For at least 35 percent of rural Salvadorans, homes are made from sheets of torn plastic, rusty aluminum, crumbling walls and dirt floors. The seasonal six-months of rain causes continual structural damage, vermin infestation and chronic illnesses. Additionally, homes are often built on mountainsides and in marginal areas prone to the dangers of impassable roads and landslides.
ENLACE has worked for over twenty years partnering with local church and community leaders to address the problem of substandard housing. The end result of a new set of walls, roof, floor and running water along with electricity is a miracle. But to make this miracle endure for years to come, housing projects need to be a part of a bigger picture. Without rebuilding and fortifying relationships within a community, even a miracle project doesn't last long. Walls crack, electric bills are due monthly and water systems need maintenance.
A sustainable impact comes, however, when one's very own neighbors reach out in sacrifice and love and strong relationships are built and fortified. As ENLACE works with a local church filled with people committed to serving their communities, friendships are formed that help impoverished and marginalized families to become an integral part of a community's social fabric. These new networks help address not only immediate needs but complicated situations that are bound to arise in the future.
In the Salvadoran community of Potrerillos del Manzano, Santa Ana, the Betesda Church of 54 members began to work with ENLACE in 2013. After walking through their community, getting to know their neighbors and talking to various local organizations (resulting in a complete baseline study of their community’s challenges and resources), in the following year, they had identified the pervasive problem of smoke inhalation from in-home cooking fires. By the end of 2014, church leaders worked with the community to build 50 eco-stoves directly improving the health of over 250 people. After that project, the church was excited to serve in further ways. In 2015, they identified 25 families in urgent need of safer housing.
Eduardo and Rosa Perez were among those identified. Eduardo, who is almost 70 years old and still both breadwinner and caretaker of his family along with his wife, talked to us about his story.
“[Our previous] house was in really bad shape. There were holes throughout the structure, it was made out of wood, and already was 35 years old. During the rainy season, we had to put buckets everywhere to catch the rain droplets coming down from the ceiling... We lived like this for 10 years. Our pastor, Victor Ortiz, knew how terrible our living situation was…[and when a housing project started] we were put on a list for a new home.
Rosa and I have four nephews living with us… There have been and will be hardships but God has helped us get through. Through this project, I have seen my family change, I have seen myself change for the better. God answered our prayers in the form of a house-building initiative. Once the house was completed, I was liberated. All the worry was gone…This is true liberation.”
Ten of the 25 homes were completed in 2015 and the church hopes to continue to help the remaining families on the list. In addition to the home and eco-stove project the church has also helped to build a water system and create a community water board, install street lights and pave a main road.
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