The Edín Ronaldo Marroquín Jacinto Family

Edín, his mother, and his son moved out from a wood-plank house with a palm leaf roof into a new house in town. The difference is night and day. But Edín has fixed up his house in a special way…

IMG_3103webEdín’s house isn’t like the others. Although the floor plan is the same, the rest of the house has already been fashioned with a very creative touch that makes it stand out from the others. Among Guatemalan houses, there’s a typical flooring choice: choose a ceramic tile and hire a mason to cover your floor with it. Edín opted for another way.

But first, Edín’s story starts in another house, up the mountain and away from the city. “Up the mountain, life is harder,” he said. There’s little accessibility to services, food, or household items. “It’s really far from here,” said his mother, Matilde, who was in charge of taking care of the house. “The bus only came twice a day, the last one at noon, and from then on, there was no way to get to the house.” The house was made of wooden planks, with a palm-leaf roof.

“We always put the palm leaves in place, but after a year, they would start to leak,” said Edin. “It was difficult. It was a simple house.” The word “simple” in this case also encompasses “no electricity” and “dirt floor.”

“The truth is that you want to try to live in a better way,” said Edin. “I didn’t feel uncomfortable there, because I’d lived there since growing up. But as I kept growing up, at age 15 I realized that someday I’d have to get a house. Because of my job [wage], I couldn’t really save anything, so thanks to Habitat for the opportunity.”

So when he heard about Habitat for Humanity, he jumped at the opportunity.

“This was really my chance,” he said. “We moved because it was an opportunity that Habitat gave us, an opportunity that you have to take advantage of to have a better life.”

Building his own house alongside a group of volunteers was, in Edin’s words, “really cool. They worked excellently.” Matilde added, “the girls, too! And really big men.”

Edin also had a message for all of the eFinity who helped build the house. “Thanks! Greetings to the whole group and Amway, for coming to support all of us in general. We are really thankful for the help that you all gave us. And hopefully you carry on, helping many more families that need it. Thank you.”

“Thanks to God,” said Matilde, especially happy with the location of the house. “Now we have this house. Now we have time to rest.”

“There are a lot of changes,” said Edin. “But thanks to God, many years will pass and we won’t have to replace our roof!”

Edín bedroom

Edín is the boss of his own masonry and construction company. He works for 11 days at a time all over the country (because in Usumatlán, work is scarce) and then takes a three-day break. He knows all about building homes and he has the handyman skills to be able to carry out just about any type of small construction or remodeling job. So Edín decided that, on his days off, he would continue finishing his own house with ceramic tiling.

The problem was that ceramic tiles were expensive. So Edín talked to some ceramic suppliers and asked for their “slight defect” tiles. They gave him a bunch of various tiles at a bargain price, and what Edín did with the tiles had the neighbors talking.

He sorted through the tiles and made his floor a mosaic of colors and patterns, an unconventional style for Guatemala. For his bathroom, he took the broken tiles and broke them further, in an purposeful way. He arranged the bathroom tiles in a similar artistic way. The effect of his effort?

Edin says that when people come to visit, they are astonished with the floor and inspired to do the same thing. He is proud to show the tiny imperfections that enabled him to afford the tile and gladly tells exactly how to do it.

Want to be a part of the change? Volunteer with us!


The Edelmira Lisbeth Reina de León Family


After years of renting a place with her sister under the jurisdiction of an unreasonable landlord, her own house was long overdue. Habitat for Humanity and volunteers from Global Village helped build her new place.

Edelmira living room

“Now we’re not afraid of the tremors anymore,” said Edelmira Lisbeth Reina de León, wife of Emilio Gonzalez Diaz and mother of 7-year-old Monica. Edelmira sits, sipping coffee, in a new house that’s designed to resist the force of an earthquake.

Edelmira works as a social worker at the local municipality, and her husband works at a hospital in Tajumulco, at the base of the tallest volcano in Central America. Although they both have formal and stable jobs, Edelmira says she “receives gifts from above” in lieu of any financial riches.

Their journey to their new house started when they got married 8 years ago and moved in with Edelmira’s sister and mother-in-law. There, Edelmira and her sister shared the rent, a burdensome Q/1400 per month aside from utilities (Q/200-300 just for electricity), and split the house between the families. They had space, but there were some serious problems with the owner of the house.

“The owner came and went without asking permission,” says Edelmira. “There was no privacy. Although we were paying her, she didn’t respect us. At Christmas, she told us, ‘remove all of your decorations so I can paint’ but she didn’t wait and just painted over our stuff. It’s hard to rent; it’s preferrable to have your own house.”

Aside from a problemmatic rent situation, the house had suffered from an earthquake.

“The whole part below was broken,” says Edelmira. “The owner told us she fixed it and painted it but then another earthquake came and in the exact same place the floor was cracked. The whole house was tilted forward. And the stairs to go to the second floor were smashed up against the neighbor’s house.” It also caused a pipe to leak on the first floor.

