#MyHabitatExperience – Delorean Randich

My name is Delorean Randich. I am Guatemalan, married, and have two children. I’m a public accountant, with a Master’s Degree in Business Management and I am currently studying a PhD in Law. I have received different trainings in finance, cooperatives, corporate governance, risk and technology management. My background has been in insurance companies, credits and savings cooperatives, management, audit activities, and I have experience as a professor at a local university.

Why Habitat Guatemala?

I am convinced of the great potential that Habitat for Humanity Guatemala has to continue working towards the mission of providing more Guatemalan families with an adequate house through the principles of sweat equity, stewardship, training in different subjects and attention to primary needs in life. Habitat Guatemala has a solid team of strategic allies, committed to donate their willpower, time, resources, efforts and initiatives to increase the impact in the quality of life of all communities in Guatemala.

Your Habitat Experience:

I started at Habitat for Humanity Guatemala back in 2018 as a volunteer in different commissions (Finance and Auditing). Later, I became a part of the Board as the Treasurer. Being part of those commissions allowed me to witness the combination of several factors that have been successful keys in the institution’s story. Starting with always prioritizing the needs of the families, followed by social housing grants; also, the staff that is committed to serving the communities.

Since early September, I have had the honor of serving as the National Director of Habitat Guatemala. When holding this position it is important to consider all of the perspectives and points of view surrounding the organization – starting with local committees, affiliates, national offices, and strategic allies, who are day by day, serving families.

What do you like the most about your position?

At Habitat Guatemala we are facing several challenging horizons. The main difficulty consists of extending a variety of housing solutions in accordance with new development opportunities of families. Such challenges will be addressed with a holistic approach, involving all the factors surrounding Habitat, in order to establish a sustainable management throughout time. Ultimately, this will ensure the increasing impact in housing, improvement of living conditions, and in technical governance of the housing solutions offered by Habitat: to make them affordable and accessible to those who have the primary need of an adequate house.

A message to the donors and volunteers

2020 has been a complicated year, challenging above all. A time in which families worldwide have lived never imagined circumstances. However, it has also been a time of reflection, and to think of new ways of living and overcoming. In 2020, many families who already had the need of adequate housing were even more affected because of the economic crisis, employment loss, and impact of several natural disasters. The hope, the ideal to count on a safe house, and an adequate quality of life is still alive in each family. In its mission and vision, Habitat for Humanity Guatemala seeks to promote decent housing for Guatemalan families through a unique model based on the love of God through the actions of donors and volunteers, and by providing housing with a social focus, with an added value based on better construction practices, mutual aid and education.

On behalf of Habitat Guatemala, I want to extend our deep appreciation to all of the support that you have dedicated to the families and communities of Guatemala, which is reflected in the smiles, joy, health and prosperity of each home. We invite you to continue supporting our efforts, through donations and volunteering, together, knowing that there is a lot more to be done in the housing development subject in the country. May God bless you!

Tropical Storms Eta & Iota Response

(Photo: Prensa Libre)

UPDATED: 20 November, 2020 

Hurricane Iota (Category 5 storm) hit Central America on Monday, November 16th, 2020, bringing catastrophic winds and a life-threatening storm surge.

Iota’s arrival comes as the region is still recovering from Hurricane Eta, which made landfall earlier this month as a Category 4 storm. The storm hit Guatemala on Thursday, November 5th, causing severe damage and fatalities.

President, Alejandro Giammatei, has declared a National Alert and a State of Emergency in nine Departments: Petén, Quiché, Alta Verapaz, Izabal, Chiquimula, Zacapa, Jutiapa, El Progreso and Santa Rosa.

