The Morales Morales Family


When we ask her why she wanted to move, Glendy adjusts her glasses and responds with one word. “Health.”

The extraordinary story of Glendy (30) and Pablo Morales Morales (31) is one of familial support. For years, the couple and their nine-year-old daughter, Avalén, lived in her parents’ overcrowded house filled with aunts, uncles, and cousins. Many family members struggled with alcoholism. Additionally, the lack of space and privacy contributed to high stress for Glendy, who has Type 1 diabetes. Both she and her husband already worked all week selling cell phones around the Quezaltenango district and rarely had time to spend with their daughter. Something had to change.


Glendy’s father knew that the unsuitable living conditions were negatively impacting his daughter’s physical and mental health. To help her save money, he let her family live at his home without paying rent. Simultaneously, he actively began researching solutions that would help them.

“It was my dad who suggested Habitat to us,” Glendy reflects. “He went with us to look at the several models in the Xela (Quetzaltenango) office. He helped us with financing and planning, and during construction, he helped us make each block for the house so we wouldn’t have to spend money to contract someone else.”

Although Pablo and Glendy are still installing electricity and water systems, as well as building a fence around the property, Glendy is proud of her house and excited to move in within the next few months. She and Avalén have already drawn lines in the yard to designate spaces for their flower garden and fruit trees. She reflects upon the experience as enormously positive. “We have sacrificed to make ourselves better, through the labors of family and love.”

Her father still comes over every Saturday to help out with the finishing touches.


The Monzon Ramírez Family


When their children had their own children, Alina (53) and her husband, Antulio (54) knew that it was time to start a new chapter. Together, they began to explore ideas about moving out.

“It’s been beautiful to have been living with my children, but we had to let them and their children grow,” Alina says. “We went to church, and I asked with all my heart that God show me the new way to live.” She smiles. “Everything has worked out better.”

The couple began to look into options with Habitat for Humanity Guatemala, which they had heard about from a friend. “We had this plot of land, and we were interested to see how to use it with Habitat.” Alina explains. “My husband went to visit the organization, and we decided to try it out and see how it would go. It was a quick process. Within six weeks, we had confirmation that they were going to build.”


The new house is much more comfortable for both Alina and her husband. It keeps them warm during the chilly mornings and has much more space for Alina to plant flowers upon flowers. Most importantly, it allows them to host their four grandchildren for special visits. Alina’s eyes sparkle when describing this new change to her life. “My grandchildren are happy to play here. They love to visit me, it’s something that we both look forward to. They can bring their kites to fly over the countryside.” She brings us to a small field that looks out over to Quetzaltenango’s rolling hills and volcanoes in the distance. It is easy to imagine children darting around in the grass and playing to their heart’s content.

Her final reflections? “We are happy and very grateful. This is a privilege that we could have never imagined. Thanks to God, we have these types of organizations that serve to help others. Thank you for the help and support.”


The Ramiro Ochoa Calderon Family


Ismael and his granddaughter, Leticia

To Ismael Ramiro Ochoa Calderon, the year revolves around the lifespan of his corn. His milpas, or maize plots, are a distinctive feature of La Esperanza, a small outlying neighborhood of Quetzaltenango. Every fall, Ismael and his family gather to harvest, package, and sell his crop at market. However, this scene of agricultural livelihood has not always been easy, nor the most accessible.

“I used to live far away from my corn fields. It was very difficult,” Ismael tells us. “My family also needs to sell gas for a living. So they would have to travel all the way down that hill to get people their gas tanks.” He points up to a steep, rocky hillside that resides behind the house.  “Before, at the old house, a lot of water would get into between the cracks of the roof. The walls and floor were warped, and our clothes would be ruined.”


It was that hill that motivated Ismael to build a new life for his family. Luis, Ismael’s brother, told Ismael about Habitat and how the organization provided affordable, sustainable housing opportunities to deserving families such as his own. Ismael decided to apply on a whim, and fifteen days later, he was approved for a house that would rest on a small plot of land next to his corn crop. Construction began in July and ended in September. Now, Ismael, his daughter Brenda, and his granddaughter, Leticia, live comfortably in a place that protects them from the elements.

The new house is nothing like the old one. “There is so much space and light. We are so content to have this new house; there have been no problems.” Ismael smiles as he walks through the kitchen and living room. He points out the window to a row of buildings in the distance. “We’re closer to town and the fields, and we have better access to the market trucks that pass through the neighborhood.”

There is no doubt that Ismael and his family will thrive in their new environment.


The Valdéz Alvanez Family

Three-year old Adrian is just as curious as he is energetic. He asks a flurry of questions while zig-zagging around the kitchen of his new Habitat home.

“Can I look at your camera?” He points at the lens, and he stands on tiptoes for a better look. “I want to take a photo of my mom. Can I do that””

Below is the result:


Adrian’s mom, Cesia (26), laughs as her little son wanders around with a bulky camera that is nearly as big as he is. As a single mother, Cesia values personal growth for him and also herself. Both mother and son are highly eager and independent, often fully immersing themselves in whatever they do. For this reason, Cesia decided to pursue a new house. “Before this house, I lived with my mother, who lives near the Colony. It was nice, but there was only one room.”

