Lijia Janeth Gomez Alonzo is quite a woman. She seems to know everybody and is well-known in the community as a leader, she takes care of her brother who requires supervision for mental needs, and she is the proud mother of two children, Julio and Marcela.
Lijia tells about her journey as she sits down in a sofa in her new living room. Things are a little squeezed together. The love seat and the armchair are pushed up next to each other, right in front of the TV. Lijia tells that she is hosting more than her direct family, that her sister is posted up in one of the bedrooms, and her special needs brother is staying in another. Four-year-old Julio sits next to her as she starts telling the story.
She tells about the house she was living in before. It was actually a pretty nice place, in the center of the city of Chimaltenango. “I was paying 1,200 Quetzales [$155] every month for about twenty years,” she says. “But we never had enough at one time to save for a plot of land, to be able to pay that at once.”
If we do the math, that’s about five Habitat homes she could have paid off instead of twenty years’ rent.
“A few years ago, my children’s father went to the United States to look for work,” says Lijia. “He didn’t come back.” With the remesas, or money from family members in the States, that were sent back at first, Lijia was able to buy a small plot of land. But communication quit with her partner, and she was left to take care of the kids alone.
But Lijia didn’t let that bring her down. She applied for a house with Habitat Guatemala and now she is building a new life – a strong life – in her new Habitat home.
“Here, I’m paying 600. Half. There are always expenses, there are always debts to pay, so this place gives me the opportunity to do that.”
Lijia built her house mainly for one reason, to provide a better future for her kids. One opportunity that this house has given her is the ability to send her daughter to private school. Lijia says that public schools are a mess and that in private school, her daughter will get a much better education.
“They can have a better education, and a better quality of life down the road,” says Lijia. Lijia is really a special case. In Guatemala, it’s usually quite the opposite: kids are forced to work instead of go to school in an effort for added income. Lijia says she has never taken her kids out of school to work. Insead, she is working hard and making life choices based on the wellbeing of her kids.
“To have your own house implies many benefits,” says Lijia, “like the stability, and not investing in something that’s not yours.”
Having the house and taking care of her siblings has inspired Lijia to continue making changes to solidify her family‘s quality of life. She’s constructed a big open area on the side of her house: a closed space for a car, a kitchen area, and a wash area. As soon as the area is finished, she’s going to move the kitchen out there so that the living space inside is more comfortable.
Sure, things would be easier with a father, or a husband. Sure, things would be easier with an added source of income. But Lijia is proving herself as a strong caretaker of two children, a sister, and a special needs brother. She’s gotten on her own two feet and provided the stability that her family needs. And it started with a house.