When it rains, the dirt floor of Rosa Santos Hernandez’s home becomes a mud pit. Water flows in freely through the holes of the dilapidated tin roof and in between the gaps of her shanty’s scrap-wood walls. All activity in the rural mountain home stops as she and her family scurry to place containers to catch the leaking water.
But the discomfort doesn’t stop when the rain does; on sunny days, the home feels as hot as an oven. Rosa shares the tiny two-room shanty with her teenage daughter, her grown son and his family. The space looks small for three people, let alone six. Each room is barely large enough to fit one bed, so the family takes turns sleeping in shifts. There is no running water, no electricity, and no latrine. Rosa has lived here her entire life.
Related: Addressing Poverty in Guatemala
Rosa’s situation is common among the poor in Guatemala, where more than half of its citizens live below the poverty line. Unable to afford decent housing, families dwell in ramshackle homes assembled from wooden planks, pieces of scrap wood and sheets of rusted tin. Typically, there is no running water, no electricity and sometimes not even a latrine. In some homes, cooking is done indoors on an open hearth — filling the air with acrid smoke. Homes are anything but safe.
Catholic leaders in the area, like Father Raúl Monterroso of the Diocese of Santa Rose de Lima, believe any plan to lift the poor out of poverty must include safe housing as an integral component. For many families living in poverty, a new home is the first step toward a better life.
Cross Catholic Outreach is teaming up with trusted partner Fr. Raúl to build 20 new homes in Santa Rosa. A total of 237 villagers in four communities throughout the diocese will directly benefit from the new construction.
Plans for the standard new home in Santa Rosa are: two bedrooms and a common room for living and dining. Each stormproof home is constructed with a sturdy concrete foundation, cement-block walls and a galvanized steel roof — offering plenty of protection from the elements. Secure doors and windows let in plenty of light without compromising privacy or security. Having electricity inside the house as well as a clean-air stove, sanitary latrine and washbasin on the exterior will transform how beneficiary families live.
Constructing a new home in Santa Rosa takes approximately just one week from start to finish. Beneficiary families often participate. This is all part of Fr. Raúl’s approach to community involvement. As he sees it, this “sweat equity” preserves family dignity and creates a stronger sense of ownership, leading to homes being well maintained as the years pass. The families also learn there is a God who cares about their needs — both spiritual and physical.
Not far from Rosa Hernandez is the Lopez-Jimenez family. Thanks to generous Catholic benefactors, the family was blessed with a home five years ago. It has completely transformed the way the Lopez-Jimenez family lives. For instance, meals can now be shared as a family in the common area. It’s a clean, safe and stable environment that has brought the family even closer together.
No longer operating in survival mode, the two young women in the family have become budding entrepreneurs. They weave native garments using traditional methods and sell them at the market. A new house has afforded them this opportunity.
One of the sons is now a seminarian. He comes back home to visit every couple of months. During one visit home he leads the family in a prayer of thanksgiving, “We pray as a family not because we are asking for blessings; we pray to thank God for the blessings we have.”
Together with Fr. Raúl, Cross Catholic Outreach is working to transform lives in Santa Rosa. Our compassionate mission partners will not only bless the poor with new homes, but will also provide access to clean water, a Catholic education, and agriculture programs to promote economic development and self-sufficiency in the region.
Under the dedicated leadership of Fr. Raúl, Christ’s mercy has been able to reach the most destitute corners of the diocese. Safe housing is an integral part of his plan. Your support of Cross Catholic Outreach’s safe housing programs will help to construct 40 stormproof concrete homes to benefit 474 villagers in Santa Rosa, and other places where the poor live in makeshift shacks.
To help fund the construction of new houses in impoverished communities, please donate today.
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