International Day for Clean Air for blue skies – September 7th

On September 7th, the second International Day for Clean Air was held, with a focus on healthy air and highlighting the negative impacts of air pollution on our health. In Guatemala, 86% of the population use firewood or charcoal as means for cooking in their homes, increasing the rates of indoor air pollution and the risk for burns and other health concerns such as respiratory illnesses (Ministerio de Salud Pública y Asistencia Social -MSPAS-, 2012). In 2010, indoor air pollution was the second leading cause of years of life lost due to ill health, in addition to being a high contributor to outdoor pollution (Pan American Health Organization -PAHO-, 2016). Household air pollution, disproportionately affects the health of women and children, who spend most of their time inside their homes.

To account for these issues, Habitat for Humanity Guatemala designed a smokeless stove to eliminate diseases caused by indoor smoke and reduce the risk of burns caused by cooking over an open flame. The design takes into consideration cultural, social, environmental, and spatial aspects that fit the needs of the families. Since 2010, Habitat Guatemala has worked with families to build more than 43,700 smokeless stoves all over the country, benefiting about 262,000 individuals.

This year Habitat Guatemala , in partnership with Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and families in 12 communities of Quiché, Totonicapan and San Marcos, implemented a project to build2,500 smokeless stoves and deliver Healthy Homes, Disaster Reduction, and Nutrition capacity building activities to families.. The project aims to benefit more than 9,000 individuals by the end of the year!

There is still work to do, but with your contribution, we are able to reach more families in Guatemala and positively impact their health and quality of life.

 

 

Sources:

Ministerio de Salud Pública y Asistencia Social. (2012, March). Diagnóstico nacional de salud. https://www.mspas.gob.gt/images/files/cuentasnacionales/publicaciones/11MSPAS(2012)Diagnostico-Salud-marzo.pdf

Pan American Health Organization. (2016, March 9). Household air pollution – Guatemala country profile. https://www.paho.org/en/documents/household-air-pollution-guatemala-country-profile

#Myhabitatexperience – Ximena Wellmann

Hello! My name is Ximena and I like to think I am an extremely adventurous person. I grew up in Alta Verapaz, more specifically in Cobán, Guatemala, but I moved to Norway when I was 16 to get my International Baccalaureate. When I was in Norway, I lived with 105 people from all over the world, got to discover some of the prettiest landscapes I have ever seen in my life, and I even saw Northern lights! (almost every night in October). After Norway, I moved to Florida to complete my Public Health degree.

Why Habitat Guatemala?

I am passionate about Public Health and helping communities to be empowered and improve their quality of life. Habitat Guatemala does so by giving families an opportunity to adequate housing and improving their living conditions

What do you like the most about your position?

One of the things I like about my position is the opportunity to see projects from scratch and to work with a multidisciplinary team which gives me a chance to learn from all the areas of the field.

A message to the Habitat community

I am happy to be part of the Habitat Guatemala community and I look forward to working with you all!

World Water Week 2021 – 23-27 August 2021

This past week, the annual event on global water issues was held, with a focus on developing solutions to the greatest water-related challenges worldwide (Stockholm International Water Institute, 2021). At Habitat for Humanity Guatemala (HFHG), we are compromised to bringing Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) solutions to communities in the country. 

According to the United Nations database (2020), Guatemala has seen great improvements towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goal 6 –Ensure access to water and sanitation for all, and, in 2020, 56% of the population were using safe drinking water services and 79% were using an improved sanitation facility.  

Despite these advances, water quality is still a concern. According to Guatemala´s Ministry of Public Health (2011), more than 90% of surface water is contaminated, causing a high risk of diarrheal diseases and other health concerns, low birth weight and disproportionately affecting indigenous children. Additionally, in Guatemala most of the progress have occurred in urban areas, leaving rural areas disproportionately affected.  

