Casita Linda has proven to it's donors that it will continue to create the best possible house for our impoverished families living outside of San Miguel de Allende Mexico. In April 2013, Casita Linda announced the launching of a Mexican National Design Competition for all Architects and students throughout the country. It will be judged this September by three of Mexico's most internationally recognized Architects: Victor Legorreta - Legorreta + Legorreta; Mauricio Rocha - Taller de Arquitectura; and Luis Sanchez-Renero - Sanchez Arcquitectos. This is a historic undertaking since this has never been done by any organization for the lowest income family living in Mexico. The submissions will be evaluated on aesthetics, cost, ease of construction, and earth friendly materials without sacrificing comfort for the families. The top three winners of the competition, along with the jurors, will be honored on October 12, 2013 at the Casita Linda, A.C. Spirit of Hope Gala at Las Ventanas in San Miguel de Allende. Casita Linda, A.C. will construct the winning design in December 2013.
We have continued our search for new materials and refined techniques to the point now that we have two full-time local work crews who are able produce two houses per month. Our last recipient of this home was the Reyes family who were living in a hand-made shelter of found materials (mostly cardboard). The parents and their six year old and eleven month old daughters lived on the Ejido community just on the outskirts of San Miguel de Allende where they lived in constant fear that they would be robbed of what little that they had. The father had the only income as a night baker which produced a monthly salary of only 2,400 pesos. This income is considered to be extreme poverty as defined by the World Bank. They qualified for a new home to be constructed because of their low income, their ownership of the land, their dedication to keep the children educated, and the fact there was no history violence in the home. Each recipient is also required to help the crew build their home and Senor Reyes would come home from his night shift to dig the foundations for the house. He continued working until it was complete and the family could live secure and be comfortable.
During 2013 Casita Linda will build 16 homes for families who need a safe, warm, dry place to live. This represents double the number of homes we built in 2011.
We have reduced the time for construction of a casita to 5 weeks or less for completion. This is possible for several reasons. In 2012 we hired a second crew of workers to expand the impact we have on our community by building more homes for people living in extreme poverty. Now we have two houses being built at one time.
The crew members are full time employees and receive benefits like medical insurance. Unlike most construction workers who have temporary jobs, our employees know they will have work as long as they perform well. We are seeing a very high level of motivation and commitment from our crews. They know their hard work will lead to other families having a better life in a new casita.
A number of our crew members were recipients of a Casita Linda houses themselves. When they worked on their own house we were impressed by their skills and hard work and we decided to offer them a job. We are very pleased to provide jobs for nine families with our two crews, as well as build houses for those who need adequate shelter.
We are screening and qualifying families at a much faster rate because of our full time Mexican social worker who is focused on family selection. She also works with other nonprofit organizations in San Miguel to help our families access services they need. Having a regular process we follow for gathering information about the families, such as documents about their ownership of their land, proof their children are attending school, employer verification of income and a home visit to interview the parents, has improved our ability to select families who qualify in a shorter period of time.
Early this year we completed a house for Ana, a single mother with 5 children. Her situation was very difficult with a series of temporary living arrangements and no hope of being able to buy land for a casita. She supported her family by carrying trash for people to the garbage trucks on the days the trucks came to her neighborhood. She made a little money from tips from the people in the neighborhood and she sometimes found things in the trash which she sold, but she could not provide a real home for her children.
A group of women in the neighborhood found out about Ana and were very concerned her children were not going to school because they worked to help Ana collect trash. Plus they wanted Ana and her children to have a stable living situation. Calling themselves Ana’s Angels, they raised enough money to buy a small piece of land for a casita.
They approached Casita Linda and asked if Ana would qualify for a home. After careful screening it was clear Ana’s was the type of situation we want to improve. When Ana’s casita was completed it was a very happy day for all of us. Casita Linda, Ana’s Angels and Ana and her oldest child who is a sixteen year old boy, all worked to together to make the dream of a home a reality.
We are now completing our 57th casita! Casita Linda’s Board of Directors and I, on behalf of all the families we have served, thank you for your generosity. Providing these families with adequate homes and protection from the elements would be impossible without your financial support, your work as volunteers, and your encouragement of our efforts to break the cycle of intergenerational poverty.
Families frequently put together shelters as best they can, using whatever materials are available.
(See picture #1 below)
The Jose Guadalupe Ramirez’s home (and a small “bucket garden”) is pictured above just prior to qualifying for a Casita Linda home.