CURRENT NUMBERS:

  • Number of fatalities: 55
  • Number of injuries: 22
  • Missing persons: 101
  • Number of individuals affected: 1,338,641
  • Number of evacuees: 203.979
  • Number of individuals in temporary shelters: 179,899

(Photo: Prensa Libre)

Habitat Guatemala is planning to support affected families with the solutions:
 Products:
  • Food Kit ($35)
    • This kit will provide families with essential food items necessary for a family of 5 for two week’s time and consists of the following items: 5 pounds beans, 5 pounds of rice, 10 pounds of corn flour, 5 pounds of pasta noodles, 6 packages of soup, 5 pounds of sugar, 1 bottle of cooking oil, 1 pound of salt, and 3 pounds of atol (corn drink).
  • Cash Voucher ($50)
    • These vouchers will be distributed to the most affected families and will be leveraged against the loss of economic income for the payment of basic services or rent. Families whose homes have been declared uninhabitable by constant rains, as well as those who are living in temporary shelters will be prioritized.
  • Hygiene Kit ($70)
    • A set of articles that cover personal and household hygiene needs. The kit will protect families from possible infections, as well as provide safe water through the use of a water filter. Each kit consists of the following items: water filter, a box of latex gloves, 1 liter of hand sanitizer, 10 face masks, 1 gallon of bleach, 1 gallon of hand soap, and 1 kilo of laundry detergent.

Habitat Guatemala will also be following the damage of the storm as it progresses to determine our next steps regarding the reconstruction or repairs of homes.

Thanks to your support we will serve families in need during these difficult times.

#Meetourvolunteers – Trina Godfrey

Trina is a Global Village team leader from Bermuda. She and her husband Nigel, both originally from the U.K., have a family of 5 children. Trina became involved with Habitat by encouraging her older sons to join GV builds and as soon as her youngest child was old enough to be left she finally fulfilled her long time wish of joining a GV team herself (thanks to Nigel agreeing to “hold the fort” back at home for 3 weeks!). Inspired by that first trip to Botswana, she returned home and applied to train in the U.S. as a team leader.

Why did you choose to support Habitat Guatemala through its Global Village Program?

 

Habitat Guatemala had been highly recommended by team members and other leaders.  After my first trip to Guatemala in 2015 I returned again and again drawn by the depth of the experience. In that first trip I learned so much about the culture, history, economics and politics of the country, but most of all I learned to love and appreciate the warmth of the hardworking, joyful, people of this beautiful country. Seeing so much poverty and knowing how the indigenous people suffered years of hardship and persecution through the Civil War, it’s difficult to find a more deserving country to support.

How long have you been a Habitat volunteer?

Since 2008 (or 2004 if you count fundraising in Bermuda for the GV trips my sons participated in through the local church).

Top 3 of greatest moments while building in Guatemala:

1) For me it is all about the families, especially the children. It’s hard to pick a favorite of course but a young boy named Gonzalo stands out because after bonding with him for just one day on a stove build I was lucky enough to return to the same area and visit him a year later. The fact that Gonzalo remembered me and gave me a warm hug was a very special moment.

2) Participating in a Mayan ceremony was privilege I will never forget. As the fire was constructed our field coordinator did a wonderful job of respectfully explaining the symbolism of each element and then left us to immerse ourselves in the experience as the fire was lit and the spiritual leader (Ajq’ij) prayed in his local dialect.

3) Attending the kite festival at Sumpango for the Day of the Dead celebration. This is a colorful spectacle not to be missed with the artistry of the beautiful kites and the symbolism of the cultural event. A tour of the crowded cemetery reveals the strength of family bonds and surprising joy of the occasion as families bring picnics and children fly kites from atop the family crypt.

What do you like the most about the GV program?

Around the world, Habitat is very good at adapting its program to fit the location/need and it is the Healthy Home Kits project (unique to Guatemala) that keeps bringing me back. On GV house builds I had often thought about the layer of poverty below those we were helping i.e. those whose income was not steady or who didn’t earn enough to afford a Habitat house. I wondered what could be done for them. In Guatemala I found the answer in the Healthy Home Kits project. For a very small contribution, a family can benefit from clean water, smoke-free cooking and a hygienic latrine all of which make a huge difference to their health and well-being.

 

#MyHabitatExperience – Mario Joaquín López

I’m an architect and researcher with a speciality in Regional Planning. I’m passionate about promoting a more equal habitat that is suitable for symbiotic interaction with the environment. I currently work as a Special Projects Coordinator for Habitat for Humanity Guatemala.

Why Habitat Guatemala?

