‘I want to give something better to my family’ -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

‘I want to give something better to my family’

Edgar Ruano: “I will do whatever it takes to help not only physically but from my heart.”

This series offers a look into the lives of seven of the JCWP 2007 families. Heather Myers, writer/editor, Susan Stevenson, editorial manager, and Steffan Hacker, staff photographer, had the privilege of holding babies and listening to soft Spanish songs on a guitar while interviewing and photographing families this summer in Los Angeles.

Just a few weeks ago, Edgar and Carolina Ruano found out they had been selected to build a house during Habitat for Humanity’s 2007 Jimmy Carter Work Project in Los Angeles.

“I felt like I won the lottery,” said Edgar, reliving the moment. “I feel really grateful.”

“That was a wonderful day,” added Carolina.

Edgar and Carolina share a one-bedroom apartment with their 9-year-old son, Jonathan, and their baby daughter, Chelsea, who has Down syndrome. Mother and daughter and father and son rotate sleeping arrangements between the tiny bedroom and the sofa bed in the living room.

Although the family has made the most of what they have, the lack of space has been a challenge for Chelsea’s therapists, who need room to work with her effectively.

“The thing that concerns me the most is space for my kids,” said Edgar. “I understand that they will need privacy for their studies. This little space is not enough for all of us.”

Leaks, plumbing problems

In addition to being cramped, the apartment has a number of structural problems that have gone unattended by the building’s management. The bathtub from the floor above leaks into the Ruanos’ bathroom, which has caused mold to form. And the deteriorating plumbing system has damaged the floors in the kitchen and bathroom, which Edgar has had to replace himself.

The Ruanos don’t let their children play outside the apartment because of illegal activities going on around the building.

When Edgar found out about Habitat for Humanity’s house-building program from a friend, he said he thought, “Why not give it a try?” After he was selected to participate, Edgar found out that his supervisor at the mattress company where he is a machine operator is also a Habitat homeowner.

“I want to give something better to my family,” said Edgar. “But I also see the opportunity to get involved with something not only for ourselves, but for someone else.

“The fact that we’re going to meet Jimmy Carter is also exciting,” he added with a smile.

On Oct. 28-Nov. 2, 2007, the Ruanos will join 29 other families -- and Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter -- to build a home of their own.