“Realize that we lived on a river. And that river was really contaminated,” says Eusebio. “Water flowed from the city and picked up all the trash. And we drank that water.”
A thirty-minute drive from Cubulco, the nearest city, Eusebio’s adobe house was located farther than the municipality was willing to provide water and electricity services. For years upon years, Eusebio, his wife Paula, and their three boys drank the water that the river gave them, filled with leftover contaminants from the city. During rainy season, torrential rains would pick up anything left on the streets of Cubulco and take it straight to Eusebio’s place in the country.
They knew they were drinking unsafe water because they often got sick. They often got stomach pains and other digestive sicknesses because of the water. They tried to resolve the situation by constructing a well, but because of the location in the river basin, the well never served because it caved in not long after being built.
“We were really alone, really separated,” says Eusebio. “We had no neighbors. You could get sick or something could happen and there would be nobody to help.”
The family had a very basic latrine, basically a big hole in the ground with no ventilation, which also posed health risks.
Sickness after sickness, the family had enough. They had heard about a lot of their friends and relatives getting houses with Habitat for Humanity Guatemala, so they decided to apply as well. Not long after, they had their own house – one made from cement blocks with a cement floor – going up near the same river but much closer to town.
During the construction process, a group of students came from the United States to help out. Eusebio remembers the experience fondly.
“For me it was really nice because they gave me a hand and helped with the blocks and the sand. The group really worked hard! For me it was really cool.”
He also has a message for the group: “I’m really pleased with you all that you came to give me a hand. I’m happy and I appreciate you all a lot.” He sends all his greetings and thanks from his new house.
“For me the biggest difference is that it’s all calidá, [high-quality] here,” as he laughs. “The adobe house was something else.”
They still use the adobe house. “It will always serve,” says Eusebio. Right now, it serves as a farm for their cows and other farm animals. Eusebio visits the old house often, but sleeps in the comfort of his new place.
The aging couple also very much enjoys the accessibility and comfort of their new bathroom, which is indoors and accessible through their covered patio. “You can get up whenever, whenever you need to, even when it’s raining, and there’s no problem,” says Eusebio, smiling. “That’s the advantage of having the bathroom inside.”
Eusebio and Paula are currently cooking in front of the house, where they are planning to eventually construct a dedicated kitchen. For the time being, their front yard makeshift kitchen will do. The couple is also awaiting electricity, which they have solicited from the national energy provider.
The new place consistent access to potable water, accessible with the ease of a turn of the faucet. And for Eusebio and Paula, that makes all the difference. Paula was quick to show off how easily she can access clean water.
Down the river, however, there are still a number of families who are living in the country, farther than the extent of the municipal plumbing, surviving on the contaminated river water. Paula explains that “they are people of little resources who can’t afford to build a new house.” Habitat Guatemala is supplying water filters to people in rural areas to ensure that everybody has access to clean water and adequate housing. Eusebio and Paula’s house is also outfitted with a water filter, although the water from the pipes is much cleaner than the river water.
The new house is closer to the city, closer to neighbors, and it has a beautiful view of the Baja Verapaz mountains. But more than anything, Eusebio and Paula are relieved that they can release the worry of getting sick from drinking water.