Habitat Guatemala is an organization that has diversified its work to go beyond social financing. I find that Habitat’s work focuses in the principle of global communities, committed to mitigating issues with different actions such as the multi-dimensional impacts of poverty in a country like Guatemala. Furthermore, it is an organization that acts responsibly within the framework of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Your Habitat Experience:

I began my career with Habitat in 2012, right after the devastating earthquake that happened in San Marcos. I was a witness of the commitment of the organization to assist families that lost everything. During my first two years with Habitat, I was involved in the construction of homes. During the last three years, I’ve dedicated my time to the development of projects that promote communal well-being, reduce disaster risk and have defended social housing and their importance when developing land-use policies.

What do you like the most about your position?

Working at Habitat Guatemala represents a learning opportunity for both my personal and professional development, allowing me to promote advocacy on different scales. From the particularity of a home built with social financing to support in the development and well-being of entire communities as well as benefiting cities with the elaboration of land policies, I feel that my work is diverse. Lastly, my work continuously links me to the field, allowing me to meet Habitat’s partner families which inspires me to continue working for their benefit.

 

Vulnerable Families Fund – Florinda Morales Family

 

Florinda Morales lives with her husband Genaro, and five children, in Xejuyú, San Andrés Semetabaj, Sololá.

Florinda suffers from end stage terminal cervical cancer. Genaro works as a farmer, and his wages are currently the family’s only income seeing that one of their eldest children lost his job due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Their eldest daughter, who is 17, is currently attending school, but has plans to stop studying and find a job to help support her family.  One of their children suffers from epilepsy.

This family is living in poor conditions which have worsened because of the pandemic.  One of Florinda’s dreams is to spend the last days of life in a better place.  Their house is made out of adobe blocks and dirt floors.

Due to their current situation, Habitat Guatemala, through its Vulnerable Famillies Fund, is planning to support the family by providing them with a Healthy Home Kit and concrete flooring for their home.

We ask that you consider supporting the cause as well. Join us in building a better Guatemala!

#meetourvolunteers Terry & M.C. Laney

At Habitat Guatemala we are grateful to have met so many volunteers during our 41 years of work in the country.  Through our Global Village Program, we have received countless amazing volunteers, and definitely have formed great connections.

We want you to meet the Laneys, M. C. and Terry, who have supported Habitat Guatemala for many years. This post seeks to share how their journey with Habitat started and how they continue to support us.

M.C.:  A former deaf education teacher and artist.  Began volunteering with local Habitat affiliate in 1996.  Lives in Davidson, NC.  Joined staff at local affiliate in 2000.  Went on first Global Village Trip, a Women Build, to Portugal, just after 9/11/2001. Is a Global Village Team Leader.  Women Build volunteer/House leader locally. Eventually became Director of ReStore Operations for two stores.  Now retired.

Terry:  Former Director of Operations for all company owned Pizza Hut Restaurants in North Carolina.  Began volunteering with local Habitat affiliate in 1996.  Joined staff in 2000.  Became Executive Director of affiliate in 2002, until 2013.  Moved to a struggling Habitat affiliate in 2014, and retired in 2018. Is a Global Village Team Leader.

Why Habitat Guatemala?

Before we went on our first trip to Guatemala, we couldn’t even find it on a map.  Our local affiliate had been tithing to Habitat Guatemala since 1988.  We joined the first Global Village Team from our affiliate, and in 2003 headed to Guatemala to follow our tithe.  We were very impressed with the programs they had in place, and how they were using our tithe.  We found the families there were no different from us, as they too just wanted a better life for their children.  The Habitat Guatemala staff were very patient with us and answered our thousands of questions as this experience was all new to us.  We began building a strong relationship with their Board of Directors and a lifelong friendship with their previous Executive Director, Don Luis Samayoa.  We saw firsthand, the impact Habitat Guatemala was having on the lives of families there.  Through the relationship with Don Luis, he shared his hopes and dreams for the families of Guatemala.  We were seeing Habitat at work, at the most grass-roots level, with the most basic of living conditions, and knew we wanted to be a part of their dreams and solutions.  Thus far, we have made 25 trips to Guatemala, with more to come.

how long have you been an HFHG volunteer?

