Building a House in Guatemala: The Gift of a Home

Jokichi Matsubara travels to Guatemala to help build homes for families. He learns what it’s like to build a home from the ground up while interacting with the locals. Read more from this talented young journalist about his experience on GoNOMAD.

"The beginning of the house." Photo by Jokichi Matsubara.

Editor’s Note: Fifteen-year old Jokichi is a boy from Seattle who traveled to Guatemala to volunteer. We applaud his choice of this kind of endeavor at such a young age…a future GoNOMAD Traveler at heart.

For a country with one of the highest poverty rates in Latin America, the gift of a house in Guatemala can be life changing. Many of the impoverished people of the rural countryside in Guatemala don’t have much money, and much of their basic necessities are lacking. The act of building a small house out of brick, which costs about 1,700 US dollars to build, can affect a family’s quality of life immensely.

I went to Guatemala in the summer of 2008, the trip was a gift from my grandparents to my cousin and I. We worked with an organization called From House to Homes, started by a man named Joe Collins. We we joined a group of volunteers to build a house for a Guatemalan family.

After arriving in Guatemala City, my grandparents, cousin, and I boarded the van set for Antigua. The sticky hot air of Guatemala instantly left my cheeks as the AC turned on. As the airport lay behind us, I became aware of my surroundings right outside my window. The cheap stalls in the overpacked city, did not distinguish themselves from the dirty buildings in disrepair.

Flocks of people crowded the small sidewalks, dodging the rain under the blue and black tarps of roadside vendors. Soon we reached the outskirts of the city, and more of the lively forests showed.

The lush green valleys were amazing and even better than any picture you could see. There were plants of every type, from the small vines hanging down from the boulders beside the road, to the massive trees overhanging the hills providing us shade on our winding roads. Before long however, we arrived in Antigua.

The city was like a confusing chessboard with bumpy cobblestones lining every road. The grid like streets were easy to navigate and soon became familiar as the days moved on. We came up to the hotel and checked in. The courtyard, with its old overgrown stone walls which we soon found out to be beautiful in the morning, was spooky, and confusing in the night. The next morning was a Saturday and we did various sorts of activities like hiking and touring the city. The weekend was a blast but by Monday we were ready to get to work.

Building a House in Guatemala: The Gift of a Home