Category Archives: Travel

Tijuana, Mexico (December 2015)

In December 2015, I worked with One Small House and a team of amazing volunteers in Tijuana helping three families into new homes they desperately needed. Below, you’ll meet the families we were able to help.

Meet The Families

The first family we built for is the Guzman family. At the time of the trip, this family comprised Jose Antionio Juarez Guzman, who is 79 years old, his 89 year old wife, Maria Treinidad Medina and their son Jose Manuel Valezuela Medina, who is 53 years old. The wife and son in this family are completely blind, and the father has extremely poor vision (blind in one eye and hardly sees out of the other). As a result, the family is unable to work and survives off of the kindness of neighbors. Sadly, they had been living in a decrepit home that hardly protected them from the weather. Our goal was to provide them with a safe, warm home this winter.

Guzman_FamilyIn addition, we were also building a home for one of their neighbors, who help the Guzman family – in fact two families who are currently living under the same “roof.” Although it is their home, their current house is in terrible condition. Living here are Alejandro Feliciano Diaz (39 years old), his wife, Yolando Guzman (40 years old), their son, Jesus Alejandro (2 years old), along with Benjamin Leyva Romero (27 years old), his wife Griselda Maldonado (26 years old) and their two children, Jesus Maria Leyva (4 years old) and Cristopher Nicolas Leyva (3 years old). Benjamin and Alejandro are cousins and this large family will benefit greatly from your support his December.

San Rafael del Sur, Nicaragua (January 2016)

Thanks to everyone who  joined this build!  We had a very successful trip and nearly completed a house for Gloria and Freddie in just 5 days of work.  They should move in within two weeks (once the roof, doors and windows are installed and the floor has had time to cure).  Their excitement was obvious and their smiles wonderful!  Here’s a collection of photos from this trip.

You can also check out more detailed stories of this build in the following blog posts:

Bienvenido a Casa! and Update: Gloria’s Family is Home!

For more information about Habitat for Humanity’s work in Nicaragua through the Global Village program, please visit the Habitat for Humanity Nicaragua homepage.  Additional information about the housing need in Nicaragua is also included below.  Thanks in advance for your support!

Housing need in Nicaragua

Eighty percent of the Nicaraguan population subsists on less than US$2 per day, and 43 percent on less than US$1 a day. In a country of more than five million habitants, there are many situations that affect the housing situation. Inadequate housing (both qualitative and quantitative), insufficient public investment in the housing sector, natural disasters, social and economic instability, migration from rural to urban areas and the formation of new nuclear families are all factors that take a toll on the availability of adequate housing in Nicaragua. It is estimated that each year the housing deficit in the country rises by some 30,000 homes.

Due to the low priority of housing on both political and non-profit agendas, investment in the housing sector has not been sufficient to tackle the problem.

Habitat for Humanity in Nicaragua

Habitat for Humanity began working in Nicaragua in 1984. Habitat for Humanity Nicaragua supports the social production of habitat in such a way that strengthens community leadership and resources, and supports families in achieving solutions to their housing needs. The organization works through four main initiatives to serve low-income families, with special emphasis given to women-headed households, families with three or more dependents, families with members who have special needs and families with a monthly income of less than US$350.

 

Braga, Portugal (April 2016)

What a fantastic trip!  In April 2016, a team of 11 volunteers traveled to Braga, Portugal with Habitat for Humanity’s Global Village program to help construct a home for the family of Maria.  We mixed, carried, and applied countless buckets of cement as we continued the work of previous teams.  By the end of the week, we’d made a lot of progress, formed many new friendships, and had a better understanding of the housing need in Portugal.  This was a wonderful place to work and to visit – put Portugal on your list of places to see!

About Portugal
Portugal is situated on the west side of the Iberian Peninsula, bordering Spain. It became an independent kingdom in 1143, and it is one of the oldest existent nations in Europe. It was the Portuguese sailors who, in the 15th century, discovered the ocean routes to India, Brazil, China and Japan, changing the way people understood the world around them.

Braga is situated in the northwestern part of the country and has been an important trading center since recorded times. In the 12th century, it became Portugal’s spiritual center and the home of the Catholic Church. Numerous cathedrals, buildings and relics testify to Braga’s religious significance. Modern Braga is also known for its unique handicrafts and delectable gastronomy. Wandering through the streets of Braga, you will find excellent pottery and wooden miniatures, but the city’s most characteristic handicraft is cavaquinho, or four-string baby viola, still manufactured in the traditional way.

