Soup Kitchen - La Plata
Todos por una Sonrisa
The children’s soup kitchen “Todos por una Sonrisa” (All for a Smile) has been operating for the last three years in the neighbourhood of Altos de San Lorenzo, La Plata. Altos de San Lorenzo is an extremely poor neighbourhood on the periphery of the city, characterised by its lack of many of basic services and utilities, and issues associated with low socioeconomic environments such as lack of education, domestic violence and crime.
Todos por una Sonrisa was founded by María Magdalena, a Peruvian woman who moved to Argentina eight years ago. Distressed by the conditions that many of the children of the area lived in, she began preparing donated food in her home to give away. As her work became more well known in the neighbourhood and more children came, other women of the area joined the cause and volunteered their time to make and distribute the food. The place grew into a community hub, where today volunteers from all over La Plata work to provide food for more than 100 children of the area, three times a week. María also heads a weekly workshop on violence against women.
While the running of the soup kitchen is now relatively well established, it remains vulnerable due to the lack of infrastructure. All cooking is done outside on a wood stove, with heavy rain rendering cooking impossible. The community group also wishes to grow the service beyond the soup kitchen to a community centre for activities and programs that actively address the social issues the area faces, and help break the often multi-generational cycle of poverty.
Based on a series of meetings that took place between Engineering Without Borders volunteers and the group of women that run Todos por una Sonrisa, the following project was devised:
Construction of a multi-purpose room of approximately 80 m2, with a built-in kitchen, a mezzanine floor for storage, a semi-covered space of 12 m2 with a grill, a rocket stove and a restroom. The aim of the new building is to allow the continued implementation of the current activities in a safe and reliable manner, as well as facilitate the expansion of further activities so that both children and adults of the neighbourhood have a safe space to learn and grow.
As of July 2018, construction is at approximately 90% completion. The design utilises a steel load-bearing superstructure with brick in-fill. A soil study conducted prior to project commencement revealed the presence of high plasticity clay, which is particularly problematic due to the frequent flooding that occurs in the low-lying area. Due to the highly active nature of the soil and the associated risk of expansion, uneven settlement and superstructure distortion, soil replacement was undertaken and numerous reinforced concrete piles were installed as part of the foundations.
HEIP Teams have contributed over 2000 personnel hours to this project. In July 2016 the team broke ground on the project, doing soil improvement and pile foundations. In July 2017, another team worked extensively on the steel superstructure and commenced the brick in-fill.