Families stay close in a number of ways. Some call one another on the phone, some schedule vacations together and others build homes for Mayan communities in rural Guatemala.
That’s what works for Nancy Wynne’s family. Wynne, formerly known as Nancy Hill, said she and her siblings live in various places across the country.
“When my mother died four years ago, we wondered how we would stay together when the hub of the family was gone,” said Wynne. The siblings decided to focus on a project together—building homes and improving the lives of a community along Lake Atitlan in Guatemala. The lake is located in the Guatemalan Highlands, home to a population primarily composed of indigenous Mayan.
This summer, Wynne has raised more than $2,000 selling goods from Guatemala at the Stonington Farmers’ Market—the cost to build an entire home in Guatemala, or the cost to support more than 13 schoolchildren for the school year. (While schooling is free in Guatemala, students need clothing, shoes, notebooks, pencils and other school supplies in order to attend.)
Last year, the siblings decided to turn their “family project” into a nonprofit, moving from a few self-funded home building projects to a whole-community focus including scholarships and support for education.
So far, the group has built four homes, and is currently sponsoring 31 school children and three college students.
Students attending college do so on the weekends, said Wynne. “During the week, everyone has to work, if there is work,” she continued. “The average family lives on three to four dollars a day.”
According to the Alliance’s website, between 56 to 64 percent of Guatemala’s population lives on less than $2, and in rural areas that rate can reach 75 percent. Nearly half of Guatemalans live in inadequate housing, including more than a million people who live in homes made of cornstalks or scavenged materials.
The website also states that replacing dirt floors with cement results in major health benefits for families, especially children—less diarrhea and anemia, and improved communication skills due to fewer parasites in homes with cement floors.
To learn more about the Guatemala Housing Alliance, visit the Alliance’s website at guatemalahousingalliance.org.