Let me back up a little. I come from a family that travels. Sometimes we travel for fun, sometimes for adventure, and sometimes for cultural experiences. About every other year, we travel for missions or service projects. We have gone on medical missions in India, Jamaica, and Peru. My brother and I have assisted my Dad, a Family Practice physician, and my Mom, an R.N., as they provided care, medicines, and treatment supplies to underserved communities in both remote and inner-city locations. But this summer, we did a different kind of volunteering, one coordinated through YuGo Ministries, an international organization with campuses in Canada, the U.S., and Mexico.
SEMI-FINALIST 2015 FTF TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
My family of four joined 23 other volunteers from our church in Colorado. We drove 1,200 miles in two days, fitting everyone into two vans and one pickup truck, along with tools of all shapes and sizes. YuGo provided housing and building materials; we would provide the labor. Our task: in four days, build a new home from the foundation up for a family of four that had fled their home in another town due to drug cartel violence. A “surprise” project also presented itself once we got to Ensenada: some of our group would be stationed at the home of a family of five which had severe fire damage.
About eight of us in the group were either teenagers or in their early twenties. We were mixed in with seasoned construction workers, including a dry waller, an excavator, a surveyor, and a foreman. Others were bankers, orchard workers, retired teachers, and housewives. We worked alongside the two families from start to finish, and it was amazing to see what a group with this much diversity could do in a short amount of time by all working together from sunrise until sunset.
The costs of the trip were raised through months of planning and fund-raising projects. When we first arrived, I expected to get stuck painting or staining all week because I am a petite girl with no real building experience. But I spoke up, asking to learn new skills and to contribute in a variety of ways. As we built at one site, raising the framing and hanging siding, the other group was tearing down walls and the roof blackened by smoke. We spoke in Spanish as best we could, as both families knew little English. The man who was an expert at drywalling let me learn to hang and texture drywall. I helped with wiring and even made the family a birdhouse out of scraps of wood. I did do some painting and staining too.
As we worked that week, we were able to witness families with very little worldly possessions begin to have hope again. Despite the language barrier, bonds were formed and cultural gaps were bridged. I worked harder physically that week than I have ever worked before, and every member of our group came back to the ministry center each night completely spent. But there is something so valuable, so “worth it”, when serving others in this way. I came home grateful for what I have, but also with a new focus away from Stuff. Building relationships and giving people hope are life-changing experiences.
I want to be an Engineer someday. I want to tackle problems, design and create solutions, and participate in research projects al over the globe. The opportunity to travel to places near and far has opened my eyes to real-world issues. Every journey is a chance to make a difference and to come back changed.
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.