I always say when I travel down to Guatemala that I want to do work.  I don’t speak Spanish very well, so I have thought the best way I could help would be to pick up my shovel and carry the load, literally.  This trip down certainly filled my sore muscle void and a little more.

this is how you mix concrete here

If you have never seen the hills that Barrio la Cruz occupies, then it is hard to have a standard picture in your head.  There are very few houses that can be found on those hillsides, but there are plenty of homes.  Most houses are makeshift construction of bamboo, and corrugated sheet metal (if you can afford it).  The floors are usually dirt that has been hardened and flattened by the barefoot children and hard working parents that rise to the sound of the free roaming roosters each morning.  The house we were looking at that morning was no exception.

Looking at their open fire stove

Flor in the kitchen

I have to admit that I have never really worked with concrete, but I had seen it done in the states many times.  I had a hard time picturing how I would get a cement mixing trailer or a set of barrels and buckets up the side of the mountain to “properly” mix the components into the correct proportions for making a solid concrete floor.  No cement mixer, no barrels, one bucket, and three people to carry twelve 65 lb bags ¼ mile up the side of the hill.  That quarter mile started to look more like 5 miles, and the hill felt a lot more like a mountain with one of those bags across my shoulders.  We carried all the bags up to the home and where the kids, none older than 14 years, had accumulated all the sand, and rocks that were going into the mix.

the children gathering sand for the mix

Marco, such a hard worker

All of the family’s worldly possessions were piled between the makeshift kitchen and the open latrine that is their bathroom.  We mixed all of the concrete on the open area in front of the house, and the kids carried the mixed concrete into the house with the same plastic bowls they had eaten from that morning.  Before long all of the concrete was in the house, and starting to dry.  The chickens were more than happy to walk around to test out the wet concrete and make their mark.

The dad, Marco, provided most of the know-how, and more than his share of the manual labor.  He usually has to go away to find work, keeping him away from his family for varying periods of time.  The mom, Yolanda, not only made a meal for all of us both days, but also went step for step with me carrying the concrete bags up the side of the hill.  That would be much less amazing if she were not half my size, or she actually wore shoes while she was doing it.  The things that families in Barrio la Cruz deal with on a daily basis pale anything most of us have ever experienced even during our most financially or physically trying times.

Making the floor only took us two days, but it was clear by the looks on their faces that it had made a huge difference to their family.  I was so thankful that we were able to help them, and I truly hope that their life and their family are healthier, safer and more enjoyable because of what God allowed us to do that week.  Perhaps there will be another week and another floor somewhere in our future.