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.

Gallery

The Humanitarian Experience: Fitting into the Somali Culture

The WORTHY - Worldy Possessions

 

Moving to Kenya to teach and administrate an ESL school has been quite the adventure. I will start from the beginning, and as I tell you keep in mind, that being apart of this experience has only opened my eyes more. I hope that it will do the same for you.

We work within the inner-city of Nairobi, Kenya. We are here to administrate and teach English to those who are striving to become a part of the Kenyan culture themselves. The people we teach are a people who are, trying to keep their own culture alive while fit into their new reality. We teach English to people who are finding refuge in Nairobi, many of whom are dreaming of success and freedom.  We teach primarily to the Somali refugees of Nairobi.

It was December 2012, when my husband and I left our home in California. With all our worthy – worldly possessions crammed into 6 bags and we had tears in our eyes. I knew it would be hard, I had been warned it would be hard. We had tears for the miles that would separate us from our family and friends, tears for moving from our home, our culture, and I am grateful for those tears. Had I not had such tears then I would not be able to relate to those we now teach.

Our New Nieghborhood

Our New Neighborhood

Had I not shed a tear when I boarded that plane, I would not be able to relate in any way to the Somali people, to my neighbors, my friends. Their culture is not mine, and their lives lived thus far are vastly different than my own and yet they know my pain of separation from family and home better than some of my friends and family in America. They know what I mean when I say I miss my brother, my parents and homeland. Of course the reason of separation differs vastly as, my separation is by choice and theirs is due to complex religious and political issues of Somalia.

For the past 5 months I have studied their language, experiencing days filled with accomplishment and anguish. I have been frustrated by my mouth’s inability to form words and sentences that truly express what I want to say, and I have yelped in surprise when I find myself understanding Somali. The past 5 months have given another insight that I could not have learned about in book of travel or anthropology. These past 5 months of learning the language of Somali has, without a doubt allowed me to have yet again, another way to relate to the Somali people in Nairobi. And now as I sit in the ESL school and hear the frustrations of our Somali students, as they try to conjugate confusing English verbs, I smile. For I know their pain, just as they know mine.

My struggles in finding my words and missing home have in a way made it easier to belong.

When I return home one day to America, I want those same tears that filled my eyes, only I want them for the longing of those I am meeting today, those who are tolerating me and encouraging me to teach and learn.

 

Rift Valley

The Magnificent Rift Valley