Initiative seeks to replace 100,000 dirt floors with cement floors in Latin America and the Caribbean

Source: Habitat for Humanity Regional Office.

Habitat for Humanity and the Inter-American Cement Federation (FICEM) have launched the initiative “100,000 floors to play on,” with the objective of replacing 100,000 dirt floors with cement among Latin America and the Caribbean’s most vulnerable populations by 2028. Depending on the needs of each household, the project will also offer solutions such as access to water and improved stoves, in order to build a healthy and dignified environment for families’ sustainable and inclusive development.

“100,000 Floors to Play On” is part of the “PISOS S3” program, following a successful pilot project launched in Guatemala in 2021 through a partnership between Cementos Progreso, FICEM, Habitat for Humanity Guatemala, the Guatemalan Cement and Concrete Institute and the Network of Indigenous Entrepreneurs.

The housing deficit in Latin America and the Caribbean affects nearly 40% of the region’s total population. Approximately 6% of households have dirt floors, which can lead to serious illness, particularly among children and elders.

Habitat for Humanity has significant experience with these types of interventions in the region, as we frequently work with them in the countries where we have a presence. We are witnessing how such improvements can significantly change the quality of life and wellbeing of families, providing them with an adequate and healthy environment upon which to build a better future. The “100,000 floors to play on” initiative is a great opportunity to create social benefits that can positively impact thousands of lives,” says Ernesto Castro, Area Vice-president of Habitat for Humanity Latin America and the Caribbean.

 

María José García, Executive Director of FICEM, adds that “the PISOS S3 was organized by the regional cement industry aimed to improve the health and wellbeing of the poorest and most vulnerable families in Latin American and the Caribbean by replacing dirt floors with cement ones to create healthier, safer, and more sustainable homes. Today, we join Habitat for Humanity in launching the “100,000 floors to play on” initiative to transform the lives of 100,000 families in the region by 2028. We understand that this is a significant challenge and must be addressed with caution and responsibility. We know that it requires spreading the word, ensuring a region-wide commitment, and strengthening partnerships.”

The pilot project replaced a total of 1,080 m2 of cement floors, benefiting 32 families from five indigenous communities in the municipality of San Juan Sacatepequez. The project also distributed water filters and provided the beneficiary families with training on healthy homes and floors and water filter use and maintenance.

At Progreso, we believe that a country’s development is improved by providing its inhabitants with better living conditions. Implementing the PISOS S3 pilot in San Juan Sacatepequez is part of our commitment to improve quality of life for people in the countries where we operate by building responsible and sustainable practices that create a place where we want to live,” says José Raúl González, CEO of Progreso.

Dirt floors can become a breeding ground for parasites, bacteria, and insects that cause issues like diarrhea, respiratory diseases, anemia, immunodeficiencies, malnutrition and Chagas disease. Children are most vulnerable when crawling, playing, and walking on the ground; hence the use of “floors to play on.”

For children, the report showed a 70% reduction in parasitic infections, 49% in diarrhea and 81% in anemia, and an increase from 36% to 96% in cognitive development. Adults showed a 59% increase in housing satisfaction, a 52% decrease in depression and a 45% decrease in stress.

“Replacing 100,000 floors in the region will make a real difference in these families’ lives. Cement floors are low cost and environmentally friendly, their raw materials are produced locally, and they improve climatic comfort inside the house. These interventions save lives, prevent disease, improve the quality of life, contribute to poverty reduction, help mitigate climate change and forward the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals,” says García.

“100,000 floors to play on” benefits poverty-stricken families throughout Latin America and the Caribbean who live in houses made from poor quality materials (such as dirt floors) that make them more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. This is particularly true of homes with female heads of household, children under six years of age, older adults and/or people with disabilities.

We are currently seeking partnerships in Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Central America for the first phase of the initiative. We are also working to extend our partnership with Cementos Progreso in Guatemala and other countries in the region where the company works. Replacing 100,000 floors in six years is clearly an ambitious goal and will only be achieved by working in partnership with the government and the public and private sectors. For this reason, we invite cement companies, governments and other stakeholders in Latin America and the Caribbean to join us in improving the health and quality of life of the most vulnerable families,” says Castro.

Both Habitat for Humanity and FICEM plan to continue working together in the long-term, replacing a total of 10 million floors by 2050 and make significant strides toward the end goal of eradicating dirt floors in the region. For more information on how your company or organization can join “100,000 floors to play on,” please contact lac@habitat.org or lrojas@ficem.org.

