Standing in the doorway of her new home, Rosa Graciela Lopez Vasquez wears a big smile. This house, where she lives with her husband Santos Elias and their 6 year old twin daughters Erika and Nataly, was built by Habitat and a group of Thrivent Financial volunteers in September, 2015. Rosa looks after the house in the mornings while the girls are in school and her husband is working as a state police officer for the PNC (National Civil Police).
Before having their new house built, the family of 4 lived with Santos Elias´ parents and various other family members in a simple house made of adobe (a type of clay made of water, dirt, and organic material). Adobe is better suited to dry climates and can be damaged easily during the rainy season in Guatemala. The house was small and very cramped with 8-10 people sharing one bedroom and a small kitchen. For a bathroom they used a latrine, and shared between that many people this wasn’t a clean nor a healthy sanitary option. Rosa worried about the health of her daughters, especially during the rainy season when their roof would leak causing rain to enter and they suffered a lot from the cold. The girls also had no space for healthy play. At 6 years old, play is an important part of their integral development, fostering creativity and imagination among other valuable life skills. For these reasons, Rosa and her husband decided to solicit the help of Habitat.
Rosa´s father-in-law works for Habitat and told them what the process of building a house involves and of Habitat´s low-interest loan program which would allow them to pay off the house little by little in monthly installments that incur low interest rates only to account for inflation. It was the perfect solution to their problems.
Now, Rosa says they are enjoying their new home. ¨Thank God we were able to build this house. Without Habitat we wouldn’t have been able to do it,¨she says, explaining how the costs of materials, labor, and permits would have been too much. She’s always conscious of making her monthly payment on time, but this is a responsibility she is happy to have because it signifies her steps towards independence.
In the kitchen, Rosa shows off her new stove. Made of concrete block with a chimney and a plancha (stove top) with 3 burners it allows her to cook for her family with ease without inhaling any smoke. In the old house she used to cook outside in the open air because it was too cramped inside and they would have all inhaled the smoke; they had no stove, just an open flame. ¨Here it is a lot better because whenever I want to make something I just light a small fire [under the plancha] and it heats up quickly,¨ Rosa says of the new stove. Habitat stoves are fuel efficient and economical, heating up quickly to reduce cook times and the amount of firewood needed. The house is also equipped with a bathroom.
These days the family sleeps much more peacefully. The girls have their own bedroom for the first time in their lives and they have decorated it with pictures they have colored. Sitting in their living room Rosa pulls out coloring books from the shelf and shows page after page of the artwork done by her daughters. According to their mom they love to paint and color and, looking at the pictures, it is something they are very good at.
Rosa says that Habitat has helped them live better lives and she thanks God for that. God, and the volunteers. Bringing out a stack of pictures she has of the group, she points out who’s who, remembering some of their names. ¨Habitat helped us a lot,¨ she says ¨they’ve helped many families live better. They helped the health of children, of us adults as well so that families are able to live adequately.¨