They are my family..

Luis C. has created a project for men who have experienced exclusion and addiction. Recognising that there was nowhere for them to go when they left rehabilitation centres, he rented a house to welcome them and help them to move on.

I started by consulting people who lived and worked in the street, and visiting rehab centres. I thought it was important to find a place in Guatemala City, the capital, where mistrust of them is so strong. At the moment, I have four people and since the start, 12 men have passed through, most of them between 18 and 35 years old.

They can stay as long as they like, there is no predetermined length of time. Living as a community, we all share the cooking and the cleaning, and each person does their laundry.  Each person moves forward at his own pace in this communal life. We learn to live together and to create a fraternal atmosphere, and if there are any conflicts, we talk and resolve them.

When they arrive at the house, each person writes a sort of plan to get his life back on track and reconnect with the positive experiences of their life. We base our approach on the principle of freedom/responsibility. At weekends, they pick up again the studies that they had dropped out of. We found sponsors to provide financial support and some work to cover daily expenses and

household costs. In order that that they could learn new things, like cooking for example, we found short courses and volunteering opportunities in local associations.

When we have difficulties finding the money for the rent, we look together for a solution. If anyone can’t contribute financially, he contributes through work, so in effect everyone has something to contribute.

I’m in favour of financial independence for the project, as I don’t want others to set objectives for us or demand results which are not always possible to measure or to obtain immediately. We therefore have to be more creative. Recently, we have opened a shop in which we sell clothes, shoes and second-hand furniture, and created a vegetable garden where we grow onions, peppers, chilli, celery, coriander and garlic.

Amongst those who have lived in the house, some have managed to move on very successfully. I have learnt that no one can live someone else's life for them.

Understanding other people’s lives has made me more human, more sensitive and, curiously, stronger. This has made me be interested in these people who I used to mistrust and who today are my family.”