 

 

We physically started going to Guatemala 17 years ago.  However, we shared with our community, the impact our tithe was having on Habitat Guatemala, for years before that.  For every house we were building locally in North Carolina, our tithe funded another 3 homes in Guatemala.  Our tithe of 10% included profits from our ReStores, other unrestricted funds, as well as 10% additional from our House Sponsors.

Top 5 of greatest moments:

  1. After hearing about Habitat Guatemala’s “smokeless” stove program, as a means to improve the living conditions for those who could not afford a Habitat home, we knew we wanted to be involved.  We were excited to be a part of the first Global Village Team to build a “smokeless” stove with a family who had a very ill 19 month-old.  Doctors had told the family that if they didn’t get rid of their open fire pit in their home for cooking, their child could die from respiratory failure.  Building this stove was extremely impactful for us as we had recently lost our 19 month old grandchild.  And because of this stove, we were able to play a small part in helping to save their child.
  2. Dancing and singing on the job sites with the families, other teams, our masons, and Habitat Guatemala staff, building relationships, as it is ALL ABOUT relationships.
  3. Making tamales and tortillas with families, and then sharing the meal with them. As our relationships grew throughout the week, we were now working side by side preparing the meal, and sitting down to share it with old friends.
  4. Two Executive Directors, Don Luis and I, building a latrine together, with pallets, during the 75,000 Families Served Celebration, was certainly a powerful moment for me (Terry).
  5. Building a home, deep in a cornfield, for a widowed mother and her children, M.C. bonded with a little boy named Juan, who stayed by her side all week. The last day on the job site, as we were leaving, he hugged her and thanked her because “now my mom doesn’t cry anymore at night, because she has a beautiful home for her children.  Gracias, Gracias, Gracias, I love you.”

What do you like the most about our program?

We love how open and sharing Habitat Guatemala is with their struggles, as well as, their successes.  With the GV Teams, it is not just about the building process… they make sure we learn the history of the country and area; the political climate and how it affects Habitat. The program helps us gain perspective about the way of life and culture of Guatemala, truly opening our eyes as we experience their country, not as a typical tourist, but in a much more personal way, up close and personal. We are given the opportunity to witness and experience the vibrant Guatemalan culture and way of life, systems of beliefs, all as we come to appreciate the Guatemalan people and their joys as well as struggles.

We love that Habitat Guate provides us with opportunities to engage young people from our local communities:   Water Filters are another of Habitat Guatemala’s solutions for families.  Ninety-five percent of the water in Guatemala is not potable.  Their water filters are life changing, and literally, life saving for families.  This is also a wonderful way to get our local communities and schools involved with Guatemala.  Working with a local Charter School, we are able to partner with them on their annual “Water Walk” on World Water Day, in March of each year.  The “Water Walk” is a walk to the local lake to collect water in buckets, to then carry it back to the school. We then demonstrate how the water filters work, bringing attention to the millions of families worldwide who do not have easy access to potable water.  This would have been our third year this year, but unfortunately we will have to wait until next year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  The students at the school were able to raise funds for 189 ($35 each) water filters for 189 families in Guatemala, over the previous 2 years.

A message encouraging everyone to join in

We may be from different cultures, but we all want the same things for our families: a safe and healthy place to call home.  This is the great equalizer.  Happiness and hope is not decided by the size of a home.  What may seem small to us, brings them great pride and dignity, something we all need in our lives.  This is where Global Village Teams come in.  We can show people that we are paying attention, we DO care, and DO want to help them improve their living conditions, no matter where they live.

We have brought volunteers from all walks of life, high school students, members of the community, U.S. Habitat homeowners, teachers, professionals, families, churches, members of other Habitat Affiliates, along with us on our Global Village Trips, all coming together to make life better for others.  You can’t do it by sitting at home (although donations are ALWAYS welcome to Habitat Guate).  We ALL can be part of the solution.

Our dear friend, Don Luis Samayoa, passed away unexpectedly, in 2016, and while it was a hard blow for Habitat Guatemala and the families there, his successor, Victor Velasquez , has been able to keep them focused on their next milestone.  Victor worked in the office with Don Luis for 15 years, and shares his passion for helping the families of Guatemala.  M.C. and I were able to host Victor and two members of his team this past year, at our home in Davidson, and we are very excited about the future for them.

