A milestone in Guatemala




By Lucia Diaz-Martin, Habitat for Humanity Guatemala’s grant writer and researcher

Editor’s note: Our thanks to Habitat Guatemala for submitting this exciting news in response to Habitat World’s invitation to “Be a Blogger of the Week.” Have a post you would like us to consider? Email it to habitatworld@habitat.org.

Between the cowboy hats, mechanical bull, corn-shucking, fireworks and a cow-milking tournament, it could have been mistaken for a Texas state fair. Yet the gathering in Guatemala’s “cowboy capital” of Jutiapa was a celebration of Habitat Guatemala’s housing solution No. 35,000!

The Jutiapa affiliate, which has built 945 houses, organized the “Montar y Construir” (“Ride and Build”) event. Local residents joined in and participants came from as far away as Massachusetts, where our friends from Greater Springfield Habitat work.

The event coincided with a local festival and much-anticipated annual parade. Of course, the celebration also included plenty of what Habitat Guatemala does best — building! With our volunteers and partner families, we built eight houses in four days. House No. 35,000 now belongs to Marly Jeaneth Perez Garcia and her two sons, Jorge and Carlos.

The jubilant mood at the Garcia family’s dedication ceremony matched the momentous nature of Habitat Guatemala’s achievement. Those 35,000 housing solutions have provided secure shelter for nearly 175,000 people. Still, with national poverty levels having risen in the last four years (from 51 percent in 2007 to 54 percent in 2011) and with natural disasters striking with a devastating frequency, Habitat’s work here is more important than ever.

So in addition to celebrating these important achievements, our Jutiapa event also served as a launching point for Habitat Guatemala’s future growth. We’ve set an ambitious goal to build another 35,000 houses in just five more years. And we expect to celebrate that accomplishment just as enthusiastically — with or without the cowboy hats!