San Marcos La Laguna-- GHA House Completed

Alan handing the keys over to Lucy.
Over the past two weeks Alan has headed out to help the crew from the Guatemalan Housing Alliance, and other volunteers, build a home for Lucy and her little boy, Alexander. They had been living in a portion of the family compound in Barrio Two, just up the mountain from San Marcos. Their previous home was built with a combination of adobe bricks and sugar cane walls, a dirt floor and scraps of metal on the roof. For $2300.00, and in a record 8 days, the house was completed. Alan had the honor of presenting the house keys. Smiling from ear to ear as she received the keys, Lucy grasped them firmly and held them to her chest.

Determining who receives the houses built is a long and difficult process, placed in the capable hands
Miriam Navichoc
of the local director, Miriam Navichoc. The need is tremendous. It is estimated that over one million Guatemalans live in sugar cane or cornstalk homes with dirt floors. To qualify for the housing the woman must not only be living in one of the worst of the worst homes, she must also secure title to the land on which the home is built. Typically, the family will own a section of land and each child will receive a small piece of it, with Miriam's help, this legal aspect is taken care of. Prospective homeowners have to pay for 1/4 of the price of the house over time. Normally this works out to about $8.00 a month. They must also have at least one of their family members volunteer to help on the build, in Lucy's case there were several.

Nancy Wynne
In addition to building homes for this areas most needy, the GHA manages scholarships for needy children allowing them to attend school. The average Guatemalan receives just 4 years of education, in rural areas it is even less. Even though the schools are public, the students have to have uniforms, shoes, paper, books, etc. in order to attend.

Founder of GHA, Nancy Wynne, is certainly the most selfless person we have ever met. Having devoted most of her life to helping the needy, she seems to have boundless energy for doing everything possible to help.

Experiencing the variety of slices of life, in this area, was eye opening. A young American, Kevin, worked nights at our hotel. During the days, he
Election night festivities
teaches at a local school. Coming to Guatemala many years ago with the Peace Corp, the draw of the community drew him in, and this is now his home. Over and over again, we met with people who were contributing something to the needs of this country. Kevin invited us to an event which is a prelude to one of the areas biggest fiestas. The celebration for the villages namesake, San Marcos, is an annual event that draws the population down from the mountains and surrounding communities. Election of the Daughter of the Village, for the Celebration of San Marcos, is an important happening. Local schools and groups nominate a young girl (usually around 9-10 years old) to represent them. Dressed in their finest, the girls are preceded to the stage by members of their group performing a skit. Once all the girls are on the stage, there are 5 judges asking the girls questions to determine the winner. Questions range from knowledge of community history or events and end with an inquiry regarding what they would do in their position to help their village. The girls answer in both the local Mayan dialect (there are 26) for the elderly in the standing room only crowd, and then in Spanish. Being selected is an honor for the girl and her family.

Practicing for hours each day, the school band has been perfecting
their presentation. The town is being spruced up. A new roof was installed on the village's church.  In 3 days the old metal roof was removed and replaced. Vendors have started coming into town for the expected crowds. There will be lots of music, dancing and noisy fireworks minus the light display. The celebration last 2 days, April 27-28, but the anticipation is already evident.

We are now departing San Marcos, moving on to Antigua. More stories to follow.
Finishing touches on the house.

Interior of the house
Nancy's partner, Max

Lucy helping out
Lucy standing in front of the kitchen for the family compound

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