Francisco Cuc, Juan Cuc, Pascuala Ajtzalam

The (Three) Fransisco Cuc Families

For the 8-member family of Fransisco Cuc, standing in line for the washroom was part of their everyday routine. Even though it was a large waste of time it was an inevitable part of their day as they shared one latrine with two other families. This made for a total of 15 people sharing one latrine. Sharing the loo was a rather burdening inconvenience, as Francisco and his wife have 6 kids to support, ranging in age from 6 months to 12 years. The family of 8 live in a complex of adobe houses common in rural Guatemala. His parents and his brother’s family also live next door, and it is these three families that have taken steps towards a cleaner sanitary situation.

The latrine the families shared was in poor condition. In fact, 46% of Guatemalans use an inadequate latrine or no sanitary services at all. Habitat Guatemala believes that every person is entitled to a clean and safe place to go to the bathroom, and therefore provides clean latrines that safely treat waste. An exhaust tube also helps to eliminate any stink.

The contentment in Francisco’s voice comes through as he talks about his new latrine, telling how the team of volunteers from Thrivent Financial worked extremely efficiently and “they almost finished two latrines in one day.” In the complex of adobe houses in which Francisco and his family live, he exclaims how they built a total of 3 latrines in just two days! The latrines are built with high walls of wood, a roof and a door to provide complete privacy to the occupant. Apart from Fransisco’s latrine, the other two belong to his brother and his father who also have houses here. Now 15 people share three latrines instead of just one, successfully reducing wait times and improving hygiene. While their housing situation remains less than ideal, Francisco is very happy with his new latrine, having taken the first step towards a cleaner and safer sanitary solution.

The Pascuala Ajtzalam Tzep de Cuc Family

At just fifteen years old, Manuela Tzep de Cuc is already fluent in two languages: Quiché, the Mayan language indigenous to this area of Sololá, and Spanish, her second language. Her mother, Pascuala Ajtzalam Tzep de Cuc, speaks only Quiché. In rural communities such as the Village of Pacoxom, older people rarely have much formal education as they are generally required to work or look after younger siblings from an early age. Fortunately younger generations like Manuela’s attending school is on the rise, and in school all of their classes are taught in Spanish so they quickly learn the language. This proves integral to their integration into the work field and provides more opportunities for advancement in work and in life.

Manuela is studying in basico, similar to junior high, and has some free time to spare before going into school in the afternoon to chat about the new addition to the family home: the latrine. In September a group of volunteers from Thrivent Financial came as part of a Habitat for Humanity team to provide a more hygienic sanitary solution for Manuela, her parents, and 8 other younger siblings ranging in age from 6 months to 15 years. With 11 people sharing a living space privacy is hard to come by. Usually one can find some solace in the bathroom, but for many Guatemalan families including Manuela’s this just wasn’t possible. Before the Habitat team built their current latrine, Manuela says that they used an old latrine of sorts, with smaller walls and just a hole in the ground. It wasn’t a very secluded spot either, but it was the only option available to them due to their available resources.

Last fall, they heard from a neighbor about an opportunity to have a latrine built by Habitat. They sought out more information, and soon a team of volunteers was at their door to provide them with a clean latrine. The latrines that Habitat provides safely treat waste and eliminate any stink by way of an exhaust tube. They have high walls made of wood, a roof and a door to offer complete privacy. Manuela and family are very happy with the work done by this group, and thankful to have a safe and private space to use when nature calls.

Juana Cuc Guarchaj

Down a dirt path nestled among some trees and hidden from the view of the path sits the house of Juana Cuc Guarchaj. Here she lives with her daughter Hilda, 13 years old, Hilda´s grandmother, and various aunts and uncles to a total of 8 people under one roof. Juana speaks only Quiché, the Mayan language indigenous to the area of Pacoxom, so Hilda shyly translates the conversation to Spanish. Hilda goes to school every afternoon where all of her classes are taught in Spanish, accounting for her translating abilities.

Before Habitat Guatemala built a clean latrine for Juana’s family of 8, they shared that of their neighbours along with three other families. This made for a total of 5 families sharing one latrine! That latrine got a lot of use. For those five families, a new latrine was a really big deal.

Hilda and her mom are very happy with their new latrine and the work the volunteers did. Now instead of five families sharing a neighbours latrine, Juana shares her latrine with the 8 members of her own family. This is much more hygienic, especially since it is a model that properly treats waste and exhaust with a tube to expel any stink. The new latrine also offers more privacy, and Hilda and her mom are ¨happy, very content¨ with these benefits. They enjoyed having the Habitat team with them to do the construction; they worked hard and ¨completed the latrine in only one day!¨ says Hilda, translating the words spoken by her mother. While their living conditions are still very much subpar, having a clean and hygienic sanitary solution goes a long way for the family’s physical and emotional health.