Sanitary Latrines: Simón Yax and Reina Isabel Vásquez Yac

Simón Yax

Like many others living in his village of Paraje Tzantinamit, Simón Yax (40) works as a day laborer throughout the year. The mountainous community where he, his wife Juliana (39), and their three children live, heavily depends on agriculture as their livelihood. Working long hours in the field is not uncommon, and despite their greatest efforts, several families, including Simón’s, suffer.

“We’re always waiting in this community for new projects, because the poverty here is bad. We have open arms, we are waiting,” he tells us.

Simón embraces support wherever he can find it. Thanks to Habitat Guatemala’s Healthy Home Kit program, Simón used his talents to work with a volunteer group to build a new and improved latrine for his household. It would replace the old latrine, which Simón explains, was old and falling apart.

“Our other latrine didn’t have a tube,” he recollects. “It was built terribly, and was old. Also, it was made of only a few ribs of wood. It was so bad that we weren’t using it.” Rather, when his family needed to use the bathroom, they opted for the fields behind the house.

Simón says that it took him two days to dig a hole for the new latrine. Then, the volunteer group arrived to help him build the walls and roof. “They were so eager to get it done,” he laughs at the memory. “We shared lunch and snacks with them. And we took photos. May god bless them, where they may be now, I wish them success and blessing in their lives with God.”

Simón reflects positively on the experience and hopes that others will be able to benefit.  “I like that Habitat Guatemala has projects, especially Healthy Home Kits,” he remarks. “With the stove, the latrine, and the filter, families can be better.”

Reina Isabel Vásquez Yac

Reina Isabel keeps track of the list on her hands. She taps each fingertip in order to count each person that is currently living in her house. A pause, then a smile. “Nine!” She confirms. “There are nine of us.”

She refers to the nine people that currently occupy the same house. Although having many people in the same space can be a daunting experience, Reina Isabel says that likes a big family. Her parents, husband, brother, and children have all lived on her mother’s land for over thirty years. She says that not much has changed, except for one major development.

“We came to know Habitat Guatemala because a few people on the committee came to see us, asking if we would be interested in a Healthy Home Kit,” Reina Isabel says.  During that moment, during the committee’s visit, she thought about how nine people were all using a dilapidated structure as a latrine, which was uncomfortable and unhygienic.

“The old latrine was built five years ago, from adobe,” she describes. “There were problems with the toilet bowl part. There was no privacy. It was difficult to clean.” Reina Isabel shrugs. “Because of all the problems, we decided to go ahead and get a new one that same day.”

Thanks to the work of her father and four brothers, their family completed the new pit for the latrine in about a week. Later, a group of volunteers came to help build the new structure. “They were kind and hardworking,” she says. “And the new latrine is much better. It is a lot easier to maintain and clean. It has affected all of us in many ways for the better.”

Her message to the volunteers? “Thank you for the help that you gave us. The latrine works well, and we are grateful for it.”