Trudging through the rain under a half-broken umbrella, Michelle Guzman reaches in her pocket for her house key. She walks with her little daughter, Cecilia, who is happily tiptoeing through puddles to her door, as if it were a game.
Michelle, a proud parent of 10-year-old Cecilia and 3-year-old Mia, is coming back from her work at a restaurant where she sells tortillas de harina, or flour tortillas.
“Me? I’m proud of my work!” she says. “Once I went to that restaurant, and I loved the food. So I decided to work there.”
She tells about where she used to live. Her old living arrangements were her mom’s house, a 30-meter walk down the path. “It was tight,” says Michelle, widening her eyes. “There were three rooms, and there were four of us. Everyone wanted their own space. And on top of the ruckus of my girls, it was too much.”
“And,” says Michelle cautiously, “my mother has a character…”
Michelle was living under her mom’s roof for a long time raising kids for years. She had tried to get her own house, but there was no way to gather thousands of Quetzals at a time for a plot of land and a house.
“That’s the advantage of Habitat,” she says. “You can pay monthly, you don’t have to pay it all at once.”
Her mother’s house was a Habitat house, so she thought, why not get my own?
Before long, a group of volunteers from Thrivent Financial were bending iron, hauling blocks, and making memories. Upon remembering them, Michelle opened her eyes wide and said, “they helped a TON! They worked really well together and they wanted to help as much as they could. They were so noble. Not every person does what they did. We are really thankful for their help, and our doors are always open for them, even my mom’s doors!”
For Michelle, the biggest difference that the house has made is that her family is now stable. Before, they were living in cramped quarters in her mom’s house, and sometimes living with their father in another part of town. Michelle and the children’s father had decided it would be best if the children had a place to call home, so they permanently live in the new Habitat house with Michelle.
“In my mother’s house, they weren’t going to have a future. It’s best that they have a place to be. I want my daughters to have a stability and a future,” says Michelle. “Whatever happens, they can defend themselves because they have this place.”
Michelle also recognizes her role as a parent in the new found stability of her family. “It’s important that I make good decisions, because they depend on me and the decisions I make.”
Michelle is also taking care of more than just her kids. She babysits the neighbors’ kids during the day, so she can make a bit of added income to help make her monthly house payment.
“My kids finally have a place to be,” says 29-year-old Michelle. It’s apparent that she’s a proud mother by the way she holds her children and smiles as they giggle and play tag in their bedroom with the neighbor kids.
She’s going to paint the place olive green or mustard color when she gets the chance. And she has reason to, because her neighbors are going to have a little competition to see who can have the best artistic work in the neighborhood. “After I plant grass and a few trees, I’ll win it,” she says, smiling.