Habitat Guatemala Goes International

In late March, Habitat for Humanity Guatemala participated in the Habitat for Humanity International Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. For the first time since 2001, over 2,500 attendees from 1,000 USA affiliates and 50 global affiliates regrouped for a week of learning and engagement. Habitat Guatemala’s Executive Director, Victor Martinez, Board President Renaud Cuchet, and Director of International Resources and Development, Steven Cook, all attended.

The week presented several learning and brainstorming opportunities. Habitat Guatemala worked with colleagues to develop new strategies for finding passionate partners that hope to positively impact lives with sustainable housing solutions. Additionally, we discussed our unique role with Solid Ground, a global advocacy campaign that works with Habitat for Humanity International to provide secure land tenure across the globe.

There were several other exciting moments from the week. We had the chance to hear former President Jimmy Carter speak. At ninety-two years old, President Carter remains involved with Habitat for Humanity.

Lastly, Habitat Guatemala reconnected with partners from all over North and South America. The meeting felt like one, big family reunion. On Wednesday evening of the conference, we dined with over 30 friends from 15 affiliates in the states and invited them to join us for the Spring 2018 building of Habitat Guatemala’s 100,000th Housing Solution. In addition to meeting with old friends, Habitat Guatemala made new many friends who are passionate about serving others in need of housing solutions. Overall, we enjoyed a highly successful week in Atlanta. We have since returned home more energized and excited in our task to serve Guatemalan families.

Did you want to meet up with us, but didn’t get the chance? We would still love to hear from you! Please send your questions or comments to Steven Cook at donor@habitatguate.org.



Smokeless Stoves: Erika Marlena Lopez

Erika Marlena Lopez (24) walks with a spring in her step. She is one of the most energetic members of her village and is always looking to get more involved with new community development projects, usually while balancing her youngest child, three-year-old Mabely, on her hip and her five-year-old son, Eliasa, tagging at her heels. The smokeless stove from Habitat Guatemala was just what she and her family needed.

“Our stove was smaller before. It was terrible,” she remembers. “We couldn’t make tortillas with it. It didn’t have a chimney, so smoke poured out of it. Plus, it was borrowed from a family member, so it wasn’t even something that we could call ours.”

Erika explains that the new smokeless stove has saved her family’s life. The new stove is taller, so her children cannot grab the burning logs. And they no longer have to walk thirty minutes to the nearest doctor in case they get sick.

The stove has also saved her family a bit of money and has made educational opportunities a bit more accessible, especially for her oldest daughter, Leidy (7). “Whatever money we don’t spend on firewood, we use for her so that she can go to school,” Erika says proudly. “We can buy her books, her materials, or other little things that she may need.”

When asked about the team that helped build her stove, Erika’s eyes light up. “May they keep fighting for us. We want to thank you for the work that you did. We have nothing to pay you, but thank you for giving us this stove. May God bless you. We are so grateful for your help.”

Smokeless Stoves: Modesta Maricela Jitatz Gui Gui

At sixteen years old, Modesta Maricela Jitatz Gui Gui is in charge of the family meals. Her mother, Liliana, just gave birth to her ninth child, leaving Modesta with the challenge of cooking for up to twenty family members, which includes her siblings, parents, cousins, and more when they return from harvesting their strawberry crop.

Despite what seems like a daunting task, Modesta embraces that challenge. She is particularly grateful for the family’s Habitat for Humanity Guatemala smokeless stove. Because of its efficiency and clean burning, the stove allows her to prepare more food for more people in a shorter period of time. Modesta says that she is thrilled that the metal surface heats up quickly to make large quantities of tortillas. Also, she only has to go out to look for firewood once a week.

Modesta says that she doesn’t miss the old stove, which is a complete contrast to her current one. She remembers that there was always a lot of smoke in her kitchen and that the old stove would eat up copious amounts of firewood. “It was two blocks with a grill stacked on top of it,” she explains, putting her hands out for emphasis. “There was all smoke and no fire. And we have to cook for so many people, so it was hard.”

