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My daughters will grow up healthy and strong




Mery Sulema with her two daughters, in front of their new home in La Gallina.

Mery Sulema Villagra Aguilar is a 26 year-old mother of two beautiful girls. Meydelin, 8, is in second grade, and the youngest, Allison, is three months. They live in the La Gallina community of San Rafael del Sur, Managua.

Mery Sulema stayed in school until the sixth grade. When she was a young girl, she dreamed of becoming a singer, earning lots of money and lifting her parents and eight siblings out of poverty. At age 15, she started working in a local sugar mill company, planting sugarcane, helping to control burns and reforesting trees. The company eventually relocated her, as well as other villagers who lived in a community near the river, because they reside in a high-risk area where the river frequently rises.

At age 16 she married, and six years later her first daughter was born. She separated from her husband and continued to work in the field. At 24 she married Ervin Manuel Gutierrez, who works in a reforestation program at the Sugar Mill Montelimar.

Ervin earns a monthly salary of US$89, which is still not sufficient to cover household expenses. Mery contributes; collecting firewood on the banks of the river at least three times a week, which she sells for US$1.50 per bunch. Her mother helps, buying the rice, soap and other household items.

Mery Sulema still cannot find a steady job, since her youngest daughter is still nursing.

The family’s humble home was built with blocks, plastic, pieces of cardboard and old corroded zinc sheets. It had a dirt floor. Water filtered in through the roof and walls during the rainy season. Now, this has changed, says Sulema. “I am not going to get wet as I used to. The zinc roof had many holes, and I had to move my bed from one place to another. I would find bits of soap to plug in the leaks.”




“In this new home… my daughters will be able to play, study and be safe.”


Mery Sulema is one of 25 families who received new, reinforced adobe houses. A total of 50 families are proposed for the project.

At US$3,459 each, the houses are financed by five different funding sources, including Habitat for Humanity Nicaragua.

“In this new home, my daughters will grow up healthy and strong; they will not be sitting on the dirty and wet soil; they will be able to play, study, and be safe. Even when it rains heavily, we will be protected. Now, I have one less thing to worry about. I want my daughters to study and not suffer the same fate as me. When my youngest daughter grows up, I will look for a new job to support my family.”

Mery Sulema actively participated in making blocks for building her own home and this benefited other families in the community. “I never thought I would have a house like this,” she says. “I thought that it would never be possible even in my lifetime to collect the money needed to build a house that is so beautiful.”

Habitat for Humanity Nicaragua provides positive change to the health, education and the economy of many low-income families. A simple space with sufficient room for children to study can be a key factor in a successful education. These are just one of the simple, but significant improvements that Habitat for Humanity offers that can convert an inadequate house into a safe, secure and comfortable home.