Building Josefa's Home

Josefa started this project by herself. Dressed in her skirt and flip flops, she knelt in the dirt to dig that very first hole. When I asked her what she was doing, she wiped the sweat away from her forehead and told me she was digging the foundation of her house. 

Josefa and her family were renting a home in La Sabana, a nearby village. Her husband was in an accident a few months prior and was no longer able to work. Their land lords started asking for their house back, and the family could no longer afford to rent a different home.  Josefa’s sister, Candida, told her to come to Pueblo Nuevo, where she could build a home on their family’s land.

Very soon after, she came to the village, ready to build her family a home in whatever way possible. Early that morning, she picked up the shovel and began.

That was the only time I saw Josefa in that space by herself. Over the course of the day, she was joined by many others – members of Pueblo Nuevo who stopped what they were doing to lend a helping hand. First, it was a couple of her family members from the village. Then, there were many more – both men and women, many of whom were not related to Josefa at all. Even one of her friends from La Sabana came into the village to help. Every time I walked past this space, more people had gathered - new faces each time. Josefa was there every step of the way, whether digging the foundation, penciling in measurements, or hammering nails.

The community came together to welcome Josefa, with both words and actions. Knowing that she and her family did not have the resources to buy materials, they decided to take down an old corral to use the wood for beams. They went with Josefa to the mayor, explaining her situation and advocating for support - the mayor decided to donate the zinc for the roof. Friends lent their tools such as shovels, hammers, and a ladder. With all this support and motivation from the community, all that was left for our foundation to do was fill in some gaps – starting with the wood for the walls of the house.

This project was entirely community led. It started with Josefa’s resilience and determination, it was sparked by the compassion and drive of a few community members, and it spread to engage the hearts and hands of so many others. Very soon, Josefa will move into her newly built home!


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Anna Balakrishnan