We Lived Under Cardboard

Meet 8-Year-Old Carmelita

Carmelita  lives in the state of Tamaulipas, Mexico. Until a few months ago, her biggest fear was rain.

When her family arrived in Tamaulipas, they obtained a piece of land. It had no electricity, no water, and not home built upon it. The family quickly set about building a shelter for themselves. Without enough money to pay for proper construction, the family built their new home with tarpaulins to protect themselves from the weather.

This fragile structure offered some protection from the rain, but was not at all suitable for preventing flooding or keeping in heat at night.

“Before, we lived under cardboard and we got wet all night, and sometimes I was afraid of thunder because it was very close.” – Carmelite

With perseverance, the family saved a little more money to transform their tarpaulin home into a slightly better structure. This time, they used large cardboard sheets and wood. This made the house a little more effective at protecting them all from the rain and cold, but it was still not sufficient to keep the family safe. To stop the floor from flooding, they would often places bowls on the floor to catch the leaks that trickled down from the roof. Worse still, the family found themselves constantly battling to keep mosquitos from entering their house.


A Leaking Roof

During the time that Carmelita lived under cardboard, she and her brother Emanuel often became sick. The constant humidity, leaking roof and muddy floors were no place for children to live. Things were further complicated by Emanuel’s special needs, and hospital appointments for surgery on his feet. Getting him out of the house and past the muddy paths and street were impossible.

“My brother is like us,” Carmelita told us. “He can’t talk and other things, but my brother does understand.”

She also went on to tell us that she firmly believes her brother has a goal in this life. She knows that her brother is special and tries to reassure her mother, Carmen, that she will always be there to take care of him.

Carmelita and Emanuel’s mother, Carmen, would often worry about her children’s health when the storms would come and the rain would break through the roof. She recalls one night when the roof began to leak.

“I saw that Emanuel laughed in the night,” Carmen says. “And I said, ‘What is Emanuel laughing at?’ Well, he was very wet, all wet from head to toe, and he laughing because he thought that… Well, it was like a game.”

But Carmen knew the leaking roof was not a game. No matter how much Emanuel tried to imagine that it was, she was desperate to see her children in a decent home where they would be dry and safe.


A New Home for the Family

Habitat for Humanity Mexico identified Carmelita’s family as being in need of a new home. For the family, a suitable home would be one with electricity, water, a toilet, and decent walls and a roof that did not leak.

After assessing the families needs, a new home was constructed consisting of all of these things. They are happy to have a safe home where the floor does not get muddy, and there are windows that can ventilate the home and be locked to keep out mosquitos. The family also have enough space to give each of them their necessary space for privacy.

Now that the family have a safe home, Carmen no longer needs to worry about constantly trying to make repairs to keep her children safe. Carmelita and Emanuel can now sleep without the fear of rain.

Carmelita new home mexico


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