The trip started with a day in San Diego, California before boarding buses to cross the border into Mexico. Once we crossed the border, the change of scenery was immediate and shocking. We went from palm lined streets, with nice houses and cars, to ramshackle apartment buildings and beat up junkers. After several hours, our bus pulled into camp. My friends and I joined the group and slowly started to put up our small tent. I fell asleep both cramped and overwhelmed, but full of anticipation for the work ahead.
The following morning, we stumbled out of our tent and meandered toward the mess hall to grab a quick breakfast before heading to our work-site. The neighborhood where we were building looked more like a collection of sheds that one would keep yard tools in than a place to raise a family. The family that I was helping to build a home for included five people: the parents and three children. These people all lived in a one room home that was no bigger than the size of an average American’s bedroom.
After meeting our family, we began to prepare the foundation, and making the concrete was my job. Mixing concrete is by far the most excruciating work that I have ever done in my life. Day after day we worked until sunset, which was both monotonous and agonizing, but extremely satisfying.
The people here are constantly smiling and more than willing to help with our work. As the days went on, we built the home’s frame, put up binding wire and tar paper, tightly wrapped the home in chicken wire, and for the last step, we applied stucco – our job was complete.
Before I left my home in Ohio, I thought I fully understood why I chose to go to Mexico; I was building a home for someone less fortunate than me. I concluded, however, that there was much more to my time in Mexico than simply building a home. On the day of our departure, we met one final time with our family.
“And now,” our group leader’s voice quivered, “we are honored to present you with the key to your new home.” The mother of the family took the key in her hand, she was overcome with emotion; tears poured down her cheeks. “Oh God!” She exclaimed. “Oh Christ! God bless you people! God bless you!”
This moment summed up the entire trip for me. To see that my actions had such a positive impact on another person’s life, an impact dramatic enough to bring them to tears, was actually life-changing for me. As I stood there observing, I reflected on all of my hours of sweat and strenuous work. I felt fulfilled knowing that all I had endured helped bring such joy to these people. I stepped into this family’s world for a short period and we both gave each other something life-changing. I realized, that one doesn’t have to be wealthy or powerful, give money, or even speak out about a problem to help find solutions. Sometimes, the most help can come from seeing and understanding what another person is living through, and to quietly and willingly work hard to making that person’s life better.
Instead of going to the sunny beaches of Florida for Spring Break, three friends and I took a trip that was a break from the norm. We chose to travel to with a group to Tijuana, Mexico, to build homes for impoverished families. Going to this stricken area was a life changing experience.
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