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Happiness is a cement floor

By Janell Meador, photos by Holly Wilmeth

One year ago, as the rain came down in torrents, Marisol, José and their four children had one place to stay dry: a mattress in the middle of a dirt floor. The floor of their one-room shelter, constructed of plastic sheets, rocks, and other scavenged materials, was flooded. “If our hand fell off the mattress, it was in water,” says Marisol.

That was the last night they had to live in such conditions. After months of waiting and hoping for approval from the Casita Linda social services group, Jose and his wife Marisol, their children: Fernanda (12), José (11), Gaby (5), and Gexemani (3), began working with Casita Linda to construct their new house. They now live in a home with a kitchen, bathroom, living room and three separate, private sleeping areas. The children helped to build the house by sifting the rocks and debris from the sand used for mortar, and Jose worked on the bathroom and put in windows. Marisol chose the colors and helped to paint.

Surrounded by her smiling husband and children, Marisol talks of how the house has changed their lives. “Before, there were days when I could not cook because there was no dry wood,” she says. Now they have an efficient Ecocina Stove. “We had no table where the children could sit to eat. Now, we have a table.” High on her list of blessings their house brings is that of cleanliness. They have a concrete floor and a washing area in the front of their home.

“The quality of life has improved for our children. Now they want to do their homework,” says Jose. “Fernanda has been struggling with us for her 13 years – she doesn’t need to struggle now.” The children do their homework by the light of solar bulbs, left in the sun during the day to charge. Both older children say their favorite class is math. Their father rises each morning at 6am and takes Fernanda to her school, where classes begin at 7. Young Jose’s school is within walking distance and starts at 8am Already a hard worker, he has planted a garden in their yard and collects materials to recycle for money to help the family. Marisol takes Gaby to her kindergarten classes. Gaby has already decided that she wants to work at Bodega Aurrera when she is old enough, but with her playful personality and comical expressions, she could be an entertainer.

Marisol now works two days a week at the Casita Linda office and attends the health care and educational workshops provided by Casita Linda. Jose is employed by a hotel and works maintenance. Their future looks bright as they all strive to be successful. All they needed was a place to stay dry and clean – they can do the rest working together, as a family. “It is so good to know this is our house,” says young Fernanda. “We know we never have to move!”

Casita Linda, A.C. is a Mexican nonprofit organization founded in 2001. Our primary goal is to construct simple decent housing for people in extreme poverty. For further information please visit our website at:

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