After only a five-hour drive from my home, one can be in a totally different world. In the summer prior to my sophomore year, I was privileged to travel to a village in Baja Mexico with a group of medical students that my father was training over the summer. We served those who were struggling from lack of basic needs.
Turning off the paved Mexican highway and onto a rough dirt road, we saw barren hills covered with makeshift shacks pieced together with cardboard, sheet metal, plywood, and anything else that could form a structure. Many of the “homes” had dirt floors with a tattered blanket hanging in the doorway. The families living here had almost nothing. We had come to do what we could to help empower them for a better life.
Over the weekend our group, along with the organization Hands of Mercy, built a “loft” house – simple one-story fully enclosed ten-by-ten foot homes with a loft. We had devoted funds towards paying for the overall cost of the houses and we were able to fully fund the houses in the end. This travel experience was something that allowed me to see the people of Mexico with love and compassion and it further cultivated a personal passion of serving others. By spending time serving these people, my passion became clear and I recognized the deep love and heart that I have for people.
We arrived at the build site shortly after dawn and with a quick prayer our team began construction, trying to meet a sundown deadline. Everyone was separated into work teams: some built, painted, and raised the walls, others completed the roof, and the rest laid the floor.
The significant part was not the mere construction; it was the influence this house would have on the family and the resulting international friendship. This house might provide opportunity and hope for a family who may have had little before. Many people in Mexico are impoverished and live their entire lives in the haphazard shacks, which greeted our arrival. These families need adequate shelter to protect them from the harsh summer sun and the frigid winter rain – refuge that until that day my friends and I had taken for granted. To us, these homes represent a small cost, but to the families who receive them, they are a miracle. It would be likely impossible for them to obtain such a house on their own.
Throughout the day, the father and son worked along side us. Noon afforded time for lunch and a break with the family. Their mother and her friends had spent all day plus a week’s wages preparing this tasty meal for us. It was a simple but powerful way that the family communicated their gratitude towards us.
Evening brought the most memorable and emotional part of the day. Upon finishing the house, we gathered in a circle and presented the house keys to the family. The father broke into tears, his voice cracking as he sobbed “Gracias, muchas gracias” over and over again. He was so thankful for the home and the future it allowed.
This trip helped me to develop a compassion for people, and to build personal leadership skills. This trip and eight similar trips to Mexico have been instrumental in my deciding to start a non-profit organization that raises money to stop prostitution worldwide. Though different in focus, it is the same principle. Many people around the world need help desperately. I want to do everything I can to serve them.
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