Building homes in Guatemala
Manawa police chief, family take mission trip
By Holly Neumann
Manawa Police Chief Jason Severson, along with his wife Lisa, son Sean and other family and friends, recently traveled on a mission trip to Antigua, Guatemala, to build a home through the From Houses to Homes organization.
The homes are built in villages surrounding Antigua, based on where the need is greatest at the time.
“We usually go every other year,” Severson said. “I have gone seven times and Lisa has gone about 10 times.”
The group usually travels to Guatemala on Friday or Saturday.
“We site see and shop during the weekend,” Severson said. “Monday through Friday, we build a house for a family in need.”
On Thursday, they visit the school that FHTH owns and runs.
“Lisa sponsors a second-grader,” Severson said. “We got to meet him this year and she gave him some books that were in both English and Spanish. He was excited and read both books in English very well.”
On Friday, the home is finished and dedicated to the recipient family.
The families often help build these 13-foot-by-19-foot homes that are made out of cement blocks, with a metal roof, metal door and one window. The cost of building a home $3,000 and it is life-changing for the families that receive them.
“Most families previously lived in homes made of cornstalks, metal, or cardboard with dirt floors,” Severson said. “Guatemala has a rainy season and the families get wet and cold living in these makeshift homes. FHTH has a social worker who visits these families to see who is in need of a safe home.”
They take soccer balls and toys with them to play with the children on breaks during the build.
“For as poor as most of the families are, the kids make the best of it and are always playing and having a good time,” Severson said. “It is fun to interact and play with them during the build. They even jump in and are eager to help.”
He said the experience is rewarding and gave him a sense of pride watching his Sean experience his first mission trip.
“It’s rewarding to know another family is living a much better life than they had previously,” he said. “There is a sense of pride to see our son make his first trip and watch him help people and play with the local kids.”
Some of the money for the build also supports the school FHTH owns.
“The residents who are given a home also get access to the school, which provides the children a chance at a brighter future,” Severson said. “The kids learn English and skills to better their chances of a financially secure future.”
The kindness of a stranger is what surprised Severson the most during this trip.
“A lady at the Appleton airport heard what we were going to do and she donated $100 towards the bunk beds for the kids,” he said.
Guatemala is a beautiful country, according to Severson.
“There are 23 volcanoes in Guatemala,” he said. “Most homes that we have stayed at have roof seating. We love to sit up there and watch the nearby active volcano erupt at night and lava flow. During the day, you can see it puff ash.”
Visit www.fromhousestohomes.org to learn more about From Houses to Homes or to donate time or money to the organization.