Pictured below is a family's casita about half-finished. All family members typically pitch in and help build their home and the one before or after theirs.
(See picture #5 below)
Pictured below is a radiant Ramirez family having just moved into their newly painted home.
(See picture #2 below)
Marisol Soria de Ramirez, Marisol ,Gabriela, and Jetsemani Ramirez
Just below, Oscar and Geraldy Lara find out their family will be able to qualify for a “real” house and that construction will begin soon. They’re eager to help, as are their Mom and Dad, Oscar and Maria.
(See picture #3 below)
Here we see Oscar, Geraldy, and Maria Chavarria Lara, in front of their almost finished Casita.
(See picture #4 below)
Click on the link below to view a collage of photos showing many joyous families, smiling children, and colorful Casitas: https://www.facebook.com/Casita.Linda.AC/photos_stream
None of our officers or members of our Board of Directors receive wages or other benefits. The only individuals who receive any pay are the individuals on our 4 member Mexican construction team, our part-time office administrators, also Mexican, and several other part-time Mexican employees. We operate on a budget that is very carefully managed, and more than 90% of your contribution goes directly toward the construction of casitas. Check out this link for a brief picture of how we spend the donations received: http://casitalinda.org/en/who-we-are/financial/
As is unfortunately true in too many parts of the world, the past several years have become especially difficult for increasing numbers of families living on thin margins. We are of course hopeful that you and your friends, members of your family, and perhaps a local business or charitable organization in your town will be able to support our work this next year. We are very appreciative of your past donations. Let's hope 2013 brings more peace to the world and that the least fortunate among us are helped in some way through the generosity of individuals like you. Sincerely,
William Greenfield San Miguel de Allende
Casita Linda, A.C. Mexico
This year has been an important one for Casita Linda. We completed our 50th casita for a family which was a milestone for our organization. And we recruited a second construction crew which we are training to build casitas with the goal of completing a minimum of 16 homes each year.
Our long term employees have worked closely with the new crew members to show them the way the casitas are constructed. The second crew will enable us to double the number of families we help each year in the San Miguel de Allende, Mexico area.
At the same time we expanded our building capacity, we have engaged the help of a Mexican social services professional who is responsible for family selection. To qualify for a home, a family must own a small piece of land or be close to making their final payments on a lot. Sometimes a family has inherited a small parcel from their parents or have been able to buy land very inexpensively from a government program.
To quality for a casita the family must either live on the land now or be willing to have a family member stay at the construction site. This is to protect materials and equipment which must be stored while their casita is built. All of the families have extremely low income levels which are verified by personal interviews and a visit to where they currently live.
The second phase of selection includes an assessment of the current structure they are living in, if one exists. These small structures are often made of "found objects", with no flooring, inadequate roofing, no windows or doors. Most do not have running water or even a latrine.
We are particularly interested in helping families with children who are of school age, where the parents will commit to encouraging the children to attend school regularly. Parents are expected to work or be actively looking for employment. And they must agree to help with the construction of their house to the extent that this is possible. Sometimes single mothers will help clear the lot or carry buckets of sand. Even small children lend a hand carrying a building block at a time.
When their casita is finished, a family can choose the colors they want to have it painted. Volunteers paint the exterior of the new casita with help from the family and typically the family paints the interior themselves. Many times the family delays the official celebration of their new home until they can finish all the painting and plant flowers outside their new home.
We have some more good news from Casita Linda. On Thursday, May 31, we had the "House Warming" in which we formally turned over Casita Linda #48 to the Corte Gonzalez family. The family consists of father (David), mother (Georgina), an older daughter (Itzel) and son (Daniel). David, Georgina and Itzel work while the teenage son, Daniel, goes to school. David and Georgina lived on the property in a "casa de lamina" and the children lived elsewhere, with family or friends, while their new home was being constructed. You can see below a picture of the “found materials” living situation that now has changed dramatically with their recently finished casita. Since this casita is off the city utilities grid, we prepared this house for the future. We added a water harvesting system for the rain water to be directed into a small (1,100 litre) cistern, and when funding comes through we will build large (12,000 litre) cistern. We've also installed orange conduit for electrical wires as well as electrical boxes for lights and switches. When the neighborhood does get electrical power, the family will be ready for connection. The lot is big enough for composting and gardening so this family will be directed to our special projects group to get them started on composting and building a small raised-bed vegetable garden.
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San Miguel de Allende,
San Miguel de Allende,