The new stove only took about a day to construct. Modesta recalls that her father helped shape the blocks and that soon after, a group of international volunteers used them to help build the stove. “They spent the whole day working, until the afternoon,” she reflects. “We are so grateful to all that they have done, and we suffer no longer because of their work.”

Smokeless Stoves: Delia Landalina Ambrosio

As an artisan, Delia (24) specializes in weaving beautiful xuipils, or traditional blouses worn by Guatemalan women. She has a work station set up in her home, complete with a loom and varying colored threads that she dyes herself. The work also allows her to keep an eye on her youngest, most rambunctious children, four-year-old Milady and one-year-old Diego and make sure that they don’t get into trouble.

Delia is relieved that she doesn’t have to worry one danger: her children burning themselves on an unsafe cooking stove. “The wood used to fall out of our old stove, and it would burn them,” she recalls. The previous stove had other problems as well. “We used to have thick clouds of smoke in the house. And it used so much wood. We had to buy a lot. And it was so expensive. About 60Q (about $8.50) for each batch of wood, which would last only 4-5 days.”

When Habitat for Humanity Guatemala presented the opportunity to build an affordable, safe cooking stove through its Healthy Home Kit program, Delia became immediately interested. Her father and father in law pitched in to cut blocks. Then, their family worked with international volunteers to build the stove together.

Since the project’s completion, Delia is pleased with how the new stove has made a difference in her family’s life. She says that, “there are no problems, it works well now. We can cook a little bit more than before.” More importantly, the new stove has allowed her to save a little bit of money for her children. “Any extra money we save, we use to buy more food so our children can grow.”

Delia is grateful for the group, and she wants to thank you the group for their hard work: “We thank you very much for coming and building the stove. It works beautifully, and it works well because of you.”

Smokeless Stoves: Elida Crecia

Elida Crecia’s small kitchen is carefully kept and impeccably clean. Every tin cup, condiment, and utensil has its place, whether it is tucked carefully between the slats in the bamboo walls or balanced delicately on a wooden shelf. In the middle of her kitchen, the very axis of the meal preparation, she has built her smokeless stove.

“We borrowed our last stove,” she quietly tells us, shifting her two-year-old son, Clinton, on her hip. “It was never ours. But this stove, this is something we can call our own. My husband constructed the bricks, and he also helped build the stove. It took about half a day.”

Although Elida is shy, it is clear that the stove brings her a new joy. She reveals that smoke no longer fills her kitchen, making breathing a lot easier for her and Clinton. They also need not worry about the quantity of firewood, which her husband must go out and search for. “Before, he would leave multiple times a week,” Elida says. “Now, it’s just once a week.”

Elida has fond memories of the team that came to help build her stove and is grateful for their dedication. She describes them has very friendly and hardworking.  More than anything, she wants them to know the following: “May they keep fighting for people like us.”

Smokeless Stoves: Simbiona Chulca Cajcaj

When she isn’t busy weaving, Simbiona Chulca Cajcaj (37) spends most of her day cooking meals for her husband and two daughters. Her house is split into two spaces; one room perches on the top of a hill while the other room slopes downward. In this space, she has prepared hot meals for over twenty years.

Simbiona’s previous stove stands in the corner, a quiet reminder for what used to be. “Our other stove was old, about twenty years or so. And it was small. It didn’t have a lot of problems, but there was always smoke coming out of it and filling the room.”

Her kitchen is now smoke-free, allowing her six-year-old daughter, Selena, to focus on her homework without being bothered by the fumes. Simbiona reflects that since building the stove, their household no longer has to spend a fortune on firewood. “Instead, we can give more food to our children so that they can grow and develop.”

Simbiona has a special message for the international group that came to help build her stove: “We send you our warmest greetings and hugs. May you continue with a happy life, thank you for the stove. You have given us so much support with this project.”