The Narcisa Ixpatá Family

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Narcisa’s home was far from adequate. She was living in a home made of adobe, a very accessible material in Baja Verapaz. Adobe in itself isn’t necessarily something to complain about. It’s sturdy, it insulates relatively well, and it’s quite inexpensive. The major downside is that when the adobe gets old, it starts to soak up water. Homes often don’t have gutters to redirect the water, so water falls right down the side of the dried mud walls and it gets soaked up. This makes homes especially vulnerable for when earthquakes or strong tremors happen.

Narcisa was living in that kind of house. And apart from that, she says the place often flooded. They would have to take everything out of the house to avoid it getting ruined. Or to dry out.

Her new place isn’t like that.

She partnered with Habitat Guatemala to get her new home, where “it doesn’t get us wet. It doesn’t even drip when it rains!” Narcisa is really happy with her new place. “We are content here,” she says, “living safely.”

Her new place is made from cement blocks in the Habitat-approved earthquake-resistant style. During its construction, a group of volunteers from the University of Cincinnati helped out. Narcisa sends them a big greeting. “Thanks to everyone who was helping out, to the masons as well, and thanks for helping Guatemalan families,” she says.

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Narcisa’s life has changed. She has fewer worries now. Rain no longer presents such a problem as it used to. And when there are tremors, Narcisa stays inside, without worrying if her house will collapse on top of her. “Thank God that Habitat gave us this opportunity,” she says.

Her children are also very grateful for the opportunity. Aura, her 25-year-old daughter, often practices for beauty school in the new place. The house represents space, opportunity, and safety for the family that is growing older and bigger.

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The María Elene López Family

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On the side of a hill, next to a peaceful river where the children like to splash each other, there’s a brand new house that a deserving family calls home.

24-year-old María Elene decided to contact Habitat for Humanity Guatemala after years of sharing a room with her 4-year-old son David and her 6-year-old daughter Emelin Danisa. They were living in María Elene’s mother’s house, where they were “too together,” according to María Elene.

She says she didn’t have any major problems in her mom’s house, but she “wanted to give a better future to my kids,” she says.

In her new place, there’s three rooms in a row, and they are well-kept and free from clutter. The young mother of two is still in the process of decorating and furnishing, but she has already turned the house into her home. Her bedroom is quite comfortable and well-kept, and she has bought another bed to give everyone their own room in the near future.

“It feels good,” she says. “We have more space here.”

She also wanted to share her appreciation for the volunteers that came to give her a hand. “I appreciate the support you offered us. I just wanted to let you know that you are always in our hearts, and thank you for the help.”

She also wanted pass along that her nephew, the hard-working Luis, is doing well and asks about the volunteers from time to time.

As she goes forward with fixing up the house, she plans on coating the interior and exterior walls with plaster and painting them. But for now, she’s quite happy with the comfortable new place on the hillside that she calls home.IMG_5621

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The Wagner and María José Family

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Where there was once an empty lot, there now stands a home.

Wagner and María José were renting a home in Guastatoya for a long time. They were paying 600 Quetzales, or 80 Dollars, every month. They were getting no return from their payment, because it was going to straight to the homeowner.

And apart from that, they had a child. Two and a half year old Anthony was growing up, which made the prospect of home ownership even more attractive. When you have a child that regularly breaks things that don’t belong to you, costs add up quick!

When partnering with Habitat Guatemala to get their place built, the family was asked if a volunteer team could help with the construction of the house. “Thanks for your support,” says Maria Jose. “And for your time, being here with us. Blessings to you!”

Maria Jose digs for her keys. “Check it out,” she says. “Wagner installed this door. And these windows!” Wagner’s got a job selling metal products as well as windows, so it was with great pride that he could install the windows and doors on his own house.

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Wagner’s craftsmanship

Maria Jose, Wagner, and little Antony are planning to move in as soon as they get the place fixed up to their liking. They are planning to put in a tile floor and breakfast counter. The house will also be furnished before they move in, but the family is taking small steps, doing what they can within their means.

