The Cortez Ismalej Family

The first noticeable quality about Ana Marina Cortez Ismalej’s Habitat Guatemala home is the upbeat music. From morning to evening, the house pulses with a collection of pop hits and classics, which pour out of open windows.

“It’s different to live here. We have our own routine, but it’s freeing,” remarks Ana Marina (31). “Together, with my daughters, we listen and dance to music. Or do exercises together.” She laughs. “This is a women’s house.”

In a way, playing music her own home marks a new sign of independence and freedom for Ana Marina. As a single mother raising her two daughters, fifteen-year-old Jaquelyn and ten-year-old Yasimin, she has overcome a series of struggles. “Before, we lived next door to this house with my mother for ten years,” remembers Ana Marina.  “There were five people living there, and it was difficult. Because the house was so old, when it rained, water came in through the roof.”

Ana Marina had heard of Habitat Guatemala through her brother, who had built his own home with Habitat Guatemala five years ago. She knew that even working as a primary school teacher that she would be eligible for loans. “I went to the office to ask around. Less than a month later, we were approved to build. It was quick.”

Since moving into their house five months ago, mother and daughters have noticed remarkable changes in their lives. “I feel happy to have this house. What I like most about this house are the rooms. They’re bigger than before,” says Yasmin.

“We moved so that my daughters and I could be more comfortable, so that they could have their own rooms and be calm,” adds Ana Marina. “There is so much more privacy, calmness, and space here.”

Living in a Habitat Guatemala home will allow Ana Marina and her daughters to continue to live a free and tranquil life. As for future plans, they hope to add more flowers to their garden. And of course, continue to play music.