The Publication of Habitat for Humanity International | February/March 2001
Santa Maria, Mexico
Marina Martinez San Juan grew up in a mountainous area where the dry air causes temperatures to climb high during the day and plunge at night. Weather conditions played an important role in Marinas life, not only because of her occupation as a farmer and shepherd, but also because for five years, her home was a mesquite tree. Its branches sheltered and protected her family, except when the rain was so heavy they had to seek refuge elsewhere. Now, as a Habitat homeowner, Marina has a new life. While she is grateful for the mesquite tree and says she will never cut it down, she no longer has to look to it for shelter. We have a lot to thank God for, she says. I never imagined I would own a house.
Marina moved into her new Habitat house in 1998: It changed our lives. ...Things have been so good for us that we have never missed a house payment.
Between soaring interest rates and a low monthly income (less than $200US), the only shelter the Verduguez family could afford was just two tiny rooms in a run-down adobe-block house. The walls were cracked, the stucco was falling and water leaked from the roof when it rained. Romulo, 45, and Adela, 41, struggled to make enough room for their six children, ages 3 to 21, to sleep. With no bathroom in the house, the family had to trek down the street to public toilets and showers shared by 80 other peopleall of whom paid 32 cents every time they used the facilities. Water from the public system is available only once a week. Despite the challenges in their lives, the Verduguez family worked hard to become Habitat homeowners. Working with the other families to build our houses helped me grow as a person, says Adela. I know the value of friendship. ...We all share our own homes in common.
After building in partnership with other homeowners over the course of three months, the Verduguez family is scheduled to move into their Habitat house in February.
Even as their marriage began 15 years ago, Juana and Miguel Cubilla were already dreaming of a better life. They tried to step up from a flimsy shack with a thatch roof, to a better wood shack with a thin metal roof. But it quickly became an uncomfortable place to live when holes in the wood invited rats, roaches, mosquitoes and spiders to live alongside the Cubillas and their three daughters. We had to go outside to use the bathroom, says Miguel. It didnt have a roof. When it rained, we had to take an umbrella with us. The couple can laugh about it now, but the problems were very real then. After six years of these living conditions, they were accepted to be Habitat homeowners.
With help from HFH Paraguay, the Cubillas completed their brick house last December.
Ademar de Souza and his wife, Valderene, were paying almost half their income for low-quality housing two years ago when the rent went up. The increase was more than they could handle, so they built a shack, 12 feet by 9 feet, made of scrap wood, cardboard and plastic to live in with their 7-year-old daughter, Samara. A nearby latrine enclosed with black plastic wrapped around saplings served as the familys private bathroom. Late last year, each family member held their own dream about moving into their Habitat house: Ademar, who works nights, will enjoy a house cool enough to sleep in during the day; Valderene dreamed of an indoor bathroom, a kitchen with a sink and space to care for her children; and Samara envisioned a bedroom decorated with flowers.
The de Souza familys dreams became reality in January, just weeks after the birth of their new baby.
Non Pariel, Guyana
Before she moved into her Habitat house, Monaselle Allen lived in a one-bedroom flat with her eight children and eight grandchildren. They had no electricity or toilet, and water had to be fetched from the yard. When it rained or when the neighbors upstairs took a bath, water streamed down the walls to the bed and floor where the children slept. She says although there were times she wasnt sure she could finish building her Habitat house, the struggle was worth it. If somebody could encourage me, and at the end of the encouragement I have achieved a home, then why cant I do it to somebody else? she says. This is what life is all about. This is what Christianity is all about. We all have to help somebody.
A year after finishing her house, Monaselle Allen continues to volunteer with Habitat.
Reprinted from Habitat World Magazine, February/March 2001.
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©2001 Habitat for Humanity International
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