Since working with Habitat, Celia feels that both she and her son have grown. “I feel great to have my own space,” Cesia says. “It’s so much better for Adrian, too: he can play with this friends, ride his bike, go roller-skating. He loves sports and has the most energy that you can imagine for a little boy. Here, he has space, and I can breathe.”


One of Cesia’s newfound freedoms is finding a better balance between work and play. “Life can go a bit slower, a bit calmer, and I can enjoy it more.”


The Sanchez Santos Family

selvinleonelsanchezsantos_foto_grupoDiana (29) and her husband, Selvin (31), have been living in the Colony for the past five months. Both lead busy work lives; Diana is a University Coordinator and organizes free courses for aspiring students of all ages in Usumatlan. Selvin spends his day traveling as a businessman. Both had always dreamed of having a place of their own.

“Before, we were living with a friend, who had left us her house to care for it,” says Diana. “We were there for about a year. We didn’t want to live with our parents, and we still hadn’t married because we had no home. Until March 2016, we lived there, and then my friend returned.”

For monetary reasons, the couple quickly became apprehensive about moving and were unsure about the future. However, they found that Habitat could offer a solution.

“We knew about the Amway Colony, and my husband decided to talk to people who had lived there for the past few years. We decided to give it a try and applied. Last November, we were approved, right before the building began.


Diana is elated that their decision has paid off. “We’re so content here. And grateful, because it was an incredible opportunity. Here in Guatemala, it’s incredibly difficult to finance your own house. Plus, we were happy to be part of the construction here. My husband would come every Saturday to help.”

She smiles. “This has been something incredibly new and exciting, while also familiar. It feels like we were destined for this.”

The thing she’s most looking forward to? “We want kids! I already have a room ready!”


The Jacinto Ruano Family


Selena (21) and her husband, Alex (24) have lived in their house since June. Since moving in, their two-year-old son, Alexander has acquired and becomes best friends with his new puppy, Fanny. The two are inseparable. Wherever Alex goes, Fanny trots after him, sometimes tripping over her paws.


Selena giggles at the scene. “Before, this would not have been possible,” she says. “We were living with my in-laws in Jute, in a small house that had four rooms, but were divided into three parts, as well as a kitchen. Sometimes, the lack of space caused a lot of problems.” She reveals to us that Alexander was being picked on by another child living in the house. “We knew that we had to leave because of that. He needs safety as a child.”

Soon enough, Selena and her husband decided to make a change. They sent in an application to the Zacapa Affiliate of Habitat for Humanity Guatemala to build a house. “It was better for us to live on our own, mainly because we wanted to live more calmly.”

Selena notes that since the move, the changes have brought positive developments. “With Habitat, everything went well. We feel great to have our own house. No one fights, Alexander can go to school nearby. And he can play with his puppy. They’re the best of friends.”


The Morales Payes Family

marioestuardomoralespayes_studyingHardworking and studious, Hortencia Mijangos Jacinto (23) and her husband, Mario (33) were made for one another. Mario Works as a Systems Engineer, and Hortencia is currently studying towards a college degree in the same subject. The couple recently married and were eager to find a housing solution that worked for both of them. Between long hours at Mario’s engineering job and Hortencia’s need for a suitable study space, a house that was both quiet and conveniently located became a priority.

Hortencia recalls that there were ups and downs about their previous living situation. “We rented in Teculután for seven months. The house was also a Habitat house, but was more isolated rather than located in a community, like the Colony. We were paying and paying, but we weren’t getting any closer to saving money for our own house. That was really frustrating.”


However, living in a Habitat house before pursuing it own had its benefits. Ultimately, Hortencia and Mario decided to apply for their own, and they have never looked back. Hortencia is happy to note that the biggest changes have helped her manage her studying schedule. “The town is closer, and you can drive between places pretty easily. Although I still have to go towards Zacapa for class, I don’t need to worry about public transportation, because the neighborhood has a bunch of motorcycles that pass by.”

Thanks to quiet space that Habitat volunteers afforded her, Hortencia will be able to achieve her degree within the next year.


The Reyes Portillo Family

josedavid_familyA family makes the home. This is the philosophy that Marlin (25) and José (28) live by. Since moving into their Habitat home last July, Marlin and José have already noticed that their new living arrangement has allowed their multi-generational family to thrive. “Our son, our greatest gift, has so much more space to play,” Marlin smiles as Ángel, their fourteen-month old child, dodges between her ankles.


Like other families in the Colony, Marlin and José were already familiar Habitat for Humanity Guatemala prior to building their house. “We were lucky to have an opportunity,” remembers José.  “We were living in the other Colony (called ‘Gracias a Díos’). It was a smaller place that we rented. Eventually, we wanted to move forward with our own space.”

The couple is pleased with the change that they made. Their new house has much more space that allows them, Ángel, and Marlin’s mother, Judy, to live comfortably. While Marlina and José work at BancoRural throughout the day, Judy cares for little Ángel.

The family is also looking forward to the flexibility that their new living situation has to offer. “We can make modifications to this house; we haven’t been able to do that in the past. We would love to put up a sun roof and patio, create a garden with lots of trees.”

Last, but not least, the family would like to thank the volunteers who made their house a reality. José excitedly shows us the photo of the group.

“To the team who came, they were so enthusiastic, and had so much energy!” He says. “They never got tired! We would like to thank them for their support, for allowing us to achieve our dream.”