Healthy Home Kits: the Santos Tobar Family

Lucia Santos Tobar (46) heard the rumors from her neighbors. According to a few women living in her village, there would be a community meeting about ways to help families like hers. Curious, Lucia attended the meeting, which was hosted by Habitat for Humanity Guatemala. She became immediately interested in Healthy Home Kits and left that day after signing up to pay installments for a smokeless stove, water filter, and sanitary latrine.

For years, Lucia had been suffering from back pain, mainly from consistently bending over to cook. She never had access to a stove. “We made a fire in the ground with some rocks and iron to support the pots,” Lucia says. This cooking method negatively impacted her family. “We had the flu multiple times and burned our eyes from the smoke. We couldn’t see. I got eye drops from the doctor, but nothing I did helped.”

The circumstances changed when a group of Habitat Guatemala volunteers came to help build her stove. “It took about two weeks to build the entire thing, from cutting blocks to building it. Seven volunteers came to work. My husband helped.” She looks down. “He’s passed away. But I think of him whenever I see the stove. It reminds me of him.”

Lucia has had a difficult few months. After her husband’s passing five months ago, she has been charged with running a household as both homemaker and breadwinner. To earn money, she and her five children, Lucas (25), German (22), Eldy (19), Santos (17), and Fidel (14), work long days together in the fields to plant, harvest, and prepare crops for market.

Despite her hardships, Lucia is hopeful. She lists how her smokeless stove has made life easier. “Now compares to nothing before.  It’s easier to cook. I can put more pots on the stove; I only have to put wood in once.” She smiles, laughter in her eyes. “Also, I can drink my coffee in peace.”

Lucia is also pleased with the other features of her Healthy Home Kit. Her previous latrine was old and in such pitiful shape that her family never used it, rather, electing to go out in the fields. “It was a hole and a few reeds. Nothing more,” she says. However, the new latrine is significantly better. “It’s cleaner, more hygienic, and more private. It took only two days to build, between the work with my husband and the group. It’s well maintained.”

Her water filter has also helped in several ways. Lucia enjoys that she no longer has to depend on boiling tap water. If she or her children are thirsty, they can drink from the filter without the fear of contacting waterborne infections.

When asked if she has anything else to remark upon the experience working with Habitat Guatemala and its volunteers, Lucia falls quiet for a moment. She gathers the folds of her apron in her hands. Finally, she speaks. “For me, my house is no good. The roof leaks, and the wind enters at night.” She holds her gaze steady. “But this, when I see people lending someone like me a hand, wanting to be part of this life and build things that will make everything a bit easier for my children, I feel better and not so alone anymore.”