As one of the solutions to improve the current WASH conditions in rural areas of Guatemala, HFHG created the Healthy Home Kits which provided three basic services to families living in poverty to improve their health and quality of life: a smokeless stove, a water filter, and a sanitary latrine. These cost-effective solutions offer families in the country improved sanitation and safe drinking water, which overall reduce the most predominant health issues seen in the communities. 

In 2019, Habitat Guatemala had delivered 3,007 Health Home kits across the 22 departments of the country, benefitting more than 300,000 people, which has allowed families and communities to improve their health and living conditions. Another compromise of HFHG is to provide access to clean water to communities in Guatemala through the supply of water filters. Since the establishment of this project, 9,300 water filters have been provided, benefiting more than 55,800 individuals living in extreme poverty. 

In the municipality of Todos Los Santos Cuchumatán, Huehuetenango, where access to water is still a concern, Habitat Guatemala developed the Rainwater Harvesting System project, which focuses on providing access to water to the families in the area. The livelihood of the community is highly dependent on potato and corn harvesting, so this project does not only guarantee access to a water source but also protects the safety of their crops. Additionally, families were provided with a water filter that ensures safe drinking water that improves their quality of life, and establishes sustainable development. 

Thanks to the collaboration of our partners and donors, other solutions have been developed to improve the WASH conditions of communities in Guatemala. Such is the case of the community San Juan in Salamá, Baja Verapaz, where families needed several improvements to their current sanitary conditions. In collaboration with Habitat for Humanity Canada and with the help of people from the community, the Integral Water and Sanitation Hygiene project was conducted, providing families with a biodigestor and porcelain toilet, a water tank, washing stations, and water filters. As a result, 56 families now have access to a consistent source of water, a sanitation facility, adequate wastewater treatment, proper space for hygiene practices, and clean water. 

The benefits of guaranteeing access to water go beyond helping the community. In Los Achiotes, Santa Rosa, people had to walk for over 40 minutes, often twice a day, to fetch water for their daily use. This area is known to be located in the Dry Extended Corridor, characterized to have a drier climate and limited water availability. Working alongside the Guatemalan NGO Agua del Pueblo, their water supply system was restored, and a Water Committee was created in the community, providing them with a sustainable and organized solution and structure. Through this project, 110 families were benefited and received different trainings on how to maintain the water supply system, water conservation, health, and hygiene. 

In celebration of World Water week, let´s be part of the conversation and provide solutions to the current water crisis and contribute to achieving access to safe water and adequate sanitation for all. 

 

 

Sources:

Ministerio de Salud Pública y Asistencia Social. (2011). Política nacional del sector de agua potable y saneamiento

https://www.mspas.gob.gt/images/files/saludabmiente/regulacionesvigentes/PolIticaNacionalAPS/PoliticaNacionalSectorAguaPotableSaneamiento.pdf

Stockholm International Water Institute. (2021). This is world water weekhttps://www.worldwaterweek.org/about/about-world-water-week

United Nations. (2020). Guatemala – SDG6 data. UN Water. https://www.sdg6data.org/country-or-area/Guatemala#

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

Santos (43), his wife María (27) and their three children, Ángel (8), Rómulo (6), and Amelia (2), are the owners of a new Hybrid House in the community of Chuatzan, Santa Lucía Utatlán, Sololá. While Santos work in agriculture, María stays home taking care of the children.  

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, the family used to live at Santo’s brother’s house for over six years.  The family did not have their own space as the house was small. “All of us were sleeping in a small room with not enough space for our stuff and the children to play in” says Santos.  

When asked how they feel about their new home, Santos answers, “We feel calmer, we are at peace as we have our own space.” María adds, “Now, here at our house, we can plant flowers, we can buy chickens, grow fruits and our children can play anywhere they want.”  

Santos explains that their lives have improved greatly with this new home because they no longer have to share space with other people. Now, they can do what they want and they are safe. In the future, the family would like to add tile floors. 

