This past June, I traveled to Antigua, Guatemala to build a home for a family of six through the program From Houses To Homes
. I was accompanied by my sister (Maggie '20), my friend, Kate Reilly '21, and my father. We worked with the Subuyuj Buch family which consisted of a loving mother (Maria) and father (Eduardo) and their four daughters: Noelia (11), Emy (9), Vivien (5), and Fabiola (3 months).
We began each day greeted by the two Guatemalan workers of the project with our group, Belton and John. We took an hour car ride to the town that the Subuyuj Buch family lived in, Puerto San José, sitting or standing in the bed of a pickup truck. These rides were one of my favorite parts of the day because we got to see so many sides of Guatemala, from the busy city life to highways and field. After arriving at the Subuyuj Buch's property, we would begin our day's work in the construction of the house.
The family was living in a makeshift structure made of corrugated metal panels, cloth, and string. It was barely big enough to fit two twin beds. A smaller and similarly constructed adjoining structure was used as their kitchen. Our group of workers, the family, and two native From Houses to Homes workers had our work cut out for us. The first day entailed putting the footings for the house down and placing our first layer of cement blocks down. The next two days consisted of adding layer after layer of cement blocks down to build the walls of the house.
Our next step (after visiting the From Houses to Homes school and playing soccer with all of the kids), was to put the floor down in the house by mixing bags of cement with water and dirt. The last step was putting the roof up. On the final day, we painted the outside blue and the inside orange, as desired by the mother, Maria, with the help of Noelia, Emy, and Vivien. With our combined efforts, we were all able to build the much needed space they deserved and also ensured safety with a locking door and barred window.
In addition to being the owners of a new home, the Subuyuj Buch family also received access to a free health care clinic through the From Houses to Homes project. They also have the option to send their children to the free From Houses to Homes school in Santa Maria De Jesus that goes up to eighth grade.
The most memorable part of this experience was meeting the Subuyuj Buch family because they welcomed all of us complete strangers into their homes and lives for the week. Each morning the girls would run up to our truck, excited to play soccer with us, and talk during our breaks. Maria and Eduardo were always smiling. Just spending time with them was a highlight of all of our days. The hardest part of the entire trip wasn't building the house, but rather saying goodbye to all of those we had met in Guatemala. The Subuyuj Buch family, in addition to John and Belton, touched all of our hearts. Leaving them on our last day was not easy.
Maggie, Kate, and I emailed Mrs. [Cara] Hyson, the clubs director of Lawrenceville, and explained how moved we were by this trip. We told her we wanted to create a new School club to support From Houses to Home. Our request was approved and now we cannot wait to bring back our unforgettable experience to school with us and raise awareness and support for the incredible From Houses to Homes program!