#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!

The gift that keeps on giving – Water filters for Guatemalan moms

Although the world is going through a difficult time, our work at Habitat Guatemala is not stopping. Housing and the search for opportunities for a better quality of life for Guatemalan families continues to be our main goal, and is more important than ever.

One of the key factors to staying safe during this COVID-19 crisis is sheltering in place in adequate housing. Unfortunately, many families in rural Guatemala do not have access to this resource and continue to live day by day in improvised structures, with no access to public services like potable water or electricity. Fathers have to work every day in the fields in order to put food on the table, while mothers have to stay at home and take care of family chores and children.

As part of our Extreme Poverty Focus Program, Habitat Guatemala provides different solutions to relieve each of these problems, one of which is the lack of access to clean potable water. Currently in Guatemala, over 95% of water is polluted. More than 2,000 children die each year due to intestinal diseases caused by drinking contaminated water. Adding to the issue is the fact that access to this basic need is becoming increasingly scarce and difficult to obtain. This plays out in urban areas due to low quality services and in rural areas because of no coverage at all. Over 20% of the population in these areas do not have access to any water services.

Our water filter guarantees:

  1. Access to drinking water through a basic service that runs on gravity and offers 18.5 liters of water daily.
  2. Reduction in the use of firewood to boil water and on spending for bottled water (families spend approximately Q576.00 on bottled water per year).
  3. 9% elimination of bacteria like E. coli, Salmonella, Klebsiella, Clostridium, Citrobacter, Proteus and other hydrogen producing acetogenic organisms related to fecal matters.
  4. Reduction in the prevalence of gastrointestinal diseases, especially in children.

This Mother’s Day, we aim to continue serving all of the hardworking Guatemalan mothers, so that they and their families can have access to clean water to keep them safe during these difficult times.

Do you want to be a part of this initiative? Are you planning on buying a gift for your mom? Instead of buying something that won’t last long, give the gift that keeps on giving! Make a donation to Habitat Guatemala in the amount of a purifying water filter ($35 USD) for a Guatemalan mom, and receive a certificate to share with your own mom in her honor.

A new solution to extreme poverty: the Hybrid House

During the last 41 years, Habitat for Humanity Guatemala (HFHG) has served more than 120,000 families with an adequate housing solution. In 2010, we started the Healthy Home Kit program as an effort to support families living in extreme poverty. This program consists of implementing a smokeless stove, sanitary latrine and water filter, among other solutions in households earning between $1 – $2 USD a day. Following the same goal of supporting families living in these conditions with more tangible solutions, in 2019 HFHG created the Hybrid House program: providing families with four walls and a safe roof. The Hybrid Home is a two room home, built with a mix of traditional materials: adobe blocks, cement blocks and wood.

Quick facts 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, elaborating the adobe blocks as well as participating in the construction of their new home.
  3. The structure can be built in approximately a two week time frame.
  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.

Our goal is to continue supporting more families living in vulnerable conditions, such as Florencia Socom to ultimately improve their quality of life.

We invite you to be part of this new and ambitious project! Want to participate in building a Hybrid Home? Have a birthday coming up and want to ask for donations for this program instead of gifts?

Please write donor@habitatguate.org for further details about this program, and how you can support HFHG.

#myhabitatexperience – Diego Secaira

Meet Diego Secaria, he has been working with Habitat Guatemala for more than a year. You may know him as an animal lover, cheese enthusiast or your cheerful Field Coordinator for Global Village. We sat down to ask him about his HFH experience.

Why Habitat Guatemala?

I have been working with people for several years, but I always wanted to do something to help Guatemala and the people that live here; through Habitat I was able to do this. With Habitat we don’t give away our products, we make sure that the families are fully involved in the process of the housing solution, making sure that we are truly starting to make a difference in Guatemala.

My Habitat Experience:

Working with Habitat has taught me that you can always give a little bit more, sometimes just giving that extra bit will make a big difference. I have also learned that one of the most beautiful things about Guatemala is the warmth of its people; no matter where you go, everyone will always greet you with a smile or with a “Buenos dias.” Knowing that simply by doing my job I will be able to help many of the families that I meet brings a smile to my face.

What do you most like about your position?

What I like most is always being in the field, having the opportunity to meet new people every day, having the ability to work along volunteers from different countries, and spending time with the families that Habitat helps. Every single day in the field can be so different compared to others. One week we can be helping a family build their house in the warm low lands of Guatemala, and the next, we can be building a smokeless stove for a family in the cold highlands of the country.

What I appreciate the most is being able to share time, experiences, and stories with every single person of the big family that Habitat is. Some examples are learning facts about the countries where the volunteers come from, learning a new skill from the masons, or hearing stories from the family during lunch.