If you have ever come down with a ServiceTeam to Guatemala, chances are you have built a “Casa Azul” for a family in desperate need. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the country has been shut down for months on end, preventing ServiceTeams from coming down and making their impact. Many of you who had planned to be with us this year have asked how you can still help from afar. This story is a shining example of how one person’s generosity and burning desire to help the poor changed the lives of a family of eight.
After receiving a one-time donation large enough to build a house from a dedicated supporter of The GOD’S CHILD Project, thus began the process of identifying which family had the greatest need for a new home. Despite not being able to physically come build homes, this amazing donor took it upon herself to make sure home-building continued with the ServiceTeam program put on hold.
Before the pandemic, our social workers had visited a number of families who had requested a new home. Each visit consists of an extensive evaluation of a family’s living situation and the suitability of the land where the house will be constructed. After several home visits by the ANA staff, we decided the Canrey family had the greatest need.
The Canrey family lives in Alotenango, a small town located just 5 miles in the shadows of the imposing and marvellous Volcanoes Fuego and Acatenango. The family is made up of Doña Amabilia, aged 25, her three sons; José (10), Estuardo (5), and Fernando (2), and, their grandparents, Juan and Berta. Also living with the family are two more relatives, Danny, Amabilia’s brother and his wife, Lesbia.
Doña Amabilia entered into a relationship at a very young age and decided to go live with her partner in the northern region of Peten, where she lived for a number of years. Unfortunately, her husband was an alcoholic, which many times led to Amabilia falling victim to his physical abuse. After a while, Amabilia decided enough was enough, leaving her partner to return to Alotenango where she and her children would be safe.
Recent years have been an uphill battle for Doña Amabilia as a single mother who has to work to support her three sons and her parents with food and living costs. The children’s grandmother takes care of them while their mother sells fruit in the market. Amabilia earns around Q1500 ($200) a month to support her family. Her mother suffers from diabetes and needs medicine, which they can’t always afford, to keep her sugar levels balanced.
Their house is made of sheet metal, wooden posts, and plastic tarps with nothing but dirt for the floor. There were three beds inside, each one separated by hanging blankets so as to give a bit of privacy to the eight family members living in such a small space. With so many crammed inside this one place, it is nearly impossible for the Canrey’s to keep things organized. Clothes were scattered and mixed everywhere without a suitable piece of furniture to store them all. Their water supply was in the form of two big blue barrels where you could notice larva and various insects floating around, water that is not safe for anybody to be drinking or bathing with. The wooden fire stove was in first room to the left as you walked in, sitting dangerously close to a few of the wooden posts that were helping keep the house upright, and putting the family at great risk of their house burning down. The wood burning stove also posed a threat to the Canrey’s health, with smoke filling the house, and then their lungs, each time they cooked a meal.
Having seen the conditions of their home first-hand, our ANA staff decided that they were the family with the most need and so they delivered the building materials and tools straight away to begin two intense days of construction. They were joined by members of the extended Canrey family who observed and helped the construction work. A house build during the pandemic means all-hands on deck, and so Hector, Henio, Kevin, Saul, Rodolfo, Robbie, and Brendan came together to put their years of experience and several hundreds of homes under their belts to the test.
In the afternoon of day 1, the rainy season reared its head and brought 45 minutes of torrential downpour as the ANA team and members of the Canrey family scrambled to mix cement and finish laying the new floor. The uneven land and holes in the roof of the home that came as a result of falling rocks and ash from the June 2018 eruption of Volcano Fuego highlighted the urgent need for a new home with a level cement floor. Ten minutes after the rain had begun, water began to seep into the Canrey home and turn the dirt floor into mud. Using cement blocks to divert the water away from the house and cement mix, the ANA staff, soaked to the skin, continued until they had finished the job.
On day 2, it became apparent that the cement floor would need another smaller layer to smoothen it out, as the rain continued for another five hours after the team left for the day. After the storms on day one, the ANA staff made sure to arrive earlier on the second day, departing the Dreamer Center at 7am, to make sure the house was complete before the rain could jeopardize the safety of the family once again.
After another day of solid teamwork of sawing wood, installing the frame, putting up the walls, and nailing on the roof, the Canrey’s house was nearly complete, but not before Jose, Estuardo, and Fernando helped the ANA team slap a fresh coat of our signature blue paint onto their brand new home.
A light rain began to fall once again as the ANA staff handed over the latest house to a family that would make it their home. This time however, there was a new roof to keep them dry.