 

#meet our partners – Let hope begin here

In the community of Guayabales, Chiquimulilla, Santa Rosa, under the shade of two trees, with the rocks serving as seats and accompanied by a gentle breeze, we talked with Scott and Jane, who shared the story of how Let Hope Begin Here Guatemala was founded and what these past 15 years have been like.  

Let Hope Begin Here Guatemala started 15 years ago when Scott Robertson was looking for opportunities to support a local orphanage. He met with a government official during a holiday. “This is what I call a “what are the chances” story”, –Scott said– “I asked him one of the most important questions of my life: What can I do for you? What would you like to do for your people?” He brought back a letter from a village asking for support.    

This marked the beginning of the journey to Guayabales. On the first visit, the entire community was waiting for them, because no one had been willing to help them in the past. Octaviano, the Major of the community, identified the following needs as priorities: 1. an economic program for the women, 2. health care for the women and children and 3. a technical vocational school to educate the children out of poverty. And so, Scott began the process of finding other good people and organizations that had the same vision.   

Scott and Jane had known each other since childhood because their parents went to college together. Even when they moved to separate towns, their parents always exchanged Christmas cards. Jane traveled to Guatemala and fell in love with the country, so in one of the Christmas cards, Jane found out about Scott’s work in Guatemala and contacted him. After learning about the help needed for Guayabales, she invited her son to participate in this project. On their first trip to Guayabales, they brought construction materials to build a new roof in the community school. “The metal sheet was bouncing on the back of the truck and everyone said, Yay! It´s real! It´s real! and everyone in the village started helping”, recalls Jane. 

They recall that one of the main requests Octaviano had been: “Do not come up and do it for us. Come and teach us so we can do it for ourselves”. That’s what Let Hope Begin Here Guatemala did. The organization provided funds and experts. The community provided the labor and willingness to learn.  Since then, Let Hope Begin Here Guatemala, works alongside the community and has supported Guayabales with a rainwater catchment system, a water purification system, a single line bridge, a series of training, and plenty more meaningful interventions to make Guayabales a self–sustained community.  

about our partnership

In January 2022, Let Hope Begin Here Guatemala partnered with Habitat for Humanity Guatemala to build a teacher’s home . Like many of the communities in rural Guatemala, access to Guayabales is not easy. The road is in poor condition and during the rainy season, access is difficult. Scott explains; “this house is a solution to the problem of being able to keep teachers for the full school year due to difficulty accessing the community. The teachers currently travel by motorcycle in the raining season. By the time they get there it’s time to go back home, so the children are only getting educated one or two days a week and are getting further and further behind in their education”. 

What does this project and the community mean to you?

Jane smiles and answers: “I think everything! It seems to me that you cannot help them enough, their needs and aspirations are endless, and the most valuable we can do is provide them solutions to sustain themselves, because I am not going to be around for that much longer”. We are seeing kids grow up! We have met them since they were little kids.. 

 Scott adds: “Our work is to teach them well and put ourselves out of the job to help them get to the point where they can do it by themselves”. It is complicated to explain in words what something means which doesn’t have words, but when people come, they know. And after 15 years, the one thing that we have is credibility, they know we listen, they know we care and they know we will respond “. 

Final message to our donors, volunteers and partners

“As John Stuart Mill said, ‘The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing´, so, I don’t want to be that type of men”. – Scott Robertson.   

 “With this house we hope we will have been a life-changing impact for the whole community here”. – Jane Ragsdale.   

“Next to your love, your work is the most powerful thing that you can give to someone else. Your work is what you have to give and it is the most powerful way to show your love”. – Mitch Mitchel.  

“The support of Let Hope Begin Here Guatemala, has been of great blessing for all of us. We have felt very blessed by God. God has listened to us and heard our requests. We feel very grateful for all the support. We know that we are not alone, that there is someone who is looking out for us”. – Octaviano Santos (Mayor of Guayabales). 

Habitat for Humanity Guatemala is grateful to take part in these partnerships that continue to contribute to the construction of a better Guatemala!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Disasters Response – Feb 16th earthquake

According to the INSIVUMEH (National Institute of Seismology, Volcanology, Meteorology and Hydrology of Guatemala). The national territory is divided into three tectonic plates: North America, Caribbean and Cocos. The relative movements between these determine the main topographic features of the country and the distribution of earthquakes and volcanoes.

