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The Property in Churupal

Our first plan was to build a school near Río Caribe. In December 2002, we bought a piece of land for this purpose in Churupal, about 10 kilometres from the town of Río Caribe.

With us on our first tour of the property were our favourite taxi-driver Gollo, Señora Caraballo (who later sold us the land) and one of her relatives. The property extends over a huge area - a wooded valley with an abundance of fruit trees: mango, banana, cocoa, papaya, orange, lemon....

Builders' estimates for our planned 6-classroom school were more than we budgeted. We considered a new option: rather than invest all our resources in a construction project, we should rent a building in which to start the school to ensure that we are able to overcome any unforeseen obstacles. We will need to obtain a permit to run the school, to find competent teachers and to attract students who dropped out of school years before. Our goal, after all, is to create a school , not to construct a building.

We have decided to keep the property and to keep open our option of building a school there. In the meantime, our gardener Lucino is cultivating an extensive vegetable garden which will provide a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables for the Free School in Río Caribe.

Lucino, our gardener (seen here with his family), has worked the land all his life. With a machete he can fell a tree or peel an orange. He has cared for the Churupal property since January 2003.

Steep hillsides rise both sides of a 50-metre stretch of semi-flat land where we planned to site a row of classrooms with a covered walkway on the right, as in Micha's sketch. Lower down, outside the entrance to the Free School property (marked by fenceposts on the right of the photo), the road from Churupal to the beach at Chaguarama de Loero becomes a river during the rainy season.

From about June to December the rain sporadically floods low-lying areas.

Billy Esser is a local hotel owner with a knowledge of building, trees and how things get done. Back in May 2003 we discussed construction plans together at the Churupal property.

On a later visit to Venezuela Billy took us on a shopping trip to buy a water tank and 150 metres of plastic pipe to irrigate the property during the dry season.

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