The family currently pays 600 Quetzales per month, the same as what they used to pay. But the difference is huge. Now, the family has added space, an area to plant their own trees, and a sense of ownership and reward for their labor. Maria Jose wears a big smile as she talks about her house and the experience with the volunteers. She sends all of her greetings and blessings on her behalf as well as Wagner’s.

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They have planted other plants around the house as well as those baby trees!

The Ruben and Juana Family

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Ruben opens the door of his new home. “Come on in,” he says happily. His wife, Juana, is inside with her mother. The family has few possessions to clutter the house, so there is plenty of space to sit and talk.

The family has built their house just above San Antonio Palopó, where there are very few jobs available. Ruben is fortunate to have a job selling medicine at a nearby pharmacy.

Ruben and his family are especially grateful for his job and the opportunity, because they didn’t always live in such a comfortable place.

“Before, we were renting. We lived with more family members,” says Ruben. He explains how renting is different. “Sometimes the landlord raises the price without warning. And when we were renting, the landlord would come banging on our door at 5 or 6 in the morning, when we were sleeping.”

There was a lack of independence, respect, and privacy in their old house. And aside from the barriers to a dignified home, the family was simply losing money. Making payments on a home is a type of investment, and the family’s rent money was going straight up the ladder to the owner of the home. Things had to change.

Ruben submitted his paperwork to Habitat Guatemala, and was authorized an affordable loan to be paid back over 8-10 years. During the construction, a group from Plymouth Church came to lend a hand.

“Thanks to everyone who came,” says Ruben. “To the institution [Habitat] and everyone for taking the time to take my words into account. May you all continue on. Thanks very much for supporting us.”

For Ruben, the difference of having a new house is huge. He’s got a big living room/kitchen, two bedrooms, and an indoor bathroom. And he’s got a lot of good to say about it! “The difference is that we are more comfortable, more independent, more healthy here. And we are happier because of it! We can go out and buy things and put them in our house, and we feel content. It’s really comfortable inside the house!”

Ruben and Juana are content with their new place. They are also providing Juana’s mother her kids with a bedroom. They are planning to keep fixing things up as the funds come in, but in the mean time they are proud to be able to pay for something that is their own.

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The Nancy Castro López Family

IMG_5638Nancy and Katia roll up to the house in a tuk tuk. Nancy has just gotten off work at the National Registry of People, and she’s picked up 11-year-old Katia from school. They’re excited, because they’re about to make a huge change in their daily lives.

Half a year ago, Nancy partnered with Habitat Guatemala to build her own house. “We are living with my mother,” says Nancy. “We’re excited to have our own space and make ourselves independent.”

In March, a group from Stanstead College flew from Canada to Guatemala to lend a hand in building Katia’s new house. Nancy said the experience was unforgettable. “We appreciate the support and the collaboration,” she says. She and Katia went on to name the names of all the volunteers that worked with them, reminiscing with a smile.

Partner families are free to choose a mason to build their house. Nancy knew just who to hire. Her uncle, a 70-year-old man who could not find employment because of his age and illiteracy, was made in charge of the home’s construction. Had she hired a construction company to build the house, her uncle wouldn’t have had the job opportunity.

The new house is up on the side of a hill, where the the temperature is much fresher than in other areas. Nancy is fortunate and grateful for the change. “We are satisfied with the new house,” she says.

She says the hardest part of living in her current place is having “reduced space,” sharing the space with her mother. “Privacy isn’t the same.”

For Nancy and Katia, the new house is a place where they will be able to thrive on their independence, without worrying about what anybody else wants them to do. Currently, they are about to move into the new place, and they have just put in a tile floor. Nancy sends all her best wishes to the volunteers who supported the construction.

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The Natalia Coloch López Family

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Natalia and her family have undergone a huge change recently. For years, Natalia was living in subpar conditions. The ceiling of her house was a makeshift combination of traditional tiles, wooden planks, reeds, and whatever other useful material to stop water from entering the house. The walls were grimy, and they were falling apart. The house was less than funcional, and much less than comfortable. Natalia’s living conditions were less dignified than what she had hoped for her family.

Now, her 13-year-old daughter Natali is in school. In their old house, she had no place to study. Every room was packed full of things, and the rooms were so dim and uncomfortable that studying was out of the picture.

