housing in GuatemalaGuatemala is a country rich with ancestral heritage and Indigenous peoples, but the poverty crisis has debilitated many of the citizens. Housing in Guatemala is undergoing a crisis, which has widened the housing gap to well over 1.8 million homes. With 54% of people living under the poverty line, housing access is a rarity. This also affects other major areas like sanitization, food security, finding jobs and accessing education. The main priorities of humanitarian organizations in Guatemala are housing, education and health care.

Bill McGahan

Bill McGahan is an Atlanta resident and involved community serviceman. McGahan is also the leader of an annual mission trip that takes high school students to create housing in Guatemala. The long-term commitment to building housing has also highlighted other areas of need. On the trips, students work alongside From Houses to Homes. The student volunteers spend their time holistically addressing the needs of Guatemalans, including health and education.


Housing in Guatemala is the essential building block to finding permanence and stability. Many Guatemalans live in inadequate housing, are homeless or depend on makeshift shelters built from gathered materials. Housing lessens the risk of diseases from fecal contamination, improves sanitation, strengthens physical security and provides warmth in winter months. These benefits are imperative to stabilizing external conditions and lessening poverty’s effects.

The mission trips each year incorporate the students from the very start of housing to the finishing touches. Each year the participants first raise the funds for building materials. Then the volunteers construct a house in as little as five days. At the end of the building projects, keys are handed to each family, which reflects a new reality for them. In this way, these students “don’t just build houses, they provide a home.”


A home is so much more than four walls and a roof. It is the place to help grow and nurture individuals, including a safe space for learning. Children in Guatemala face constant challenges to their education. The average Guatemalan education lasts only 3.5 years, 1.8 years for girls. Nine out of 10 schools have no books. Accordingly, the literacy rate in rural Guatemala is around 25%. Education is an investment in breaking a pattern of poverty, which is an opportunity not afforded to many Guatemalan children.

Children pulled out of school work as child laborers in agriculture. This provides short-term benefits to families in terms of income but has a high cost in the future when finding work. Contributions to local schools have long-term paybacks for children and their families. Children can further their education, secure future employment and create stable homes for themselves and future generations.

Health Care

Housing in Guatemala is relevant to health as well. The goal is to solve homelessness by providing homes, not hospital beds. Access to quality health care is imperative to providing housing stability. Guatemala needs to improve its health services in order to solve its housing issue, especially since they lack effective basic health care.

Clinical care for Guatemalans is often inaccessible, particularly in rural areas with limited technology. With approximately 0.93 physicians per 1,000 people, there are extreme limitations for medical professionals to see patients. Even in getting basic nutrition training or vaccinations, Guatemalans are severely lacking necessary access. Basic health care is a priority that will be a long-term struggle, but each advancement will create higher levels of care and access for the many Guatemalans in need.

Guatemala is readjusting its approach to finding better access to housing, health care and education, all of which are important for a home. Humanitarians, like Bill McGahan, are finding solutions and implementing institutions that will uplift Guatemalans. Increased housing in Guatemala has been encouraging stability, prosperity and new outlooks on life. The country is seeing great progress in eliminating poverty, one home at a time.

Eva Pound
Photo: Flickr

bolvia poverty
There’s an estimated 10,500,000 people living in Bolivia. Fifty-three percent of them live in poverty. Bolivia has a lower gross national than its other South American counterparts due to issues with sustainability. Located in Cochabamba, Bolivia, Sustainable Bolivia works with 36 local organizations to improve environmental and economic sustainability.

Its primary goal is to secure human and financial capital for organizations in Bolivia to thrive and give back to the surrounding community.

Sustainable Bolivia also allows students and professionals to volunteer, intern and learn Spanish or Quechua, a commonly spoken indigenous language in the Americas. All proceeds earned from Sustainable Bolivia’s language schools go toward projects benefiting the community.

Sustainable Bolivia’s extensive volunteer and internship program allows people from around the world to travel to Bolivia and participate in community enhancement projects. Its mini-grant program provides funding to volunteers and interns — usually an average of $75 per month — to fund projects or purchase necessities for their chosen organizations.

Another major program started by Sustainable Bolivia is its scholarship program. Qualified Bolivians, who would otherwise not be able to earn an education, may receive the necessary funds to attend university based on financial need and academic achievements.

Some of the local organizations Sustainable Bolivia works with comprise of Alerta Verde, which works to increase environmental conservation, Bolivia Digna, an education-based organization using education to help children and youths in underserved communities and Mano a Mano, which builds schools and health clinics in marginalized communities.

In addition to these projects and partnerships, Sustainable Bolivia also features multiple residency programs, a film project and an organic garden. The aims of the residency programs are to improve the local art scene by celebrating culture in Bolivia and to provide dedicated artists with a studio to work in.

The film project documents the efforts created by Sustainable Bolivia and its partner organizations to promote fundraising and raise awareness for pressing issues in Cochabamba. Lastly, the organic garden serves the purpose of promoting environmental sustainability and cultivating and consuming food in a healthier way.

Sustainable Bolivia has improved the lives of many since its inception. In testimonials from Sustainable Bolivia volunteers and interns and Bolivians directly impacted by the project, Sustainable Bolivia has been described as a “wonderful volunteer community” and a “great resource” for the local Bolivian community of Cochabamba.

Julia Hettiger

Sources: Sustainable Bolivia, Idealist,, Matador Network
Photo: World Vision

Bankers without Borders
Bankers without Borders started with 100 volunteers but, in the past five years, has grown to include 16,000 business professionals, academics and students coming from over 170 countries, working to increase the impact and sustainability of poverty reduction projects. So far, BwB has used its consulting and coaching to help more than 1,000 projects in 38 countries.

