A Safe House for Susana & Her Children

Our family invites you to help Susana Puzul y Cumes purchase property in a safe part of her Mayan village, Santa Catarina Palopo, where Habitat Guatemala (an affiliate of Habit For Humanity International) has agreed to build a new house for her and her children. The property will be officially assessed and approved as safe by Habitat Guatemala for home construction.


A Safe House For Susana - At a Glance

+ Our goal is to raise $5000 .

+ This will pay for Habitat Guatemala-approved land on which Habitat can then construct a safe home.

+ The recipients, Susana Puzul y Cumes and her children, currently live in a highly-susceptible residential Red Zone (aka, Danger Zone), as rated by Habitat Guatemala.

+ Their new home will be made of solid concrete block and be situated on a safe, stable piece of property with a retaining wall.

+ Your contribution will help change the lives of this family in what is for them an unfathomable way. Thank you.

For more info about Habitat Guatemala houses, click HERE.


To fill you in further, my father, Bill, wrote the following...

Linda and I have known Susana since she was three-years-old. (That's her above, photo courtesy of my brother Mike Marion, who met Susana and took this shot on a Guatemalan trip in late 1978.)  As college students in the late 70s, Linda and I traveled through Southern Mexico to Panajachel, Guatemala.  One day, we took the 7-kilometer hike along the dirt road that runs above Lake Atitlan and stopped in the remote mountain village of Santa Catarina Palopo.  At the time, it seemed enchanted, lost in time, the perfect place for us. 

We ended up living there for two full summers and becoming  friends with many of the villagers but especially with Susana's mother, Señora Petrona.  After she unexpectedly died in 1994, we continued our friendship with the family through Susana.

Over the years, the country has been torn apart by a brutal civil war and a series of devastating natural disasters.  Guatemala is a very poor country, and life is particularly difficult for single mothers like Susana. 

Susana, now 39, lives with her three youngest children -- Cristina, 19, Veronica, 13, and William, 10 (the star of the video above) -- high up the side of the mountain that serves as the backdrop for the village. (Her oldest child, Giovanni, 22, resides a couple of hours away in Guatemala City, where he works as a day laborer.)
Habitat Guatemala has declared this area a Red Zone, meaning that it won't make repairs on existing dwellings, including Susana's, or build new structures up there, for fear that the next tropical storm will destroy them, just as prior storms have done.

Panabaj, for instance, a little village just a few short miles across Lake Atitlan from Santa Catarina, was obliterated by mudslides in the aftermath of Hurricane Stan in 2005.  Tragically, hundreds of its residents -- men, women, and children alike -- were buried alive.

Santa Catarina itself was hit hard by Tropical Storm Agatha in 2010. Many homes were destroyed and two residents were killed by landslides that brought a deadly mix of mud, trees, and rocks down upon the village. Remnants of the storm are still very much in evidence in various parts of town. 

In Santa Catarina, the majority of the villagers live the way the Indigenous have lived on the banks of picturesque and placid Lake Atitlan for generations: The men fish and farm; the women weave and sell their work, mainly to tourists.

Susana is a weaver, just as her mother, Petrona, and grandmother, Francisca were. To make extra money, Susana also washes clothes down in the lake with her daughters or hires herself out as a cook. To pay her bills and feed her family, she needs to make about $150 US per month, but with Guatemala's rampant crime hurting tourism, that's often a pipe dream.

UPDATE: In late August 2014, Susana opened a small store (see below -- that's her son William) for which we were able to provide the start-up funds (completely separate from the money raised by this campaign which is to be used exlusively for her property).  The store is on the grounds of the village school, so it has lots of eager customers.  We're really hoping that she will be able to make a go of it and generate enough income to support her family. 

It's the fear that history can easily repeat itself that drives this fundraising effort. Deforestation is a major issue on the mountain, as most people here cook with wood. Over the decades, the protective shield of trees has been lost to the axe and the machete. As residents have gone higher and higher up the mountain in search of firewood, the storm damage that the village has suffered over the years has correspondingly increased.

As a result, with each new weather event comes a growing trepidation that this could be "The One." Nobody should have to live in such constant fear.

We want to see Susana and her family escape this Sword of Damocles. And Habitat Guatemala is poised to help her. But first things first: A Habitat requirement is that the people it builds for must own their property.

Except for the administrative fees charged by GoFundMe, every cent collected here will be used for the purpose stated: to purchase a safely-located piece of property for Susana's new Habitat house and then, in the second phase of the campaign, to pay for the house itself.

There are countless good causes in the world; from our own personal experience, we can say that this one is as worthy as they come. These are good, kind, gentle, gracious people. They deserve better.

On behalf of Susana, Cristina, Veronica, and William:  Muchisimas Gracias
- Bill (aka, Memo), Linda, Mavourneen, and Amira Marion

Susana, William, and Veronica at home, Santa Catarina

(This house, by the way, would be condemned if it were in any neighborhood in the U.S.  Water cascades into the lower level - where the kitchen and its woodburning stove and single-spigot sink are - everytime there's a hard rain. Upstairs lighting is a single flickering bulb connected to an extension cord and cobbled to the ceiling in the livingroom-bedroom that Susana shares with William and the girls. Other than the donated beds and a dresser, 3 or 4 battered plastic chairs, and the wooden dining table, there is no furniture. The stairs leading from the kitchen to the livingroom are steep, uneven, and treacherous with the only "railing" being the dangerously exposed rebar that juts out, just waiting to impale someone. I could go on, but I'm certain that you get the picture.  This family is in jeopardy, but together, along with Habitat Guatemala, we can change their lives.)  

This is not a particularly good photo, as Cristina, Veronica, Susana, and William pose on the path leading up to their casa, but it does inadvertently, show residual damage in the form of errant rocks still strewn about five years after Tropical Storm Agatha. The people who live up on this mountainside (because they can't afford to move) have much to fear with every torrential downpour....

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