Natalia knew about Habitat Guatemala because of other Habitat homes in the area. Habitat’s advantage was something she couldn’t pass up: a low-interest loan for an adequate home. She turned in her paperwork and within a short time was approved.

Natalia says she feels favored. “Now my child and I are without problems.” She’s excited to live a more comfortable life, with each person with their own space.

“Thanks for coming,” says Natalia to the volunteers who lent her a hand, “and supporting us. May God bless you all for helping us.”

The family is making the move into their new place, and they are happy about the change. Their new house provides not only more space and comfortable living conditions, but a sense of dignity that accompanies it.

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The old house...a little cramped!

The old house…a little cramped!

The ceiling in the old house. Not ideal for rerouting water.

The ceiling in the old house. Not ideal for rerouting water.

A permanent token of remembrance in the plaster!

A permanent token of remembrance in the plaster!

The Jose Luis & Thelma Family

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“We were living in the center of town,” says Thelma. Her 5-year-old son Jaime clings to her leg as she tells her story. Thelma, her husband, and their three children were renting a place in the middle of Rabinal, a small city in the department of Baja Verapaz. Usually, in the center of towns, buildings are higher quality and therefore more expensive. Although Rabinal is far from a bustling metropolitan hub, the same still applied.

“It was hard for us to pay the rent there,” says Thelma, keeping an eye on Jaime as he hung from the kitchen counter.

And aside from that fact, “my kids were always getting into mischief. The lady who owned the house had plants, but my kids ruined them.” Jaime runs into another room and swings on the hammock.

“And there wasn’t much space, so my kids would sometimes fight,” Thelma adds. Between a series of problems in their old house, the family decided it would be best to have their own place, somewhere that they didn’t have so many worries. They partnered with Habitat Guatemala and before long, they were moving things into their new place. Their own place.

For Thelma and her family, having the volunteers help build her house was an unforgettable experience. “We appreciate the support they offered,” she says. “It was a pleasure to be able to work together with them, and it was really fun. We were never expecting to work with a group of North Americans to build our house.”

Looking back on how things were before, Thelma is relieved. She takes a deep breath. “I feel deeply content. My kids can still break things like glass, but at least now it’s our own.”

Thelma and Jose Luis are still moving in, but they are proud to have a place that they can claim as their own. Slowly they are moving everything, which has its benefits for playful little Jaime, who has an apparent knack for seeing everything for its jungle gym-like qualities.

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The Pablo and Fernanda Family

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Family members: Pablo, Fernanda, 6-year-old Daniel, and 5-year-old Javier. For each of them, the house means something slightly different.

For Fernanda, it’s a source of privacy.

“We lived in the middle of the city [of Rabinal] with my parents,” says Fernanda. “But we didn’t fit.”

Indeed, they were sharing tight quarters in Fernanda’s mother’s home, and they wanted their own place, especially with two growing boys. However, getting their own place proved more difficult than they expected, and they were only able to do so after years of saving.

“More than anything now,” says Fernanda, “we have privacy.” Sharing a space with her parents was nothing easy. Now that she’s in her own house, she’s content.

“We wanted to make ourselves independent now that we are are family,” she says.

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For Pablo, it’s a source of pride.

Pablo sits down to chat and his boys sit next to him attentively. As he is the family’s main source of income, Pablo knows how much his family depends on him. To be able to provide them with a comfortable home and a secure roof is priceless. Pablo doesn’t take it for granted; he knows just how hard he has worked for that home. “We are happy here,” he says. “It’s finally our own place. Nobody has control over us.”

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For the boys, it’s just awesome.

Currently, one room of the home is any 5- or 6-year-old’s dream: play place. They have their bicycles, desks, and all their toys in the second room. It might not be a play room for long, but for now the boys are loving it. They especially love playing with tops, wrapping a string delicately around the top’s coned tip, and yanking the strings at the same time to see whose top lasts the longest.

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“We appreciate the support,” says Pablo. “Thanks to everyone and the [Habitat] Foundation as well. We are in our new home and we are happy. If you want to come back, we are here with open arms. Come back soon!”

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