In three days, senior Lorenzo Lamo changed the life of a man named Mr. Cerafin by building him a house in the slums of Bogota, Colombia. Eight months later, Mr. Cerafin’s life took a turn for the worse: two men assaulted him, took everything he owned and warned him not to return to the neighborhood. Lamo hopes to build a new home for Mr. Cerafin, who cannot return to the neighborhood due to death threats — and in doing so, Lamo hopes to build a better future for the man who changed his life.
According to Lamo, he was inspired by his cousins to partake in community service in Colombia. Lamo met Mr. Cerafin last summer through the non-profit organization TECHO, which mobilizes individuals to fight poverty by constructing homes in South America.
While Lamo did not know 65-year-old Mr. Cerafin prior to his involvement with TECHO, he felt moved by Mr. Cerafin’s situation.
“When I first saw him, it was like looking through the eyes of an empty soul. Of course he was very happy about what we were doing for him, but he was a very sad person because he had a very rough life,” Lamo said.
Alongside a team of volunteers, Lamo constructed a home for Mr. Cerafin in Ciudad Bolivar, a poverty-stricken slum, working nearly 12 hours each day.
“It was a really hard process,” Lamo said, noting that the site’s location on a steep slope made getting supplies to and from the construction zone very difficult. In order to maximize their time, Lamo’s team occasionally spent the night in Ciudad Bolivar.
Lamo said the arduous work paid off. “The fact that we could turn his life around in only two to three days was incredible. It only took a weekend of my time,” he said.
Eight months later, however, Mr. Cerafin’s life in his newly-constructed home changed after a forceful robbery and attack forced him out of his home and into the hospital. Because he received death threats, it is unsafe for Mr. Cerafin to return to the neighborhood.
“It really hurt me when I got the phone call that they had taken away everything, because this is someone who has nothing. People get robbed all the time, but this guy literally had nothing, and they took the little that he had,” Lamo said.
Lamo refuses to lose hope for Mr. Cerafin. After he heard the news, he decided to start a GoFundMe (gofundme.com/cerafin-techo) to raise $1,000 to construct a new home in a different area for Mr. Cerafin, and Lamo’s cousins decided to fundraise for the project in Colombia. When he reaches his $1,000 goal, Lamo hopes to spend the upcoming summer rebuilding a home for the man who altered his worldview just one year ago.
TECHO is working to find a date for the construction to begin, as well as an appropriate construction site. Lamo said the organization will also see if they can reuse some of the materials the team used to build Mr. Cerafin’s first home, but only if it is safe for the volunteers to return to the neighborhood.
As the co-president of Spanish Honor Society, Lamo also hopes to form a partnership between the honor society and TECHO so students can continue benefiting impoverished individuals in Latin America and the Caribbean.
“He [Mr. Cerafin] is genuinely a great person. He was so grateful for everything we did for him. I learned a lot from this experience,” Lamo said. “He changed my life by inspiring me to continue volunteering and making a difference, so I wanted… to change his again.”
Follow this link to donate to Lamo’s cause: https://www.gofundme.com/cerafin-techo