The Zello Carrillo Family

Across the street from a newly built Habitat for Humanity house is an old garage. Upon opening the door and taking a few steps inside, a bustling one-room bakery reveals itself. Two assistant bakers knead and toss dough on large tables covered with flour. Next to their work stations are high stacks of crates that store cracked egg shells, which signify the 120 eggs that are used each day to make rolls, bread loafs, and desserts.


Not long ago, Rony (45) and Ernestina (43) made a decision that would impact their lives for the better: a career switch. The couple left their office jobs in order to open this very bakery to provide for their Huehuetenango neighborhood. A few years later, thanks to the help of Habitat Guatemala staff and international volunteers, they erected their Habitat house on the same plot of land.

Despite being actively involved with their neighborhood and supplying batches of freshly baked goods each day, Rony and Ernestina acknowledged that they needed something for themselves.  “We had decided four years ago that we wanted a house with Habitat, which had been suggested to us by our neighbor, but there was just never time to sit down and seriously consider it as an option,” Ernestina tells us. “Thankfully, when we came back around to it, the process was quick.”


Building a new house has benefitted the family in several ways. “The biggest difference is that we can be alone here. Privacy is so important to us,” Ernestina says. “We can decide what we want to do with our own house. Plus, it’s right across the street from the bakery.”

Although they are still working to install electricity and water, and also insulation to keep out the cold Huehuetanango nights, Rony, Ernestina, and their three teenaged children, Bryan (17), Melissa (16), and Madelin (14) will be moving in within the next few months. For now, they reside with Ernestina’s brother. Soon, they will only have to cross a small street to get to work. “We’re very content to have a new home.” Ernestina smiles. Now, the family
can feed their neighborhood with more ease and comfort than ever before.



The Sauceda Alva Family

Family can be the antidote for challenging circumstances. This was the case for Johana Sauceda Alva (30) and her fourteen-year-old daughter, Jacquelyn. Before moving to Huehuetenango, mother and daughter lived in a town called Pasaco, located on the southeastern end of Guatemala. However, two years ago, their lives were turned upside down. “My husband left us for the United States,” reveals Johana. “He hasn’t written since.”

Despite the painful memory, Johana reflects that the event as one that changed her life for the better and allowed her to seek out assistance from her family. “My brother helped and supported us by opening up his home to my daughter and me,” Johana discloses. “It’s not healthy to live in a place with bad energy. For that reason, I packed us up and returned home.”


Although grateful for the temporary change, Johana also needed a permanent housing solution that would allow her and Jacquelyn to live peacefully. However, Johana’s salary as a cleaning woman would not cover most rental options, as they were extremely expensive. Buying a new house was also out of the question.

However, through her aunt, Johana discovered Habitat for Humanity Guatemala. “She told me that there was a project for people with limited resources, especially with paying back loans.” Johana smiles. “So I went and found the office, which was just down the street from my daughter’s new school, and it seemed like a good fit. I liked the option of being able to opt out if it didn’t work for me. So I applied. It only took two weeks to process the paperwork.”


Several months and a volunteer team later, Johana and Jacquelyn have a new home to look forward to. Johana feels blessed to have regained stability and looks forward to the new opportunity that Habitat has afforded her. “I can sleep peacefully knowing that the landlord isn’t going to knock down my door looking for money. It isn’t healthy to feel that load on your shoulders.” She gazes at the kitchen with a tranquil expression etched on her face. “This home is happiness.”


Although mother and daughter are still working to install electricity and water in their new home, they are eager to move in within the next few months.  “With the help of God, we were able to move forward.” She says. “We just celebrated living in Huehuetenango for one year, and I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the support of my family. And, of course, Habitat.”



The Velazquez Martínez Family


Jesús expresses a genuine warmth that fills the room. When asked about the volunteer group that came to build his house, he beams even brighter. He pulls out his phone and starts scrolling through pictures of smiling faces on a construction site.

“One night, we had a party with a lot of food, and they gave me this,” he says. He rises from the couch and walks around to the kitchen area of his new house to show us the American flag that hangs below the counter. He has also printed a photo of the volunteers giving it to him, which hangs on the opposite wall corner and proudly mentions that he is friends with them on Facebook.


After growing up in his father’s Habitat house, which was built ten years ago, Jesús decided to apply for his own. At twenty-one years old, he is highly independent and enjoys the increased flexibility between his home life and his job as a cashier at a local store down the road. In a way, constructing a house has also represented the next phase in his journey to adulthood. His father, Daniel, agrees and is happy that his son has been able to have had the experience that he had himself a decade before.

Jesús is thrilled to have a home at last.  Since moving in late July, he is happy to have discovered a newfound individuality. “Everything has changed. There’s space, and I can see my friends, as well as my father and brother. It’s more comfortable here, and I have greater freedom to do what I would like with my time.”


As for his long term plans, Jesús hopes to start a family in his new house. “First comes the house, then comes the wife and kids. I want to be able to provide for them, and the house allows for that.”

On a final note, Jesús wants to know that he will never forget them. “I am proud and very fortunate to have met you. I hope that you come visit us again. I’ll be waiting.”


The Hernandez Rivera Family


Elvira and Mauricio (24) can start anew in a familiar community with their three children.

About thirty minutes outside Quetzaltenango, a winding road converts from a congested highway into a quiet sanctuary of houses and farms that perch on hillsides. A small road sign peeks out of the ground, indicating this community is “Aldea Talmax” (pronounced Tal-mash), or Talmax Village. It is here where Mauricio and Elvira have spent the past twenty-four years of their lives, first as children and neighbors. Now married, they are excited to see their three young children grow up in the house that was built four months ago by Habitat for Humanity Guatemala staff and volunteers.

“We wanted more children,” Elvira says, shifting their ten-month-old baby, Cristian, on her back. “And we knew that we needed more space to do it.”

Walking through the house, Mauricio  which are scattered with toys and laundry fresh from the line. “There is more space for our children to be free to play. It’s more comfortable for all of us.” As he explains the changes, his seven-year-old son, Roni, ten-year-old daughter, Erika, and their ten-year old cousin, Joel, giggle, immersed in their own private game.


Roni (7), Joel (10), and Erika (10) can all enjoy the extensive play spaces that the new house has provided them.

Space has been a tangible necessity for both Mauricio and Elvira. Before applying for a house with Habitat for Humanity Guatemala, they experienced very different circumstances. Mauricio explains, “We lived with my father, close by in the area. There was a lot of family crammed into one house. I would say about twelve people living in five rooms. There was no privacy, there was no freedom.”

Despite this drawback, Mauricio is happy to have had the experience, as it introduced him to the organization. “My father’s house was a Habitat house from about eighteen to twenty years ago. And we knew that if we applied for a house, it would be of good quality.”

Now, Mauricio, Elvira, and their children can thrive in their new space. “It is beautiful to have a place at last. We seized an unbelievable opportunity that has left us happy and secure enough to grow our family. Habitat has left us with a beautiful house.”