The smell of desiccated land and decay fills our nostrils as we set foot upon our designated work site. There was no shadow to rescue us from the hot southern sun, save the thin red and white banner looming above our heads’ exclaiming, “ Amour Ministries: Give Unto Others!”
It was summer of 2007, and I was on a trip with my Youth Group from Ohio to Mexico; we built a house for an impoverished family of four. We worked under the guidance and leadership of an organization called Amor Ministries (www.Amorministries.org). Amor Ministries provided the tools and supplies needed to construct the house. We even camped on allocated Amor Ministry camping ground after a hard day’s work!
Even the mere shuttle to the work site in our big, air-conditioned white vans was eye opening. While we trekked and rumbled up unpaved roads of dust and earth, I saw shanties with roofs made of reused poster board. Trash lined the lonely streets and stray animals stuck their noses in empty aluminum cans, hoping for a bite to eat. When we arrived to the land on which were to build the house we were faced with a vacant plot of dead grass and debris, with a diminutive makeshift shanty in the corner- here lived a family in need of a home.
We toiled in the hot sun for a week, with only water and a twenty-minute lunch break. My group had no electric tools, nor did we possess any kind of mixing tool, aside from a large shovel with which to mix cement for the foundation of the house. We hammered, sawed, lifted, and finally raised the house with our bear hands! After hand cutting all of the lumber and assembling the house’s frame and support beams, we made thick cement walls out of stucco, chicken wire and of course, cement. Finally, we installed several windows, a door and shingled the roof.
The family for which we built the house was incredible. The mother of the family sang so beautifully that whatever place she chose to croon gleamed like the moon, even if she stood alone in the middle of her old, roofless, shack of a house. The father of the house was exceedingly strong and possessed a work ethic unlike that of any other; he helped us in every single phase of the house building process. Their two young girls possessed the Latina beauty and charisma that you only find south of the boarder, they were very talented and sang and danced for us while we worked! I learned so much about Mexican culture from their rhymes, dances and songs. My favorite moment with the two children was when the oldest snuck up behind me while I was installing windows and shyly murmured, “Gracias por mi casa”, slipping a homemade beaded bracelet on my wrist.
After seven days, not only was a house built, but three young children had a roof under which to grow up and a mother and a father finally had security. My trip to Mexico opened my eyes to a culture that flipped my perception of life upside-down; a culture under an economic status that made me feel grateful for everything I have in my life, both material and intangible. I was changed forever.
Dear Reader: This page may contain affiliate links which may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Our independent journalism is not influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative unless it is clearly marked as sponsored content. As travel products change, please be sure to reconfirm all details and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.