Stories of Change

Jorge Luis, Leidy and their son Jorge David in their new home. Photo: Sean Hawkey

The Dream Leidy and Jorge Rebuilt

When Jorge Luis Sarmiento was a little boy, he was washed away by the large waves and debris that resulted from Hurricane Mitch. Five days after the disaster, Jorge was found seriously injured and totally deaf. Since then, Jorge has had to navigate the challenges that came from losing his hearing. His wife Leidy shared, “because he is deaf and nonverbal, sometimes it is very difficult for him to get a job. Currently, he works as a motorcycle taxi driver. There are days when we don’t have everything we need, but we thank God who provides us with the necessary means to survive. Little by little, we will move forward.” 

Despite the challenges that he has had to overcome, Jorge worked tirelessly throughout his life to achieve his dream of owning his own house and land on which he could grow his own food. Unfortunately, all he had worked for came crashing down on a dark day that brought him back to the horrendous week he experienced as a little boy.

Hurricanes Eta and Iota destroyed Jorge and Leidy’s home in Honduras in November 2020. “We lived peacefully, but with the hurricane, we lost everything we had,” said Leidy. Jorge and Leidy were among the 1,000 families in Honduras who lost their houses. “We were very sad. It cost us so much to own our house and in seconds everything fell down,” Leidy told us. 

The land where Leidy and Jorge lived was declared uninhabitable. It was harvest season, and all of their crops were lost in the hurricane. In that same area, 35 more families lost their homes. “Everyone nearby was family members. My mom, aunt, grandmother– everyone was left homeless,” said Jorge. Leidy remembers that Jorge cried when they had to leave their home. She recalls, “we were with my 20-day-old son. There was water running underneath the house and soon the water entered. The walls cracked, and the house was sinking. We were forced to leave. Then everything collapsed. All our belongings ended up on the street.”

Amongst the grief that the family felt after losing everything they owned, however, came a glimmer of hope. After a rapid needs assessment conducted by CWS local partners, Leidy and Jorge were identified as one of the 93 families in the area who were considered extremely vulnerable. Because of this, they were eligible to participate in CWS’ emergency response project in Honduras, which focused on three communities: Nuevo Celilac, Ceguaca and San Nicolás, all of which are in the in Santa Bárbara.department This project was led by CWS local partners Comisión de Acción Social Menonita and Proyecto Aldea Global.

The first phase of the project was carried out by the Mennonite Social Action Commission and included opening shelters for families, delivering food and hygiene kits and offering psychosocial support. In phase two, the focus shifted towards a major need in the community: rebuilding houses. This need was achieved through the Housing with Dignity project, with the funding of the Church of the Brethren, Latter-day Saint Charities and other individual donors.

Leidy and Jorge’s new house is being built on the land they were gifted by Jorge’s parents. It is already 90% complete and just needs windows and doors. Jorge actively participated in the construction of his home. He joined the workers and helped them with their daily tasks. “Sometimes, the workers would leave, but Jorge would continue building blocks because he was eager to see his house finished,” said Leidy. She told us that they dream of moving into their new house, starting a family business and working together to raise their son. While they eagerly await their new home, the couple is living in a rented house. Leidy said, “we thank God and everyone who is supporting us.”

By March 2022, the Mennonite Social Action Commission had already built 16 houses in the municipality of Nuevo Celilac. Proyecto Aldea Global built seven houses, two in the municipality of Ceguaca and five in the municipality of San Nicolás. So far, a total of 23 families (117 people) have participated. Currently, 70 new houses for 70 families (350 people) are being built.

Families like Jorge and Leidy now have water for personal hygiene, household cleaning and cooking. Before, many of these families did not have running water and had to travel long distances to obtain it. Now families can trust that they will have easy access to water and can build toilets that allow for cleaner and healthier homes. 

Following the construction of houses for the community, we will develop agricultural livelihood opportunities for the members of the community. These activities will include providing seeds, offering agricultural training sessions and teaching the community about building resilience. Our hope is to help families like the Sarmiento family rebuild their lives and be able to dream of a future in which their children do not have to fear the destruction a hurricane might bring.