May 15, 2009
“The greatest satisfaction that comes from participating in Habitat’s work is being able to hear, again and again, the gratitude of the families, who in many cases have viewed owning a home as an impossible dream.”
-Enrique Ramos, Construction Coordinator
Habitat for Humanity Guatemala celebrated the construction of its 30,000th home on Friday, May 15, 2009. Throughout the week, a ten home “blitz build” took place in the department of Quetzaltenango, also known as Xela.
The event also celebrated the 30th anniversary of the national organization, which began in 1979. While the ten homes were being built in Xela, 20 others were also under construction in various departments around the country. Together, these 30 homes commemorated 30,000 houses in 30 years.
The week before the celebration, Habitat Guatemala hosted a housing forum, which drew 250 participants from around the country. It was a great way to kick off the week-long celebration, as well as to raise awareness about the housing crisis and overwhelming need for safe and adequate housing in Guatemala.
The opening ceremony of the blitz build event was held in Xela’s Central Park, featuring speeches by Habitat staff and partner families and concluding with a closing prayer. Later, the volunteers eagerly boarded buses and headed to the worksites.
The ten blitz-built homes are located in Central Xela, La Esperanza, Concepcion and San Juan Ostuncalco. The sites were at varying stages of construction at the start of the event, and volunteers enthusiastically dove into whatever task was needed. Construction was sometimes slowed due to rain, which usually rolled in around two o’clock in the afternoon. However, there was plenty for volunteers to do in the mornings.
Unforgettable experiences were shared throughout the week. On one construction site, the group became so involved in their work that they forgot to leave space for a window! The “problem”, however, was quickly resolved by the mason and the volunteers. Another group built a see-saw, which provided hours of play for the children near the worksite.
At the end of the week, Vilma Santos of the Izabel affiliate expressed that, “it was an unforgettable experience to be able to contribute our work to Luki and Tomás (the family from La Esperanza). We were able to experience God’s love, the gratitude, the humility, the camaraderie, the teamwork and the desire to see the home completed. Thank you again and again for allowing us to be part of the solution!”
Dedicating house number 30,000
The final day of the event, all of the volunteers, families, masons and other distinguished guests gathered at the site of the 30,000th house.
Although it was a wet day, with the rain forcing everyone under tents, enthusiasm was not at all dampened. The ceremony involved an opening prayer and several speeches by Habitat staff and homeowners. As is tradition, Don Alvaro, proud owner of house number 30,000, was presented with a Bible and the key to his new home. The ceremony concluded with a closing prayer and then Alvaro, together with Habitat for Humanity’s founder, Victor Martinez, opened the door to the house.
The dedication topped off a week of solid construction, mud, sweat and hard work. Friendships were forged between volunteers, masons, families and Habitat staff, and left convinced that, together, we can make a difference.
The Gala dinner
For closure, a Gala dinner was held in the Gran Karmel convention center in Xela. Volunteers and staff traded their muddy t-shirts and jeans for more formal attire. Throughout the night, participants were treated to dinner, a musical performance by a local band, and traditional dancers accompanied by Guatemalan marimba.
“We recognize that only with the support of all of the affiliates in Guatemala, and the volunteers and donors, both national and international, are we able to make the dream of hundreds of Guatemalan families a reality—to obtain safe and adequate housing.”
-Carlos Mejia, Fundraising Coordinator, national office
Gina Spigarelli is the Manager of International Donor Relations for Habitat for Humanity Guatemala.
Photos courtesy of Habitat Guatemala.