Guatemala -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1
A woman sweeps in front of a shack in Guatemala.
Santos Mahil Cahy and her son Orlando Cahy in front of their Habitat house.
The first Habitat houses in all of Latin America and Caribbean went up in Guatemala in 1979, specifically in Aguacatan, Huehuetenango.
Habitat Guatemala was created with the purpose of improving the living conditions of low-income Guatemalan families through the construction of decent low-cost houses. The organization’s vision is that everyone in Guatemala should have access to a decent house.
Structured as a community organization that includes the participation of more than 1,300 volunteers, Habitat specializes in working with those families that have no access to the national financing system (banks, cooperatives, etc.) and who are living in sub-human conditions.
An average 3,000 Habitat homes are constructed each year in 15 departments; 70 percent of these houses are in rural zones and 30 percent in urban areas.
Depending on the future homeowner’s payment capacity, the house may measure from 32m2 to 51 m2. The loan for the cost of the house is granted for an 8-year term, through monthly installments of US$31, which represents a third or a fourth of the cost of renting a single room.
Houses are built with the following materials: cement blocks, iron, tin roof sheets, metal doors, four windows and wood. All these materials are easily found in the communities. The design is anti-seismic, making the constructions safer for families.
In Guatemala, there is a need for 1.2 million houses. Currently, families live in huts or crowded in a small rented room. The great problem is land tenure; since many invade property belonging to the state or to individuals, most poor families are not the legitimate owners of the land they inhabit. These properties do not have basic utilities and are located in high-risk areas, mostly in urban zones. Also, there is a high degree of delinquency and crime.
Due to the conditions in which they live, there is a high risk of maternal and infant death due to gastrointestinal, respiratory and skin diseases.
Other hindrances that poor families wanting to build a decent house face are: lack of legal documents or property deeds; loans at an interest rate ranging between 18 to 30 percent; lands located in ravines, river banks, etc.; and land at prices unaffordable for the poor.
Due to their income level and to the type of guarantee they offer, many families claim that without Habitat, they would not have been able to build their homes. In 2005, Habitat Guatemala celebrated the construction of house 20,000, at that time, a tenth of all the houses built in the world through Habitat. Guatemala ends the year 2007 with 25,000 decent homes build for people in need, helping around 150,000 Guatemalans, the majority children.
Location: Central America
Economy: primary exports include coffee, sugar, bananas, cardamom, apparel, fruits and vegetables.
Government: Democratic Republic
Religion: Roman Catholic, Protestant, indigenous Mayan Beliefs
Literacy: 71 percent
Language: Spanish, Amerindian languages