About Habitat for Humanity Portugal
Housing is a major concern for Portuguese families, with 65 percent of the population living in dilapidated housing and 8.5 percent in shacks. One of the biggest challenges of HFH Portugal is a common dependency on government subsidies. The Governmental Social Housing program has been relatively effective in re-housing families that were living in poor conditions. However, support for the families that have been relocated does not exist. Social problems such as alcoholism, illiteracy, exclusion, lack of basic care and the creation of “social ghettos” are not solved with this kind of assistance. Only by promoting community-building and inclusiveness, and through educational and social programs, is it possible to break this poverty cycle.

Poverty housing in Portugal is spread throughout the country, with two distinctive kinds of housing: “hidden poverty” (typical Portuguese houses with a small orchard that hides the poor housing conditions) and the obvious shacks of the big cities. Since the 1970s, Portugal has been the destination country for immigrants from the former Portuguese colonies and Brazil and more recently, for immigrants from former Soviet Union countries. Thus, the need for housing is growing, especially in the urban areas of the country.

The first Habitat house in Portugal was built in 1999 in the town of Vieira do Minho. The following year, HFH Braga began to build in Palmeira and Cunha. In 2002, the organization began to renovate and repair existing homes and apartments and continues to find ways to serve more families. Learn more about Habitat Portugal at http://www.habitat.pt/.

Tavush Region, Armenia (Oct 2016)

Post Trip Write up in Habitat Armenia Newsletter:

Gurgen’s dream is coming true
In October this year Gurgen and Ofelya’s family got the biggest gift of their lifetime. Now they are one step closer to their dream of having their own home. Currently the family lives in Getahovit village of Tavush region in Ofelya’s ancestral home. The family started a new house last year but they were not able to complete it because of lack of resources. They were happy and excited to have been selected to partner with Habitat Armenia. Their happiness doubled as they hosted a Global Village team of international volunteers. The team of 14 from the U.S., Denmark and Poland worked in their house for 2 weeks and helped them complete the plastering of walls. Gurgen says, “I can’t believe this is true. Now we will have our own home where the kids will have a place to play and study and we will have privacy.” Gurgen and Ofelya are grateful for the support they got from Habitat Armenia and send their best wishes to the volunteers who came from far away to help them move closer to their dream of owning a house.

About Armenia
Armenia occupies 29,700,000 square meters and is situated in the northeast Armenian highlands. Armenia is a former Soviet Republic located in Central Asia. It has a population of 3.2 million. Yerevan is the largest city and capital of Armenia. Nestled on the Ararat Plain along the Hrazdan River, Yerevan is a leading industrial, cultural and scientific centre in the Caucasus region.

Three events have shaped the current housing situation: economic and social transition, including housing privatization; a massive earthquake in 1988; and a large influx of refugees. Because of these factors, more than 50 percent of Armenia’s families in this area live in deteriorated housing with cramped quarters and limited water and heat. Almost every building in the country is considered to be below current safety requirements for earthquakes.

When families are forced to abandon the dream of completing their home due to financial hardship, they often live in the unfinished basement or cellar. This is basically a large hole in the ground with a dirt floor and makeshift roof. Others live in domiks, which are metal containers that were brought to Armenia as part of the relief effort following the devastating 1988 earthquake. Many families have been living in these containers for more than a decade. Domiks are unbearably hot in the summer and only makeshift stoves fight off the extreme cold in winter.

Ninety-six percent of the housing stock in Armenia is privately owned. The 4 percent of housing remaining in public rental is not targeted to low-income households. The work Habitat is doing in the country is essential to ensuring simple, decent, affordable housing for hundreds of Armenians.

About Habitat for Humanity in Armenia

Habitat for Humanity in Armenia tackles poverty housing through a variety of efforts, including the construction of affordable, efficient houses, the completion of half-built homes, implementation of water and sanitation facilities, advocacy of improved housing policies for low-income families, engagement of volunteers and other like-minded partners and more. As of 2008, Habitat for Humanity in Armenia had helped nearly 400 families in need in Armenia into safe and secure shelter. Learn more at www.habitat.am.