“This, this whole area here flooded,” says Liliana, pointing down. She’s seated in a chair in her new living room, on a new cement floor. But that floor wasn’t always cement.
Before her journey to her new house, Liliana was living in a house that had a dirt floor. Its walls and roof were humble – they were constructed of decrepit sheet metal that was full of rusty holes. It was a place to call home, but it didn’t provide the family with the dignity they deserved. Every rainy season presented the same problems: floods.
Retalhuleu, in its rainiest month, gets about 15 inches of rain. Those 15 inches don’t usually come as a pleasant spring rain; instead, they often come as a 2-o’clock downpour that lasts a short time and then stops. This inconvenient style of rainfall really took its toll on Liliana’s house, and consequently her family. Streams of rain would come down the hill to where her house was located, and every time, she had to accept the fact that she couldn’t do anything to stop the rain from entering and making everything muddy and wet.
She says that even though they constructed ditches, “it always flooded.”
But it wasn’t just the flooding that caused problems. After the rains, the dirt floor would be muddy, and Retalhuleu’s humid air made the floor dry very slowly. Often, this would cause Liliana’s children to start coughing. “With everything all wet,” says Liliana, “my kids suffered from coughing fits.”
Seated comfortably in her new living room, Liliana and her rambunctious children twist open a 2-liter of soda to share. Her kids serve themselves and continue running around the living room, playing. If any of that soda spills, it’s not going to soak into the floor. Although it may seem small, it’s a big change for Liliana’s family.
“We’re happy here,” she says, smiling. “The rainfall doesn’t come inside anymore.”
Liliana passes along her thanks to the volunteers who came to help build her house, too. “I liked the experience, because they weren’t selfish at all. They were friendly. I offered mangoes, and they always ate them.” She sends her greetings and thanks as her kids start to mention all the names of the group members.
“Eventually, we want to get each kid in their own bed,” she says. Currently, a couple of her four children are still sharing beds. In the future, she wants to get the house painted and fixed up with furniture.
“We couldn’t have had a house like this,” says Liliana, “if this help hadn’t come. We were a family of scarce resources.” And now she has her house!