Meanwhile in Baja California, Mexico…

For the past 5 years my husband and I were a part of an organization that took high school and college students to Baja California, Mexico, to build homes. The homes that we helped to build, were for people who owned their own land but were unable to build or pay for a home to be built. All of the families that we helped were hardworking field workers who spent all day striving to feed the kids and get on to the next day in one piece.

For the next few weeks the team we were apart of is making the long journey and giving all they have physically and emotionally to build a house that someone can make into a home.

Although we have moved on from the work that we did with that organization, we still like to brag about our friends and the awesome things that they do. I hope they inspire you as much as they inspire me.

Below is a post from a trip in 2012:

The Humanitarian Experience: How the students of Grant High are changing the world 

Mexico 2012

Mexico 2012

All this week I have been without my wonderful husband, but for a good reason. He is on a humanitarian trip this week, building a home in Mexico.  I recently wrote about a group of inner-city high school students that were giving up their spring break to go on this very trip and would like to give an update of what they have encountered so far. The location that they are staying has pretty sketchy internet but I have received a few messages and want to share the details of the trip.

Below you will find a picture of the family, that the students are building the house for. When the team arrived they found that the small 3 person family was living in a tent structure. The mother’s name is Lluvio, she is 23 years old. Her daughter is 4 years old and named Milagros. Her son is Miguel and he is 5 years old.

The Gaxiola Familia

23 years old, 2 kids living in a tent and no father in sight. Their story doesn’t end there. Both children are special needs kids. As with all special needs children much care and time has to be provided, and I am sure that living in a tent does not make this easy. I am 24 and I cannot even imagine being able to survive like this.  I know that these circumstances are found everywhere in the world but looking at this picture bring it all into perspective. She is so young and has more battles to overcome than I will ever have to overcome. And yet as I look at the picture above I see her young face, bright and hopeful.

Milagros was born prematurely, and because of  this she is now nearly blind and has severe leg problems. Miguel suffers from mental deficiencies, it is unknown what the exact diagnosis is, but he has not developed mentally as a typical child would.

On average when Lluvio can find work, which at this moment is picking strawberries, she makes around 240 pesos a week. Converting that to American dollars that averages to about $20 dollars a week. This family definitely has the odds against them. Her ability to provide for her children is being stretched and to give them adequate housing as they grow would have been out of reach.

Yesterday, the last nails were nailed and the small structure that the team had been diligently worked on became a home. It is a simple home, that many of us would call a shed here in the 1st world, but in the small town on the San Quintin bay of Mexico, it is a life changing home. The picture below is of a past home that we have helped build, they are all the same physically but what makes them unique is the people who fund them, the people who build them and the people who live in and make memories in them.

I am so proud of the students that gave up their spring break. They and their classmates sold shirts and raised money to go and build this home and because of all their hard work life has become so much better for the Lluvio and her children.

No longer will they have to sleep on the ground, no longer will they have to be crammed in a small tent. No longer will they have to be tormented by the wind and dust. They can focus on being a family, and Lluvio can now have a safe place to care for and raise her children in.

Thank you, Grant High School students for making this world that much better, you bring tears to my eyes and give me hope in my heart for a better tomorrow.

My previous post about these amazing students can be found below:

Meanwhile in Inner-City America…

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Meanwhile in East Africa…

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I hear the stories of the people who surround me. I hear their stories and they sound like the stories of a Hollywood drama. And to be honest, Hollywood has heard the stories and made a movie to represent it. The movie “Black Hawk Down” may have an ending with credits, but the tragedies of Somalia have not completely ended. The credits have not yet rolled.

The violence that affects the Somali people continues to throb like a smashed finger hours after the hit.

The other day, as I sipped comforting and warming Somali tea on my friends couch, browsed through her family photos and shared stories of love, I heard a bang on her front door. She ignored it to continue to host me but yet the knocking continued. Finally she rose to receive the unforeseen guest. I could hear rapid Somali being spoken and as she re-entered the room she shook her head and sighed.

She explained that the young woman whom she rented a room to, was about to receive news that her cousin was brutally shot down in an attempt to flee the violence in her small village. The young woman’s cousin who passed that evening was killed in the cross-fire, she was collateral damage to some else’s fight.

These are moments that remind me of the true human state. I cannot resolve issues such as the sociopolitical issue that lead to the death of a young woman in a small village, but I can listen and do what I would do for my own family, give love. The rest of the afternoon, I listened to my friend reveal her own fears. For the price of a cup of tea, I was a cheap therapist that day.

The Humanitarian Experience: Once upon a Time a beautiful princess married her prince

Once upon a time a beautiful princess married her prince.

One of my first real acts of volunteerism, that I can truly say I devoted myself wholeheartedly to, was volunteering with the elderly. I remember the summer day that my mom signed me up to volunteer at the old convalescent home.  I can clearly remember the halls of the home, the smell and the light. There were hollers and crying, laughing and smiling, random handshakes and stone faces.

After a quick tour of the home I was introduced to the friendliest residents. The ones who swung open their small room doors with a smile and a hug ready and on occasion even a kiss. One of the very first residents I met was a small and squeaky woman. Her room was decked out in doilies and every nail on her hand was manicured to perfection. I cannot remember her name but I will never forget her story.

On the wall there was a classic 1940’s picture of a woman with a long white lace dress that was fit for a princess. The princess was standing tall next to a man with a well-tailored suit. She sat still in her chair and smiled at me as I gazed at her photo. Not knowing what to say to her I looked at the picture for a while and asked, “Is this you?”

“Oh yes, it is!” Her eyes lit and she clasped her hands. “That is my husband and that is the day we got married”.  She started to tell me about how in love they were and how the times were much different back then. She would giggle every so often and not tell me why. She must have been remembering some moment in time that could never be forgotten.  After she told me all about her serious looking husband she went on to show me her doilies.

A week later I was back, and I made a bee-line through the hallway to her room. I looked in the door and there she was sitting exactly where she was the previous week, looking out towards the door. I gently knocked and was eagerly greeted to sit. As I got comfortable she looked at the wedding photograph which hung next to the door. This time I mentioned how beautiful the lace dress was. Immediately she began to tell me her story. And as I listened, I realized it was the same exact story as the week before, filled with the same unexplained giggles. It was then that I realized that she had no idea who I was.

I sat there for an hour every week during the summer of 2001 and listened to her story of love and life. I began to prompt the story of her wedding every time I visited, because I could see the delight that it brought to her to share. It must have been Alzheimer’s that she suffered from in those days of her life. Like a thief in the night it came and stole my friend from me. As the summer came to an end and school was about to start-up again I was unsure as how to say goodbye. It is hard to say goodbye to someone who does not remember you, as it is hard to not over step your boundaries. I gave her a quick hug and nervously left that summer afternoon.

About a year later I returned and nervously walked down the hall to her room. When I got to the door there was no one there to greet me. I looked in and all the doilies were gone and no picture hung next to the door. As I think back, to how she was always staring out the door, I realize that she was probably staring at the picture of her wedding day. Constantly, reminding her self of a moment that was not to be overcome by old age. I like to think that she is with her prince charming of a husband.