BwB was founded in 2008 by the Grameen Foundation, the original banking organization working through microfinance. Its motive for creating BwB was to expand its services to gain coverage in areas not originally reached by Grameen Bank.

The company reaches out by partnering with other organizations, including nonprofits, Fortune 500 companies or poverty-focused social enterprises. The experts work for free, and the Grameen Foundation likes to refer to them as “Skillanthropists;” rather than donating money, the workers are donating their skills, time and knowledge.

The volunteers’ involvement ranges from sparing a few hours a week at the comfort of their desks at work or home, to living and working in the field for weeks or months at a time. The wide range of skills and commitment BwB requires makes it possible for many people of different skill sets to make an impact through the company.

BwB’s volunteers are involved in a wide variety of fields. These include financial consultants, legal professionals, translators, researchers, a marketing staff and even a Human Resource Reserve Corps to address human capital related issues for nonprofit partners abroad.

From an economic standpoint, BwB continues to prove useful. For every dollar spent creating a BwB project, an average of $10 in skill and time has been donated by its pro bono staff, adding up to over $10 million worth of skilled work.

The volunteers work not to create temporary relief for recipients, but rather to implement a sustainable solution for clients to have successful, profit-making businesses.

BwB has formed many useful partnerships over its five years of operation, notably with J.P. Morgan, Mastercard, Google, Bloomberg, John Hopkins University and the Washington Center. As of August 5, BwB has added Wells Fargo to its arsenal of partnership companies, as well.

From the quickly-expanding volunteer base to the quantitative economic data to the qualitative success stories shared on BwB’s website, it is clear that the Grameen Foundation’s extended project has proven successful.

– Courtney Prentice

Sources: Triple Pundit, Bankers Without Borders, Grameen Foundation, Grameen-Jameel
Photo: HW Production

borgen project reviews
Thousands of people have volunteered or interned at The Borgen Project. Below are Borgen Project reviews and quotes from those who’ve volunteered or interned at the organization. If you’d like to get better insight into what it’s like volunteering or interning and would like to talk with someone in your area who volunteers at The Borgen Project, please contact [email protected].


“Cutting edge, hip, non-partisan and a cause that is noble.”- Bill Childers, Charleston, SC

“The Borgen Project has the power to help the most people.” – A. L. Loy Fort Collins, CO

“The Borgen Project has a very clear mission and has a very realistic, solid plan for achieving its goals. It is well organized, well respected.” – Jessica Muller-Pearson, New Orleans, LA

“I have volunteered for organizations and food kitchens that help a handful of people or a specific family. This is great, however, I wanted to have a bigger impact and affect more people. That is what drew me to The Borgen Project: by influencing political leaders, we can help millions more people than would of been possible at the organizations I have previously worked with.” – Amelia Merritt, Mercer Island, WA

“The Borgen Project is the voice for the world’s voiceless.” Adrienne Ostrove, Albany, NY

“Most organizations focus on raising money to bring clean water and improve sanitation/living conditions, which is amazing, but The Borgen Project focuses on policy – which is where real changes can be made.” – Kayla Ring, Poway, CA

“I was interested in the advocacy aspect of The Borgen Project. Many non-profits seem to circumvent the political process when dealing with international aid and development, and I was impressed and intrigued with how The Borgen Project works through the political channels by lobbying Congressional leaders and staff, as well as engaging and mobilizing the greater population to do more to end global poverty.” – Cailyn Torpie, Seattle, WA

“For me, The Borgen Project is the gateway to the end of global poverty.” – Patricia Ashe, Birmingham, AL

“The Borgen Project is people who care about ending global poverty bringing it to the attention of the people in power.” – Sonya Servine, Seattle, WA



It is no secret that human beings require food, water and shelter to survive. Though many organizations focus on providing food and water for those in need, Habitat for Humanity International provides shelter.

Founded in 1976 with an emphasis on natural disasters, war and civil unrest, Habitat for Humanity International helps to build and rebuild damaged or destroyed infrastructure from natural or manmade events. It is funded through volunteer labor and donations.

The organization has more than 1,500 affiliates in the U.S. and over 70 national outlets worldwide. Habitat for Humanity has constructed houses in six continents, and its main headquarters is in Atlanta, Georgia.

Apart from constructing houses with a focus on sustainable living, Habitat for Humanity is involved in microfinance and disaster response. It also recognizes and reaches out to vulnerable groups, including those with disabilities.

Its Board of Directors consists of American philanthropists and investors, as well as leaders from Egypt, Kenya, Indonesia and El Salvador.

According to Habitat for Humanity International, there are roughly two billion people worldwide who inhabit slum housing.

A key component to the organization’s success is its ability to work with governments. A combination of cooperation with legislators and housing regulators, advocacy, the monitoring of public policies and the use of government funds applicable to Habitat’s ideology assures its success.

Habitat for Humanity builds homes that are “simple, decent and affordable to low-income families around the world.” In fact, homeowners’ monthly mortgage payments are used to assist with the building of new houses.

In conjunction with South Africa’s Mandela Day, Habitat for Humanity and the Nelson Mandela Foundation, pledged to build 67 homes in one week. The organization regularly collaborates with organizations worldwide on housing projects.

With an expanding world population, the need for housing will continue to grow. With a proven track record of success, Habitat for Humanity will most likely continue to be one of the leading house building organizations in the world.

– Ethan Safran

Sources: Habitat for Humanity, The New Age
Photo: Missouri State University