The contact between the North American and Caribbean plates is transcurrent. Its manifestation on the surface are the Chixoy-Polochic and Motagua faults.

The contact between the Cocos and Caribbean plates is of the convergent type, in which the Cocos plate goes under the Caribbean plate (a phenomenon known as subduction). This process gives rise to a large number of earthquakes and the formation of volcanoes. The contact between these two plates is approximately 50 km off the coast of the Pacific Ocean.

At the same time, these two processes generate deformations inside the Caribbean Plate, producing secondary faults such as: Jalpatagua, Mixco, Santa Catarina Pinula, etc.

Due to this, Guatemala is constantly facing earthquakes of low and high rate. On February 16th a 6.8 earthquake stroke Guatemala causing several structural damages, mainly in the department of Totonicapán.

From this context emerges Habitat for Humanity Guatemala’s intention of collaborating with families whose houses have suffered structural damages. Through a network of both national and international donors, Habitat is in the process of raising funds to support those most in need with the following housing products:

 

We aim to support Five families in Totonicapán who are not being supported by other programmes. However, the journey to achieve this still requires both fundraising. Consider joining us in this efforts.

 

 

[1] INSIVUMEH – Instituto Nacional de Sismología, Vulcanología, Meteorología e Hidrología de Guatemala.

 

Reverting the effects of the pandemic in the education and health of children – Hearts4Guatemala

In the rural areas of Guatemala, more than 20% of the population does not have access to drinking water, the rest of the population are subject to intermittent services that sometimes do not have a good quality or enough quantity. The need for water was exacerbated after the COVID-19 pandemic, where regulations and protocols recommended constant handwashing to prevent the spread of infections. These water issues have had a big impact on the educational opportunities for children, as many schools did not have access to water which prevented the implementation of prevention protocols.

This is the case of the school Mario Morales Monroy in the community of Susho Abajo in Chiquimula. Before classes were suspended due to the spread of COVID-19, there was an attendance of 600 students in this school. Water is very scarce in the community, increasing the vulnerability to the spread of viruses and bacteria that can be prevented through proper handwashing and sanitation. Additionally, there were recurring gastrointestinal diseases from the ingestion of contaminated water.

In partnership with Hearts4Guatemala, the school was equipped with 11,600 liters of safe drinking water through two water filtration systems. Additionally, rainwater is collected through the roof of the schools’ court and stored in a water tank to supply the school during the dry season. In addition to our regular educational component, Habitat for Humanity Guatemala provided training on the proper use of water sources and COVID-19 mitigation.

Thanks to this intervention, the school in Susho Abajo will be the first and only school to resume operations in the area and reopen for in-person classes. While the world adjusted to prevent the spread of infections during the COVID-19 pandemic, many vulnerable groups were faced with bigger challenges that delayed the improvements achieved in the past. This was the main motivation to the project and, in light of World Social Justice Day, Habitat for Humanity in collaboration with Hearts4Guatemala aims to provide equal opportunities for everyone and revert the effects of the pandemic in the education and health of children.

 

 

 

Improving the lives of people living with disabilities in Sololá

In Guatemala, children and adults with disabilities are among the most invisible to society in all fields, levels, and processes of social development. The majority of families of people with disabilities are living in poverty and extreme poverty, with no access to a decent home, lacking basic amenities like water, electricity, bathroom, kitchen, etc., and with an education and healthcare systems that are not designed for diversity.

In the communities of Santiago Atitlán, one of the most illiterate municipalities in the department and the one with the greatest poverty, at least 10.4% of the population are estimated to have some type of disability. Through a 3-year joint project between Habitat Canada, Habitat Guatemala, Hope & Healing International, and ADISA in Guatemala, both ADISA and Habitat Guatemala have supported the quality of life of the families in Santiago Atitlán by providing comprehensive care, healthcare, education, employment, and empowerment programs, and access to adequate housing.

In the first year of implementation, we were able to support 15 families living with people with disabilities in accessing adequate housing, healthcare, inclusive education, and employment opportunities. This was achieved through the construction of a new home, the implementation of a curriculum for vocational training and entrepreneurial education and training, providing job search support, mental health workshops, risk management education, and medical follow-up care, and the distribution of health home kits and installation of pilas. For years 2 and 3, we expect to support 15 additional families living with people with disabilities in Santiago Atitlán each year with an adequate housing solution and the establishment of a poultry farm and family garden for the production of eggs and vegetables to improve their diet and socioeconomic status through the sale of the surplus in the community.