As part of the Hybrid House Programs, families also receive a latrine, water filter 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 on a stove that was in poor conditions, causing the smoke to stay inside their house, “The old stove was in poor condition and consumed a lot of wood. With this new one, she no longer suffers fromthe smoke and we are saving money on wood,” says Santos. 

Santos finishes by sharing a message with the donors, “Thank you to all the donors! It was a big surprise for my family. Thank you for thinking about us and for giving us this big gift. May God bless you.” 

 

 

 

 

Mercedes López Family – Hybrid House Program – Home for a Home

Lucas, his wife, Mercedes and their 8 children, Gladys (21), Claraluz (19), Giovanni (6), Mynor (14), Lucrecia (12) and Lucas (8), Rosibel (5) and Marvin (2) are the owners of a new Hybrid House in the community of Chipó, San Lucas Antonio Palopó, Sololá. While Lucas works in agriculture, Mercedes sells different herbs in the market during market days.  

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. 

As part of the Hybrid House Programs, families also receive a latrine, water filter and a smokeless stove. This helps them improve their health by giving them adequate access to proper sanitation and a smoke free environment. Mercedes used to cook over an open fire on the floor, “I used to cook on the floor, the smoke gave me headaches and red eyes. Now, it is completely different with my new stove. I no longer have to be on my knees to cook. We cook with less wood and the smoke goes outside,” says Mercedes. 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. 

Both Lucas and Mercedes finish by sharing a message with the donors, “Receive our greetings! Many thanks! We are very happy with our house, our children have enough space to sleep and we all sleep in peace. Thank you!”  

Before partnering with Home for a Home and Habitat Guatemala, Mercedes family used to live in an old one-room house built out of adobe blocks, wood and dirt flooring. “The roof was in poor condition too. When it rained the water leaked and we had to look for things to cover the children with because they would get sick,” says Mercedes. 

When asked how they feel about their new home, both Lucas and Mercedes answer, “We feel very happy and grateful. Now, the water is no longer leaking when it rains,” and Mercedes adds, “We feel content with the house, we are no longer scared of the rain and cold. I do not worry for my children anymore.”  

 

 

 

 

Juana Sánchez family – Hybrid House Program – Home for a Home

Juana (34), her husband René (35) and their four children Smiley (12), Neidy (11), Aner (9), and Julia (7) are the proud owners of a new Hybrid House in the community of Chipó, San Lucas Antonio Palopó, Sololá. René works in agriculture, while Juana stays home taking care of the children and running a small grocery store in the front of their property.  

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, Juana and her family used to live in a small house built out of adobe blocks and wood, which now serves as the kitchen. It was a small room, with two beds for the entire family. “We were living in only one room; the space was very small.  It was uncomfortable, especially for my children. The house was very warm.” says Juana. 

When asked how they feel about their new home, Juana answers, “I feel happy and very content, because now we have more space! We have split our family. Also, the house is cooler so we no longer have to endure the heat!” 

Juana explains that their lives have improved greatly with this new home because they no longer suffer from the cold during rainy season and heat during the summer. They do not worry about getting respiratory diseases, or having fleas or any other bugs that bothered them because of the dirt floor.  

In the future, the family would like to add tiles floor to the house, and also are thinking about painting the wood.  

As part of the Hybrid House Programs, families also receive a latrine, water filter and a smokeless stove. This helps them improve their health by giving them adequate access to proper sanitation and a smoke-free environment. Juana used to cook on a stove that was in poor condition, causing her red eyes and respiratory diseases. “My new stove is completely different! It consumes less wood, we no longer have to buy it so often, and the best part is that there is no more smoke inside my kitchen!” says Juana. The family has also felt a difference with their water filter. Before they had to boil water and sometimes drank it directly form the sink, causing them pain from intestinal diseases. Now, it is easier and safer to drink potable water from the filter. 