When Edelmira suggested fixing the house, the owner told her to fix it herself, on her own budget.

So, in short, Edelmira and her sister were living with no financial investment, under the jurisdiction of an owner who didn’t respect their privacy, with the fear that the house could topple with another earthquake. Edelmira and her sister applied to Habitat and within a short time they were on their way to getting two new houses. During the construction, a group from Queens University came to help out.

“They helped out so so so much,” says Edelmira. “They were directed by the masons and the Habitat technician. They placed the cement blocks with the masons. We helped out in the way that we gave them coffee and snacks, because with a gesture of food, we showed them our appreciation.”

“God bless you all, and I’ll never forget you,” she says to the group. “I’ve said that there are a lot of hands in my house that have made it a blessing. There are a lot of young people here in the world that don’t have a sense of what life is, whereas with you, how good that you see other realities, that you see other customs and other cultures here in San Marcos. We’ll always remember you. I’ve always said that my house is made by Guatemalans and by others who have come from other countries. Always, those flags that you gave us will be here with us. Thanks for your support, and we hope to see you again. Here, we need support so much. We wouldn’t haven been able to live out our dreams if you hadn’t come and helped us. May God give you a lot of happiness, a lot of health, and a lot of kids!

The new house, although it appears very simple from the front, features skylights that save Edelmira a ton on electricity costs, and a beautiful wood-paneled ceiling that had the neighborhood talking when she moved in. “Everybody thinks it’s not a Habitat house because it’s so beautiful!” said Edelmira, smiling. “The ceiling is so stylish, what a change in warmth, and it goes without using so much electricity.” As she talked, the room was well-lit, but there wasn’t a single light on in the house.

“For me it’s a great blessing from God,” says Edelmira. “Opportunities exist, and you have to take advantage of them. It’s so much more peaceful to be here. It’s something of my own.”

Edelmira is happy to be in her own house, where she says she has more liberty to come and go as she pleases without having to worry about the owner or anybody else in the house. Her money is also going toward something that she can call “hers,” and she’s paying even less than she was before. Now her rent is Q/630 per month, with a huge reduction in utilities.  And she’s proud that her daughter can play around the house without worrying about big cracks in the floor or unexpected visits from a cranky landlord.

Understanding the Struggle in the Aftermath of a Landslide

Update January 25, 2016:

We are putting together a volunteer response team to build a new house for one of the families affected by the disaster. See the event and sign up here. More details to come!

Update January 14, 2016:

As of January 2016, Habitat for Humanity Guatemala has been authorized to buy 10 plots of land for 10 families who lost their homes in the landslide. Habitat Guatemala has been working closely with families, community leaders, other non-governmental organizations, and the Guatemalan government to restore livelihoods as soon as possible. We are very eager for these families to be living in their own homes again. To find out how you can help in this process, send an email to our development team at

On the first of October, a tragic landslide destroyed or threatened 200 homes, and left nearly 450 people without a place to stay. The disaster affected the town of El Cambray, right outside of Guatemala City, the capital. Many people were forced say a sad farewell to their family members, as nearly 300 died in the incident. How does Habitat Guatemala respond to disaster?

Part of the tragedy of the situation is that the families were warned of danger – but few heeded the warnings. Why? A major issue is at play:

There is an affordable housing deficit.

That is to say, residents of El Cambray had nowhere else to go. Most residents probably could not have afforded to rent or own another home. At Habitat for Humanity, we’re working to reduce the housing deficit.

A lack of funds paired with overpopulation and a housing deficit often forces people to live in areas that are not ideal. In the area around Guatemala City, there is sparce flat land for constructing homes. It’s not very hospitable for large quantities of housing, but that doesn’t stop people from taking the risk to build their houses on the slopes of the hills, where property is cheaper. Or in the case of El Cambray, the village was located in a gulley between two steep hills, a prime spot for landslides.

Guatemalan sprawlPeople continue flooding into Guatemala City, above, from other parts of the country in hopes that they may escape poverty – or find any job at all. Often, they end up compromising their safety for cheaper housing by living on the side of a slope.

But now that so many people from El Cambray have lost their homes and their village has officially been deemed uninhabitable, where do they go? What do they do?

In the aftermath of the situation, Habitat for Humanity is working together with local organizations and the Guatemalan government to help restore housing for the 450 people. As of late November, we are currently in the process of buying plots of land and equipping them with water and electricity services.

Fortunately, the Guatemalan government has also responded to the situation by setting aside 20 million Quetzales, or 2.6 million US dollars.

Guatemala is considered one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change and natural disasters. Habitat for Humanity helps reduce the risks that disasters pose by using the highest grade cement block paired with earthquake-resistant designs. Learn more here.