Q&A with Renaud Cuchet: “Not only theory, there has to be action”

On April 2, 2016, Renaud Cuchet was elected president of the board during Habitat Guatemala’s annual National Assembly. Here’s his experience and vision for Habitat Guatemala:

Please explain your position.

I am the newly elected president of the board. I’ve been national member of Habitat Guatemala for 20 years. I’ve served on several boards of directors several times in the past. From 2008 to 2011 I was already president of the board. And I’ve served as various other positions as well, like treasurer.

Why are you passionate about Habitat Guatemala?

I was friends with Don Luis [Habitat Guatemala’s president] even before he was president. He told me about the great things the organization is doing for Guatemalan families. Before he was appointed director, he was going to meetings to be able to help Guatemalan families in practical ways. If you can improve the conditions that the families are living in a little bit, you are doing a lot of good. What I like about Habitat is the very low administrative cost, compared to the amount spent on families. It’s an efficient organization and that’s why I decided to join.

Why housing?

I traveled a lot in rural areas of country and in Central America because I’m a coffee trader. I go to rural communities, and each time I go I am sensitive to how people live in the countryside. I’ve seen great needs of improving standard of living of Guatemalan people. I’ve been touched by their needs and I want to do something about it.

What’s your coffee trading business like?

National members of Habitat Guatemala are all volunteers. We all have another life besides that.

I work with a coffee trading company, and we have buyers in North America, Europe, and Asia. I work mostly with importers, and sometimes with roasters. We have to look for the quality asked for by buyers, we do sourcing, quality control, and we deal with their needs for the specialty coffee business. Consumers are becoming increasingly demanding about quality.  The company also has a foundation, and we have partnered with Habitat Guatemala a few times to install water filters, latrines, and smokeless stoves in the region of San Marcos. We want to keep on doing that.

What is your vision for Habitat Guatemala?

We want to reach as many families as we can. Now we are really paying a lot of attention to families who cannot afford a full house. Currently for 2016 our goal is to serve 10,125 families, of which 2500 should be full houses. The rest should be home repairs and Healthy Home Kits. The next goal is the 100,000th family served.

As President of the Board, what are you going to push for?

We want to push forward national volunteers in Guatemala. At first it was hard to convince Guatemalans to volunteer, but now it’s working really well. And we still want to push this forward and raise local donations. In the beginning volunteering wasn’t too much in the Guatemalan mentality. That was 20 years ago, and lots of people thought of Habitat Guatemala as an organization for foreigners to volunteer at. Now, working with universities, there is a sense of social responsibility and corporate responsibility. Large Guatemalan organizations are taking Habitat’s vision and getting on board. In schools and universities, students are realizing that if they want to teach their country they need to get involved. It can’t only be theory; there has to be action also.

Any parting words?

I’m very thankful for our international volutneers who are willing to help improve Guatemalan families’ lives. It’s a very important part of our program. We have a good structure in Guatemala to welcome international volunteers, to receive support of international donors. People are always welcome to come here and visit us.