Volunteers for the non-profit organization Casita Linda con­struct an adobe brick house in Guanajuato, Mexico. (Courtesy of casitalinda.org)
Volunteers for the non-profit organization Casita Linda con­struct an adobe brick house in Guanajuato, Mexico. (Courtesy of casitalinda.org)
Friday February 18, 2011

BRATTLEBORO -- The Brattleboro Rotary raised more than $9,000 with their International Film & Food Festival in November, which is enough to completely fund the construction of an adobe house for a needy family in Guanajuato, Mexico.

The money generated from ticket sales and advertising totaled more than $8,000, and a $968 grant from Rotary International put the grand total at $9,196. This means the Rotary can pay for the solar collectors and the water pump for this particular house in addition to the construction costs.

Jeremy Coleman, chairman of the Brattleboro Rotary's International Committee, has traveled four times to the Guanajuato region, and for the first time this April, he will go back with local volunteers to help build a Casita Linda house.

Casita Linda, which means "pretty little house," is a Mexican non-profit organization founded in 2001. It organizes volunteers who build adobe brick homes for families who are among the poorest of the poor in San Miguel de Allende and the surrounding areas in the state of Guanajuato.

Two local volunteers have already signed up to travel to Mexico with Coleman, but he said he could always use more helping hands. The entire process of building one home takes about one month, he said, and the group is leaving the second or third week in April. The volunteers stay for a week in Mexico.

"The more people we can get the better," he said.

Most of the Mexican families who are selected for assistance have been living in make-shift shelters for years, Coleman said.

According to the organization's website, www.casitalinda.org, many of Mexico's poorest families own a small piece of land as a result of the ejido reforms of the 20th century.

"But there may be little on that land that can be called a house," the website states. "For these families, exposure to rain and cold is a fact of life."

In 1999, San Miguel de Allende had a particularly tough winter, and there were several deaths in the countryside from lack of shelter. San Miguel resident Jeffrey Brown -- who had once worked as a stonemason -- started brainstorming with his builder friends, secured a small donation, and started the nonprofit, the website states.

Today, Casita Linda has built homes for more than 40 families. The houses can be built at very low cost because of the abundant availability of adobe, explained Coleman.

The entire house will be constructed from the all-natural material, except for the wooden lofts inside.

Martin Cohn, a Rotary member who helped organize the film festival, said he was inspired by Casita Linda's slogan, "Building hope one house a time."

"People hear that, and immediately they get what it's all about," he said.

Cohn, with other members of the Rotary, picked out the six Mexican films that were screened at the festival.

The original plan was for Windham Regional Career Center students to travel to Mexico to help build the house.

"For the kids, this was going to be an opportunity for them to take what they have been learning at the career center and do it down there," Cohn said.

Unfortunately, according to Cohn, that final piece of the puzzle didn't fall into place due to funding issues.

"The career center is committed to trying again next year, when they can start fundraising more in advance," said Coleman.

For now, Coleman and Cohn said they are happy that they can contribute to Casita Linda this year; Cohn said the Rotary members are excited to see photographs and video footage, which Coleman plans to take of the house's progress.

"At the end of it, we can look at this house and say, ‘this was 100 percent paid for by the work that was done here," Coleman said.

Those interested in finding out more about the project may contact Coleman directly at 802-384-0103.

Jaime Cone can be reached at jcone@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 277.