2011 project

Even during difficult economic times, a home is a sanctuary, a place of peace, of safety and shelter from the world around us.  What if your home didn’t provide a sense of safety or shelter?  What if the inadequacies of your home actually contributed to your daily burden?  In the least developed nations, only 12 percent of the population live in sturdy, permanent housing with safe water and basic sanitation.

What would you consider to be adequate housing?  Is it four walls and a roof that protects a family from weather?  Is it a floor that doesn’t become muddy every time it rains?  Is it a place separate from where chickens and pigs live and defecate? Is it a place where cooking can be done without the threat fire or air pollution?  Is it a place where precious food stuffs can be stored without threat of bugs, mold or theft?  These seem like minimum standards to represent adequate housing; however, over 1 billion people worldwide cannot even call such a humble place home.

In Guatemala this inadequacy is apparent throughout the country.  Guatemala is the most populous Central American country with over 13 million inhabitants, 60% of which have indigenous roots. The main language is Spanish, although there are 22 officially recognized Mayan languages. 

Located in northern Central America, Guatemala borders Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, and Belize. Guatemala’s natural beauty enc
ompasses 14 distinct eco-regions and is punctuated by 34 volcanoes set amidst fertile lands, home to a largely impoverished agricultural community.  According to the National Institute of Statistics (INE) 35.8% of the Guatemalan population lives in poverty (less than $2 per person per day), and 15.2% in extreme poverty (less than $1 per person per day). The United Nations identifies the Guatemala Human Development Index as the second lowest in all of the Americas, second only to Haiti.  Guatemala’s poverty is rooted in many social, economic and political factors, manifested by their high illiteracy, poor health and extremely inadequate housing.

According to a report from the COHRE (Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions) in 2003, more than half of the Guatemalan population lives in non-suitable dwellings, coupled with a shortage of approximately 1.5 million houses. These data are consistent with the results of research published by the Guatemalan government in 2005.  Most ofthe population living in poverty reside in make-shift housing made of corn stalk walls, dirt floors, and roof shelters comprised of garbage materials (cardboard and plastics) 

and corrugated iron or wood. It is common for a house to consist of only one room in which families live, cook and sleep. During the rainy season, problems of poor drainage and mud further complicate the housing situation, 

compromising the health and survivability of families. 

 worked with Constru Casa in Antigua, Guatemala to help families help themselves to adequate housing.  The mission of Constru Casa is “to improve the living conditions of poor families in Guatemala by means of offering simple houses, stoves, hygienic toilets and water filters.”  Constru Casa  was founded in 2004 and in August 2010, Constru Casa saw the completion of its 400th home.  This amazing milestone is only part of the good work being done by Constru Casa.  Constru Casa has forged partnerships with local day care centers, schools, clinics, social organizations and community leaders to provide much more than housing; they help provide education, health-care and community development, but maybe the most important service they provide is hope.  Hope that with a solidly built home, the woman of the house doesn’t have to clean all the time and frees time to help earn a living for the family; that she can prepare a meal for her family without the concern that the house will burn down or that the smoke from the fire will cause lung conditions in her children; hope for freedom from overcrowding and poor ventilation that encourages the growth of disease vectors such as mosquitoes, parasites, bacteria, or viruses; hope that children can find a quiet spot to study and do homework; hope that improved housing in a community will attract economic investment and development that contributes to thriving schools and community organizations;  hope that families can rise above mere survival to the pride of home ownership and community building; hope that the next generation succeeds better than the last.

cpp’s purpose in working with Constru Casa was to not reinvent the wheel, it was to work with a trusted partner with roots in the community to provide housing to disenfranchised people. cpp was able to assist four families build homes in two weeks.  Ten volunteers made their way to Guatemala and helped move four families from homes made of found objects, including corn stalks and tarps, to homes made of solid concrete blocks.  We changed lives with the help of donors and volunteers!

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