For a mother that is head of household and responsible for her children, the house is the most important. The house is a place that creates, educates, protects from climatic conditions, and is one’s refuge.
Hundreds of women go to Hogar de Cristo in search of that house that will serve as their first hostel. Here at Hogar de Cristo we have shared the joy of many of these families when, with their savings and sacrifice, they have managed to obtain better housing. They upgrade, so to say, from bamboo-cane and wood houses to cement houses, with internal divisions and sanitary infrastructure.
We have had a very kind experience in the Río Teaone community in Esmeraldas, made up of 650 families or approximately 2,000 individuals, with an average of four children per family. The principal economic activity here is informal street commerce. The people also work in tourism, but only during beach season.
There is a very high rate of unemployment here, and the majority of the family members in every household are unemployed. The women work, mainly in domestic jobs and preparing food at small restaurants. Meanwhile the men work as fishermen, bricklayers, or in agriculture. An average family’s monthly income is approximately $140.
Hogar de Cristo created an integral development project directed toward men and women in this neighborhood. The project consisted of improving 40 houses, and creating microcredit and health programs as well. The result of this development project was better than expected, and the community’s economy was revived.
A brave woman named Elizabeth Figueroa was a driving force behind this project, among other women in the town.
“I am a mother of five,” she said. “The oldest is already 20 years old because I had him very young. At the time I felt like I hadn’t finished living my childhood to be already starting a family, but soon after I had my other children until the last one that is five years old. I am a poor woman, but it has never been an obstacle in the way of my fight for a better life.
“At home, the food has been scarce but never missing. My children have gone to school, though many times shoeless because I don’t have enough money to buy them a new pair. When I found out about the project I motivated my friends to join me and participate in the job training program and in the reconstruction of our houses -mine was already falling. This was a good opportunity to better our situation. That’s why we worked together, to support one another.
“It was hard work. I worked from sun-up to sun-down to build my house and it was uncomfortable for us all. The materials, like the bricks, were made in the community. When I finished my house and saw my friends’ houses I felt happy because we achieved the dream of having a beautiful, safe house with which to protect our children.
“Actually, the money I have made selling catalog products I am saving to make a bathroom in my house for my family. I think that if you work hard, you get out what you put in. Never lose hope. Thanks to the effort and sacrifice, I attained a proper house for my family that no one can take from me.”
Elizabeth’s story, together with some of her friends’ in the community form our first experiences in the formation of the Banco de Materiales (Material Bank), what is seen as a “solidarity collector.” It promotes the improvement of the quality of life, the advancement, and the breakthroughs of people with few opportunities to achieve having a decent home, improved only by their economic sacrifices and hard work.
These people have the right to rebuild their houses, to turn them into proper homes of sanitary infrastructure.
No one likes to be poor. No one likes to live under the care of others. These people have the dignity to leave where they are and the yearning to give their children a healthy living environment.