Sussex County Habitat for Humanity sent a team of 10 volunteers to San Marcos, Guatemala, March 29, to assist two families with building their homes. For many of those on the trip, it was their first time to a developing country, and for all, it was a time they will never forget.
The team spent the first night in Antigua, a historic city in the central highlands of Guatemala. The next morning they traveled six hours by bus to the city of San Marcos. San Marcos department is one of the poorest regions of Guatemala, remotely located on the western side of the country where few homes have running water and electricity is only intermittent.
Broken into groups of five, the teams assisted the San Marcos affiliate to build two homes for their Habitat Partner Families. One group worked with a widow and mother of four who supports herself and her children by selling handmade knited and woven goods. The land her home is being built on was left to her by her father.
The other group worked with a family that consisted of a mother, father and their three children. One of the children battles severe health problems.
The team members worked in high altitude (approx. 8,000 feet), hot and dry conditions. The tools used on this project were rudimentary, as construction in this region is primarily block and mortar reinforced with rebar to protect against earthquakes and mudslides.
Currently, Guatemala’s two leading healthcare issues are illnesses due to the lack of potable water, and respiratory illnesses affecting mothers and children caused by open-burning stoves and burning trash for fuel. Building these homes in Guatemala means that both families will have safe shelter, clean water and more modern stoves with proper ventilation.
The team returned April 7. Although exhausted, they all said they would recommend the experience to friends and family and most are expecting to return.
Margaret Reyes, Family Service manager at the Sussex County Habitat for Humanity affiliate and 2014 Global Village Trip team leader said on her return, “What we all learned on this trip is that beauty and hope are everywhere; friends can be made quickly; you can grow in one week of service, and you can change someone's life by using your own talents to help others!”
SCHFH will be sending another Global Village team to Guatemala in 2015 and encourages anyone who is interested in volunteering or helping in some other way to support the Global Village Program to email Kevin Gilmore, executive director at SCHFH, at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.