Sandra Kennedy is a Freelance Travel Writer & Photographer based in Oregon. She is a member of the North American Travel Journalists Association and has contributed to many international and national publications. She specializes in South American travel, and came up with this article about three years ago.
San Miguel is a famous town for its many fine restaurants, art galleries, and shops. Nevertheless, just a few miles away, Mexican families live in extreme poverty. Most are single mothers with their children, struggling to survive.
In 2001, expatriates looking to “change the destiny of poverty,” decided to found Casita Linda. Since then, 60 families have found hope, warmth, and security in their new and brightly painted homes.
How the Casita Linda Organization Works
Casita Linda partnered with the Rhode Island School of Design in 2008 to design and build a more environmentally sound and energy-efficient house. Initially, houses had a barrel-roof design, but now a flat roof design provides more space in the loft area and is faster to build.
Casita Linda employs two teams, one of four and one of five. They are well-paid Mexican construction workers, including two maestros or supervisors, a social worker, an outreach worker, two accountants, local and international volunteers, as well as members of the recipient family. Two houses are built each month.
Casita Linda outright gives the houses to impoverished Mexican families. They are too poor to obtain loans and have no way to repay them. Each family must provide the land, but this is generally not a hindrance.
After the Mexican revolution, in the early 20th century, haciendas were broken up into plots of land called “ejidos.” The land has passed from generation to generation, however families never could afford to build a house on what it had inherited. Now, the family has the land, and Casita Linda builds a home on it.
Each family must be actively looking for work. They are expected to help with the building of their home, as well as those being constructed for neighbors before and afterwards, as much as possible. Their children must go to school. No alcohol, violence, or drugs are permitted.
Casita Linda chooses families greatest in need. The families are interviewed and selected by a team of volunteers, a social worker, and the board of directors. A construction timetable is then chosen. Volunteers are selected and local materials are purchased.
One of the workers, a grandfather, age 86, said, “I am building my house and I feel like 18 years old. I say prayers of thanks every night to Americans for our new home.”
$7000 to $8500 is the approximate cost to build a home, including tax and labor. The size of each home ranges from a modest 380 to 500 square feet, depending upon the size of family. Houses accommodate up to eleven family members.
In order to pay for the houses, Casita Linda receives donations, grants, and sponsors annual fundraising events. Not until 2012 did Casita Linda finally received federal, state, and local monies through their Green Fund.
Volunteers are welcome, whether to assist with construction, social services, fund raising, or public relations.
One volunteer account refers to the “Fabulous Fargo Women.” Each year, after fundraising, they return with $3,000 to $4,000. People share the story of a 13-year old boy who raised $30,000 by climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro.
If you are interested in learning more about volunteering or donating to the worthy cause, contact Casita Linda through their website: casitalinda.org.