France. Last year we won golden medal to national judo championship. Our community is growing very fast, in an organic way. Now, people benefit from more than 100 workshops provided by responsible and engaged volunteers. Based on this success, our media coverage made big companies coming in the district to deploy telecommunication with Kölbi, to sell products such as Coca Cola, … Even the government started to take part of this abandoned place. For 20 years, inhabitants claimed for a school. With only one teacher, they had to divide the day in 3 parts, first for a group of young kids, then for middle aged kids and the rest of the day for older ones. Now, they got the most modern school of the country, with 4 floors, a revolution here!

  • What’s your greatest failure(s)& lesson(s) so far?

To achieve such big social transformation, you should rely on 4 qualities : patience, empathie, perseverance and creativity. Don’t see too big at the beginning. Start to have an impact for the person in front of you, then step by step you can grow. But more than anything you should be confident in the power and kindness of human beings. Everyone is ready to help the other. They should first feel secure, led and confort. If everyone can give 3 hours to the community, it will change everything. Teachers in SEFAIS give without expecting nothing but they always came out with lot of good things.

  • What’s your vision for the project & next steps?

We want to make this project sustainable. A way to achieve this is to create a fablab so that inhabitants can develop essential skills to create businesses. A part of the revenues will pay the members and another part will be invested to maintain and develop the place. Fablab Veritas helped us to choose the machines, to find the sponsor, the local famous DIY store EPA, to train our members fabmanagers, etc.

  • How can anyone interested can contribute to the project?

We are looking for fundings, volunteers and any great ideas to contribute to this project. Right now, our specific and urgent need is to build sanitaries with an evacuation system to stop polluting the river. We also plan to create a gymnasium so that people can do any kind of sports in a specific place.

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