Jessica’s Project

What is Jessica’s Project?

Jessica’s Project is the collaboration of a group of students from CU Denver to build a house for a family in rural Guatemala. After their trip this past May of 2012 to rural areas of Guatemala, they have teamed up with Habitat for Humanity to launch the start of a project to construct a house with all the basic necessities for Jessica’s family of four. Her family would never have dreamt of the possibility to improve their quality of life alone. We hope to change their reality and make their dreams come true.

Jessica’s Family with CU Denver students

Who is Jessica?

Jessica is a Guatemalan girl from San Lucas de Toliman who is 10 years old, and suffers from scoliosis. She needs special treatment and daily physical therapy to manage persistent pain. The family depends on free physical therapy at the Centro Pavarotti where the group of students stayed for a service – learning project. Sadly, her father died and her mother and two younger brothers are the remaining family in her life. Their economic situation cannot even support daily meals, and just a couple tortillas make it to the table each day. This leads to malnutrition, which causes more children to suffer from diseases in a town that hosts only one doctor for 11,000 residents of San Lucas Toliman. Their living condition is inhumane. Soil serves as a floor that becomes muddy daily during the raining season. High humidity during the day, coupled with no windows to ventilate the smoke produced by the wood burned for cooking, creates a public health hazard as the kids inhale dense air. The fragile shack is located in a red zone area where it is highly vulnerable to destruction by the forces of nature. There is no clean water available for hygiene, and no access to electricity. The possibilities for Jessica’s family to start a new life is nearly impossible without outside help. The conditions are worsening as the children’s immune systems are compromised through continued exposure to harsh living conditions. Jessica’s mother does not have a stable job. It is impossible to cook on the wood when it is humid, or to weave as she does not have any light in her house. Her last completed weave, which took her three months to make, was sold for 60 Quetzales, around 8 US$. The children sometimes help their mother sell fruit they find in the streets of San Lucas; they care deeply about their brothers and mother. Jessica’s family has worked extremely hard to remain together and to help each other. Even though Jessica’s mother was too shy to let the student group inside of her house, the opportunity to be an observer of such severe poverty was enough to take initiative to change the families living conditions. Habitat for Humanity is unable to help this family alone, since their poverty is too extreme. It is not possible for the family to make any payments to the organization. Thus, the only way to bring this family out of poverty is by donations.

How did this project begin?

Every afternoon, Jessica would receive physical therapy treatments at the Centro Pavarotti where the UC Denver students were volunteering as teachers in different areas such as Natural Sciences, Technology, English and Dance. Some students stayed during the afternoons to watch and participate in Jessica’s physical therapy treatments. Jessica’s family was always present, and soon the children and students developed deep bonds that went far beyond expressed words. Over the course of several weeks, Jessica’s courage, unconditional love, and hard work was fully present  every day of her treatment. A few days before leaving the center, Jessica came down with a fever and a throat infection that had already spread to her ears. The students took her to the hospital once they realized her mother did not have the financial means to buy Jessica medicine. Two students took Jessica to her house after a visit to the pharmacy. They immediately noticed that the house was not really a house, but rather pieces of metal and wood put together on soil and rocks. Seeing Jessica’s home deeply concerned the students, and they decided to inform everyone in the group of Jessica’s living situation. They decided to take a second look at the home. It was heartbreaking for everyone, especially after developing so much love for this family. After taking pictures, videos and interviewing the residents and people who are in contact with the family, the decision was made to build a house. Habitat for Humanity was contacted, and they will be in charge of managing the finances for the construction of the house.

Call to Action

Our goals are to create security and stability for the family in order to improve their lives and pursue better opportunities in life. Without the help of donations, this family will never be able to break away from poverty. Moreover, the project does not end at the construction of the house. Jessica’s mother will also receive education through Habitat for Humanity. She will actively participate in the construction of the house, and Habitat for Humanity will teach her how to start her own business with the resources that have been provided to her. She will then be able to generate income to achieve economic sustainability. A roof, clean water, and safe electrical services will be sufficient for this family to improve their capabilities and live a better life.

Jessica needs a home! 


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