Posted by: Project MicroMundo | October 19, 2010

Building a Foundation (and the rest of the house, too)

First, we want to send out a huge thank you from the three of us, and from Mayan Families, for all of the donations we’ve received towards the Elderly Care Program and a decent home for Pedro.  With your gifts, we’ll be able to help Pedro with his first few months of rent, and we’ve built up a substantial supply of essential medications and food for the ancianos who count on them.  You’ve really given the Elderly Care Program a solid start—thank you.

Today, though, I want to introduce you to someone who won’t qualify for the Elderly Care Program for quite a while (and we hope she’ll never need to!).  Caterina is a young woman doing the best she can to raise four small children on her own.  Despite the fact that she’s battling a depressed economy, a rising cost of living, and a painful family situation, things were beginning to look brighter for Caterina and her kids—she had just gotten a new job as a housekeeper.  The job paid 500 quetzales (~$65) a month—the family certainly wouldn’t be living in luxury, but it looked like they might have enough to eat, and maybe eventually they would be able to improve the makeshift one-room shed that the five of them share.

Their tiny building is made of nothing more than lamina (corrugated metal).  This ‘home’ has a dirt floor, no door, and barely enough room for its five inhabitants (small as they are) to stand. It contains just one bed and one dresser.

Caterina with her children, (L to R) Hirson (8), Estefani (4), Gloria (2), and Carla (10)

They live in the backyard of their extended family’s modest (and crowded) home. This proximity to family should be a good thing, but it isn’t.  Caterina’s father left when she and her siblings were very young.  Her mother eventually remarried, but her new husband abandoned her as well—for Caterina’s sister, his stepdaughter.  As if that weren’t bad enough, the new couple lives together in the same house as Caterina’s mother.  Another married sister and her family, as well as their only brother, live in the house as well.  All of this would be enough to make anyone want to get away from home, which is what Caterina did—she married young, and was raising her own family apart from all the drama—until her husband abandoned them, refusing to pay anything at all to support his children.

When Caterina found herself a single mother, she and the kids were forced to move into the obviously strained environment of her family’s home.  Tensions quickly exploded.  Resenting the extra strain on space and food, Caterina’s sister became abusive towards Caterina and the kids. She hits the children when they make noise or look hungrily at her food, and she allows her children to do the same.  She also hits Caterina, and has for a long time made clear that she wants them to leave the house, but Caterina has no place to go.

Despite all this, with Caterina’s new job, and her two older children in school through Mayan Families sponsorships, things were looking better.  Until yesterday, when Caterina got some awful news—after months of pressure to get off of her family’s property, Caterina is officially being evicted. She, Carla, Hirson, Estefani and Gloria must leave by Friday.  They have found a small plot of land that they can rent for less than $20 a month, but the lot is currently empty.  They have no other option—they need a house.

The plot of land that Caterina found, where we hope to put a house for her and her family.

That’s where you come in.  It sounds like a huge undertaking, but houses can be built relatively cheaply—and quickly—here.  We’ve consulted with Mayan Families’ excellent construction chief, Juan, and we can have a safe (though simple) home erected by Friday, for just $750.

We know this will be a challenge, but we can do it with your help.  Caterina has been working hard, and she’s made significant progress by finding a steady job, but this is a crucial turning point. If they end up homeless at the end of this week, the momentum will stop, and she may never be able to pull her children out of poverty.  But if we can make sure that this young family has a safe, warm place to sleep, Caterina can continue to work, and they will have a real chance.  That has to be worth $750.

To help us build this house, just click here–enter your donation in the Family Aid box, and write “Caterina’s House” in the Family Name box.  We’re working against the clock, so please don’t hesitate—even a small donation will get us closer to the goal.  We’ll report on our progress over the next few days—find Project MicroMundo on Facebook for the quickest updates.


Responses

  1. Oh my goodness, count me in. They need a place of their own!

  2. Can we send cothes or what ever over to this family. Anne Spencer

    • Anne,
      Thanks for the question and for your interest in helping! Mayan Families does accept donations of clothes, shoes, etc., but it is very expensive to ship things to Guatemala and in most cases it is more cost-effective to collect monetary donations and then buy the items here (where they are usually much cheaper because of the exchange rate). That said, if you would like to send a large volume of clothes or shoes (or something else), it may be worth the cost of shipping. If you’d like more details, send us an email at projectmicromundo[at]gmail[dot]com.

      Thanks again,
      Steph, Jess and Ronnie


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