The vital contributions Global Village Teams make to Habitat Guatemala, are the pictures and stories brought back home and shared with others.  We always leave a part of ourselves there, as it means so much to us.  Every visit there, has been a life changing experience, with each one being so different.

Terry & M.C. Laney

Habitat Guate Fans and Volunteers!

COVID-19 Response

(Photo: Prensa Libre: Juan Diego González)

 

Updated on August 26, 2020.

María Rosa Reyes Galicia.

 

Like many other families across the globe, Guatemalan families are currently facing difficult times due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Joaquín López, our Special Project Coordinator, explains the impact of the coronavirus in Guatemala and our response to it.

With the immediate threat of the COVID-19 pandemic, Guatemala has reported 69,651 confirmed cases, 50,692 recovered and 2,630 deaths at the time of writing. The number of cases is relatively low in relation to other Central American countries considering that the population of Guatemala averages about 15 million[1]. Nevertheless, according to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), in the upcoming weeks there could be an increase in infections and deaths in all of Latin America. This will depend greatly on the regulations that each country adopts[2].

Although Guatemala has a weak health system with low coverage[3], in the last several weeks the government of Guatemala has adopted specific measures to deal with the pandemic.  There has been a quarantine order in place since March 16th, the closure of borders by sea, land or air, establishment of a curfew, restriction of travel between departments (geographic areas similar to states), suspension of public transportation, and closure of shopping centres – with the exception of economic activities revolving around essential products. These measures, along with opening temporary hospitals at distinct points nationally, aim to reduce the spread of the virus that still has no cure and creates huge uncertainty for the future.

(Photo: Prensa Libre)

Suspending work and advising people to stay at home – in a context where most employment (70%) is informal, over three in five people (61.6%) live in poverty, almost one in four (23%) live in extreme poverty[4], and half (50%) of children suffer from chronic malnutrition[5] – has impacted families in many ways[6].

Those families living in poverty will fall into extreme poverty. Countless families will find their livelihoods interrupted and will not be able to cover the cost of basic services. The food security of many will be put at risk, and in vulnerable climate zones the effects of the drought will make farming to live impossible[7].

Currently, the government is providing assistance to 200,000 families[8] with food and cash vouchers over three months, which could benefit 1.2 million people. Nevertheless, this coverage is low considering that 3.4 million live in extreme poverty. Additionally, a large part of this vulnerable population lives in remote rural areas where they will not be able to maintain their livelihood or have access to government support.

OUR RESPONSE

 

From this context emerges Habitat for Humanity Guatemala’s intention of collaborating with families and communities in vulnerable regions. Through a network of both national and international donors, Habitat is in the process of raising funds to support those most in need, in three phases.

First Phase

The first will be a response effort, working with our network of community leaders and volunteers in rural areas to identify families in need. This phase will include providing basic items that will cover their food deficit for a month. It will also include the distribution of hygiene kits to prevent the spread of the virus and guarantee health and hygiene in homes for several months. Such kits, include:

  • 10 pounds of corn flour
  • 5 pounds of beans
  • 5 pounds of sugar
  • 2 pounds of atol (corn drink)
  • 5 pounds of rice
  • 5 pounds of pasta
  • 1 pound of salt
  • 1 bottle of cooking oil
  • 6 packets of soups
  • 6 reusable masks
  • 2 bottles of antibacterial gel

This process will be implemented along with public campaigns and promotion to avoid the contagion and encourage health in the home, using visual and audiovisual materials in local languages.

The first 100 kits have been delivered!

On May the 26th and 27th, the families from San Lucas Tolimán, Sololá were benefited with the first 100 food and sanitary kits.

On June the 10th, another 100 Food & Hygiene kits were delivered to the families of El Progreso!

Second Phase

The second phase will be focused on recovery efforts, strengthening the livelihood of many by, for example, poultry farming – guaranteeing access to protein (meat and eggs). This phase also includes home improvements in order to guarantee access to water, adequate sanitation systems, and improvements in the physical structures of the home.

