Friday, March 16, 2012

Building a New Home for Impoverished Guatemalan Family


Anywhere on earth, the loss of a loved one can decimate a family, but for Mayan families living in poverty in rural Guatemala, the absence of a parent can be especially trying. Such is the case here in Pajomel, a tiny hamlet located high above the shores of the picturesque Lake Atitlan, where Miguel and his two kids Miguelito and Sonia were left to fend for themselves after his wife passed away more than 5
years ago. Without steady work, Miguel has to support his kids (now aged 11 and 7), which is difficult as he is unable to travel to other regions of Guatemala to do seasonal agricultural work (as most men in the region do).
A few months ago, my mother Linda, while on a field visit with Feed the Dream, one of Cause & Affect's local partners (as seen in this field report here) a local non-profit organization, was appalled to witness the terrible living conditions young Sonia and her family were subject to. They inhabited a tiny shack made of the most basic materials and had no stove to cook on, so they had to cook in their home, inhaling fumes and smoke, which is very hazardous. There was only one bed for the three of them and no insulation from the cold or rain. Mold, insects and rodents were common challenges.

Upon my arrival in Guatemala, my mother expressed her desire to somehow, someway, buils young Sonia and her family a new home. We set out finding local organizations that could assist us in our quest and through our network of non-profits in Guatemala, we discovered ConstruCasa, which builds homes for rural impoverished families in need. But before we could build the home, there were two obstacles we had to overcome:
1) They build new homes with durable materials for $4,000 but require at least $1,000 from the family. Since Miguel has to stay at home to support his kids, he has few opportunities to work, so for someone earning $80 a month, having to pay $1,000 is out of the question. Luckily, Cause & Affect was able to step in and pay the $1,000 with the agreement that Miguel will pay about 10% of his income over the next 24 months towards ConstruCasa for his home.

2) They only build homes for families that are integrated with other programs to provide educational and health opportunities, so as to assist these families on a more comprehensive level. So we contacted Feed the Dream and Amigos de Santa Cruz since they already work with families in the region, they agreed to integrate the family into their nutrition program. Thanks Pat!

So all we had to do was donate $1,000 and construction would begin!

$330 of that amount was donated by my sister Julia, who is working with Cause & Affect on her Service Semester as an early graduate of Wheaton North High School. After weaving and selling friendship bracelets, she raised $1,200 to donate towards Cause & Affect projects in Guatemala and Brazil. Her donation is a wonderful boost towards making this family's dream a reality. Well done, Jules!

Two weeks later, construction on the home began and 5 days after that, everything was complete! My mother continued her amazing commitment to help by purchasing $400 of supplies, such as tables, chairs, a stove, 2 beds with pillows, sheets and blankets,
as well as kitchen and cleaning supplies for the entire family. As you can see from the photos, they are overjoyed to have a safe and warm home to live in. This will also help the kids excel in school as they will have light to read and do their homework. We are so happy for the opportunity to team up with ConstruCasa and Feed the Dream to provide such a wonderful boost to this wonderful family beset by challenges!