Thank you Habitat Canada, Hope & Healing, and ADISA Guatemala for their work in improving the quality of life of people with disabilities and their families in Santiago Attitlán so that they are included in their communities and enjoy their rights to the fullest.

 

 

#Myhabitatexperience – María Rosa Reyes

Hello! My name is María Rosa, Im 30 years old, born and raised in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala and have been working with Habitat Guatemala for over 9 years! I am currently in charge of IRD communications.

Why Habitat Guatemala?

Because Habitat provides families with different tools to improve their quality of life, it is not a paternalistic NGO at the contrary, families that we work with have to always give something back, and for me that is the best way to improve the country, if everyone shares a part of the work. My former boss, don Luis (RIP) “show them how to prepare the tortilla, do not just handle it to them.” Adding to that, the fact that there are still many people helping others to improve, gives me hope in humanity.

What do you like the most about your position?

What I love the most about my job is being able to visit all our partner families in their new homes or with their new housing solutions and being able to witness how their lives have improved. They joy and proud reflected in their faces, that for me, is what gives meaning to my job. Being able to witness the mixture of cultures when our GV volunteers come to build with Guatemalan families and share with them our culture is one of my favorite things to do!

A message to the Habitat community

Thank you all for your continuos support to Habitat Guatemala. During these years I have met so many wonderful people! I hope to continue working with all of you in order to build a better Guatemala!

María Cardona Family – Hybrid House Program – Home for a Home

María (30), and her four children, Aura (13), Haroldo (12), Santos (10) and baby Omar (1), are the owners of a new Hybrid House in the community of Chelam, San Sebastián, Huehuetenango. María is a single mother, who weaves traditional clothes to later sell them at the market during market daysthat she sells at the market.

Our new Hybrid House solution is a two-room home built with a mix of traditional materials: adobe blocks, cement blocks, and wood. This solution is partially subsidized which means that beneficiary families are asked to contribute towards the cost of materials and provide labor such as preparing adobe blocks, among other tasks.

Before partnering with Home for a Home and Habitat Guatemala, María’s family used to live at her parents’ house, in one small room built out of adobe blocks, wood and dirt flooring. That house is was also shared with more than seven relatives. When asked how she feels about her new home, María answers, “I feel happy to have our own house. Soon, we will be able to do what we want, we have more space too; we feel content with it.”

As part of the Hybrid House Programs, families also receive a latrine and a smokeless stove. This helps them improve their health by giving them adequate access to proper sanitation and a smoke free environment. María used to cook over an open fire on the floor. The new smokeless stove will help them improved their the families health, since the smoke is no longer inside their house. Previously, the family did not own a latrine and would to go to the woods. Now, that they have a safe and hygienic place for their basic needs.

María finishes by sharing a message with the our donors, “Thank you for providing us with our home! I feel content with it! May God bless you.”

 

 

 

 

 

Juana Ordóñez Family – Hybrid House Program – Home for a Home

Juana Andrés (38), and his six children, Juana (19), Hilda (13), Juliana (10), Marta (7), Angélica (5), Oscar (3) and baby Elsy are the owners of a new Hybrid House in the community of Chelam, San Sebastián, Huehuetenango. Juana is a single mother, who works in the lands nearby harvesting coffee and potato.

Our new Hybrid House solution is a two-room home built with a mix of traditional materials: adobe blocks, cement blocks, and wood. This solution is partially subsi-dized which means that beneficiary families are asked to contribute towards the cost of materials and provide labor such as preparing adobe blocks, among other tasks.

Before partnering with Home for a Home and Habitat Guatemala, the family used to live in a small room that was used to sleep and to cook on an open fire. The small room was built with adobe walls, ground floor and acai in the roof.

When asked how they feel about their new home, Juana answers, “I feel content with our new house, it is an opportunity to improve and have a safe space for my children, to no longer suffer from cold.”

Juana explains that their lives have improved greatly with this new home because they no longer have to sleep in one room, with the rain water leaking and suffering cold.

As part of the Hybrid House Programs, families also receive a latrine and a smokeless stove. This helps them improve their health by giving them adequate access to proper sanitation and a smoke-free environment.

Juana finishes by sharing a message with the donors, “Thank you for your support, by providing us with this house. We feel happy.”