Third Phase

The third phase is mitigation, and will be implemented long-term. It will promote the social construction of resilience through regular trainings, and the development of workshops for community leaders and families. In this process, sustainable permanent productive projects will be implemented, such as family gardens.

We aim to reach more than 2,000 families in remote rural areas who are not being supported by other programmes. However, the journey to achieve this still requires both fundraising, and the hope that normal activities can resume.  This will be subject to the number of those infected in the country diminishing. What happens with the rate of infection in the following weeks will be decisive in assisting families who are suffering most in quarantine.

join in and be a part of this response!

 

[1] INE – Instituto Nacional de Estadística. (2018). Censo de Vivienda y Población 2018.

[2] AFP. (2020). OPS prevé un aumento de infectados y de fallecidos por COVID-19 en Latinoamérica a fines de abril y principios de mayo.

[3] USAID – United States Agency International Development. (2015). Guatemala. Análisis del Sistema de Salud.

[4] OPHI – Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative. Global MPI Country Briefing 2019: Guatemala (Latin America and the Caribbean.)

[5] PNUD – Programa de las Naciones Unidas para el Desarrollo (2017). Humanitarian Needs Overview Guatemala.

[6] Monzón, M. (2020). El covid-19 y la Guatemala desigual. Publicado en Prensa Libre (31/03/2020)

[7] Recuperado de https://www.prensalibre.com/guatemala/comunitario/lo-mas-duro-de-la-crisis-alimentaria-esta-por-llegar-al-corredor-seco/

[8] Recuperado de https://dca.gob.gt/noticias-guatemala-diario-centro-america/hospital-temporal-de-quetzaltenango-estara-listo-la-proxima-semana/

Florencia Socom – Hybrid House Program

Florencia and her 5 children, Rosaura (16), Milsia (13), Ismael (11), Aroldo (8), and Josué (17), are the proud owners of a new Hybrid House, in the municipality of Las Canoas Altas, San Andrés Semetabaj, Sololá. Milsia is a single mother who works as a cleaning lady in different houses. The youngest children are going to school and the oldest work in different field activities.

Florencia and her family are part of our new Hybrid House Program, which is a two room home built with a mix of traditional materials: adobe blocks, cement blocks, and wood.

Quick facts about the new Hybrid Home:

1. At just $3,300 USD, it costs less than half the price of a standard HFHG home.

2. The home is partially subsidized, acknowledging that the population we are serving does not have access to an income that would allow them to pay a mortgage. The family contributes sweat equity, creating the adobe blocks as well as participating in the construction of their new home.

3. The structure can be built in a time frame of approximately a two weeks.

4. This is a new effort to support the sector of the population that is living in the poorest conditions.

5. To date, the pilot program has consisted of a total of four houses.

As previously explained, this solution is partially subsidized which means that beneficiary families are asked to contribute towards the cost of materials, provide unskilled labor such as preparing the adobe blocks, among other tasks.

Before partnering with Habitat Guatemala, Florencia mentioned that her and her family used to live in a house built out of metal roof sheets, sharing just one room for all of them. Another room was used for the kitchen. “The old house was different, because it was built with metal sheets, we felt very cold during winter and very hot during summer, it had a lot of holes where the wind got in,” shares Florencia.

One day she received a visit from Habitat staff, Florencia showed them her house and the way they were living. The staff explained to Florencia about the program and that she was selected as one of the beneficiaries. “I was surprised because it all happened really fast. In a couple of months, we were already building our new home with my children! The adobe blocks were hard to make at the beginning but then we got used to it. All my children were a part of the construction process, and it was fun.” – Florencia.

When asked how they feel with their new home, Florencia smiles and answers, “We feel happy, happy to have our home now! I am very grateful to everyone who supported us. I do not know what else to say to except to express my gratitude and happiness. We are now able to live at peace with my children, without worrying about feeling cold anymore.” In the future, this family is planning to add flowers and trees around the house, to make it look even prettier!

Florencia finishes by sharing a message to the donors and volunteers, “May you all receive our gratitude, Thanks to God and to all of you who supported us. As a single mother it has been a hard road, I felt alone. And you coming to support me, makes me feel I am not alone anymore. Thank you!