When asked which is her favorite part of the house, she smiles and answers; “Everything! We enjoy resting and listening to music with the children. They now have their own space where they do their homework without fighting.  

Julia finishes by sharing a message with the donors, “Thank you to each one of you for taking a notice in us and for supporting my family. We will forever be grateful with you for this gift. I pray to God for you and wish you many blessings in your path. We might not be able to pay you back, but God will.”  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rutilia Cardona family – Hybrid House Program – Home for a Home

Rutilia (36), her husband Margarito (39) and their four children Erica (12), Elder (7), Kevin (5), and Wendy (4) are the proud owners of a new Hybrid House, in the municipality of Sacchim, San Sebastian, Huehuetenango. Both Margarito and Rutilia  work in the fields collecting coffee.

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, Rutilia and her family used to live at Rutilia’s parent’s house built out of adobe blocks and wood. They shared one room with five other relatives. “We were living in only one room. It was in poor conditions.  We did not have enough space and it was uncomfortable,” says Rutilia.

When asked how they feel with their new home,  Rutilia answers, “I feel very happy! We feel content with our children! It is comfortable and we have more space too.” 

María explains that their lives have improved greatly with this new home because they no longer suffer from the cold during rainy season. They do not worry about getting respiratory diseases or any other ailment.

As part of the Hybrid House Programs, families also receive a latrine, water filter and a smokeless stove. This helps them improve their health by giving them adequate access to proper sanitation and a smoke free environment. Rutilia used to cook over an open flame, causing the smoke to stay inside their house, “The old stove irritated my eyes and hurt my lungs. I have been cooking like that since I was a little girl. Now, I feel happy to cook on the new stove… it is very big and I enjoy making coffee and beans.” says Rutilia.

When asked which is her favorite part of the house, she smiles and answers; “Everything! I enjoy our room, my kitchen, everything!”

Rutilia finishes by sharing a message to the donors, “We are very grateful to God and each one of you. Thank you for giving us this gift, our home! I am sending my greetings and regards to each one of you and your families.”

 

 

 

 

#Myhabitatexperience – Vanessa Brombosz

Hi everyone. My name is Vanessa and I am the new Director of International Relations Development here at Habitat Guatemala.  I am originally from Montreal, Canada. I worked for over 5 years as an occupational therapist specializing in orthopedic rehabilitation and dementia care. After traveling/volunteering throughout South and Central America for 2 years, I gained an appreciation for working in multi-cultural environments.  I wanted to begin affecting change at a population level so I returned to McGill University where I completed a Master’s of Science in Public Health. Upon graduation, I moved to Xela in 2016 where I worked for a US-based organization that supported local health authorities in Guatemala, Belize, Thailand and West Virginia USA with community health initiatives. I am passionate about working with people and volunteers who, like me, want to address disparities and help improve the quality of life for people living in vulnerable situations.

Why Habitat Guatemala?

It is very important for me to work with an experienced organization whose mission is to improve the lives of Guatemalans. What I appreciate the most about Habitat Guatemala is that they have over 40 years of experience and provide national coverage to ensure that they can reach as many Guatemalans as possible. Additionally, Habitat Guatemala creates innovative housing and WASH solutions that help improve the lives of Guatemalans nation-wide.

What do you like the most about your position?

I get to be an advocate for the needs of our communities. Our success in building and fostering strong relationships with our donors and partners directly impacts the lives of people who live in poverty and extreme poverty. Our donors provide our team with opportunities to develop innovative household and community solutions that directly addresses the needs of the community and improves the quality of life of people living in precarious situations. Habitat Guatemala staff are passionate and dedicated to the Habitat mission, making the work environment dynamic and motivating. I am happy and proud to be part of the Habitat family.

A message to the donors and volunteers

I look forward to strengthening our partnerships and meeting with all our donors and volunteers. On behalf of the Habitat Guatemala team, thank you for your collaboration and continued support towards improving the quality of life of Guatemalan families.