Ten years ago, Maricela and her family of seven were struggling.
Work was hard to come by, and then she had a surgery that left the family stretched even thinner. Before long, they were evicted from the place they were living because they couldn’t afford the rent. The landlord removed their stuff and piled it on the street.
Maricela recalls how painful and scary that time was for her family. “It felt like every door was closing in our lives,” she says.
After petitioning the city government, they were given a small plot of land on the edge of town, in an area known as San Rafael. Back then, it was in an undeveloped piece of desert covered in cholla cactus, but it was theirs. It was a start.
They went to the city garbage dump and scrounged materials – cardboard, pieces of scrap wood, an old tarp – to build a basic shelter.
Soon, Maricela and her family started seeing groups coming into the area to build houses. Through neighbors, they learned about a new organization called 1MISSION and filled out an application to begin the process of earning a house. They earned their 200 hours by helping to build neighboring houses and by helping to clean and repair a local school. Their own house was completed in the spring of 2009.
“When our house was built, we couldn’t believe it,” Maricela says. “God answered our prayers.”
Maricela has been in her house for nine years now. Her husband, Crecencio, died of kidney cancer three years ago. Three of the kids have since moved out and are starting families of their own. She now lives with her sons Angel, 17, and Jesus, 14. She also loves visits from her grandkids who come to swing on the hammock in the front yard.
Even as family dynamics change, Maricela is committed to the ongoing work of making this house a home. “This house was made by hands with great love, so I take care of it,” she says.
A bright red wooden fence surrounds the property. There are potted plants outside the door and a big shade tree in the corner. The front wall of the house is decorated with metal butterflies and a porcelain sign she created by hand bearing the Spanglish message “Welcome a mi casa.”
Maricela used to sell her own handiworks as a small source of income, and for a period of time before Crecencio got sick, they owned and operated a taco stand.
These days Maricela has found a niche cleaning offices, houses, or “wherever I get called.” She started out in this line of work by helping a friend who had too much cleaning work to do by herself. But now she works on her own, generating new business by word of mouth. Her reputation for quality work speaks for itself; she remains very busy.
Before, Maricela and her family faced impossible choices: to pay the rent or to buy food. “Now, I don’t have to make that decision,” she says. Instead, since she owns her house debt free, she is able not only to provide for her family but also to save for the future. The house needed a new door, so she bought it. The neighborhood still doesn’t have running water, so she invested in a large water tank that sits out by the street. And she bought herself a small motorcycle to get herself to and from work efficiently and cheaply. Soon she will put down a tile floor in the house. Little by little, she says.
“Everything I do, I do with joy – and I do it for the Lord,” she says. “Because of Him, I have what I have and I am who I am.”
As we celebrate 10 years of stories like Maricela’s, we’re also laying the groundwork for what’s to come.
For just $10 a month, you can join the Supply Yard, a community of people dedicated to providing more than a house every month. 100% of your monthly gift goes to projects and programs in the field.
As always, 100% of your monthly gift goes directly to projects and programs in the field.