Wilmer’s house sits against a picturesque backdrop. Rolling green hills and blue sky paint a perfect picture with the new home built by Habitat volunteers at the foreground of the shot. Just down the path, a 30-second walk away, is an outdoor community space used mainly for washing laundry by hand in the concrete basins. The land on which Wilmer’s home sits was owned by his mother, who divided up her terrain into plots for three of her children and gave this space to Wilmer for him to build a shelter of his own.
Brenda, Wilmer’s sister, is in a brand new chair in the living room as she tells her brother’s story. He had previously lived with his parents and four other siblings. There are nine kids in total in the family, but four of his siblings are already married and have moved out of the family home. The house was plenty big, but seeing his siblings move out and gain independence sparked something in Wilmer. Having heard of Habitat from an advertisement on social media, Wilmer decided to pursue the opportunity and find out more about what he would need to do get a house. He already had a plot of land and a steady job, so in September of 2015 a group of Thrivent volunteers came to Sololá as part of a Habitat for Humanity team. They came to support Wilmer in the construction of his new home, and Brenda says they did just that. “They were nice people who worked really hard to build his house” she adds. Brenda remembers the construction process as being very fast, and in fact the volunteer group from Thrivent knocked a full week off the total build time.
Made of block with a roof of corrugated sheet metal, the house is built to withstand any natural disasters in the area. It has a sturdy foundation built with earthquake resistant construction techniques, and a roof that won’t lift off in strong winds or hurricanes. Due to its geographical location along the Pacific coast, the country sometimes experiences the tail ends of hurricanes during the months of September and October. Small tremors are frequent occurrences, as Guatemala lies in a major fault zone. Generally these aren’t of a magnitude to cause much damage and are often slight tremors felt in the feet. There are exceptions to this however, and Habitat for Humanity Guatemala was founded after one such exception, the 1976 earthquake that shook the country, toppling many adobe homes.
More than just walls and a roof however, this house represents something much bigger for Wilmer: independence, family, pride and safety. In a word, it represents home. While Wilmer isn’t yet married, he is thinking ahead to a time when he will be and is making plans for then. He wants kids of his own and wants them to be able to have their own space, to know privacy and to gain independence from that. Until the time when he starts his own family he will live the the house alone, having gained independence from moving out of his parents’ home and starting a new chapter of his own. He holds a steady job as a primary school teacher and with this income plans to fix up the house a bit more once he has finished paying off his low-interest Habitat loan. For Wilmer, this is an exciting time in his life. He has a supportive family, his own house, a girlfriend, and the prospect of a stable future.
- The community wash area just a short walk away.