A few months ago I saw a Facebook post from a high school friend, Jonathan Shinn, announcing a housebuilding trip for a family in Mexico over Memorial Day Weekend. I was immediately interested, and after working out the detail with Jimmy, my mom, and my mom-in-law, I was excited to be able to join the group.
The build was coordinated by an organization called Baja Bound Ministries (bajabound.org), who joins the families in need (working poor, via a local pastor in Ensenada), arranges for a Baja Bound trip coordinator, a builder, and all the building supplies needed. We just had to provide the funds (donations) and the manpower to build. Our building group was not associated with any church, but rather just a mix of friends and family who have a heart to help a poor family and the time available to do it, and it was a great group! We all worked really well together, and had a lot of fun doing it!
Since I was one of the few team members not from SoCal, I ended up flying down on Thursday, and got to spend some time with the fam - a quick lunch with Joey, Lindsey, and Jackson, then pick up our nephew Deacon from his preschool, and the afternoon and dinner with David, Dana, Deacon and Delanie. Also squeezed in a quick hello to my S-I-L April before we crossed the border. It was fast but so fun to see them and the kids!
This is the family we were building for: the Perea Quiroz family, which we are still a bit uncertain of how everyone is related (language barrier), but it appears to be three brothers, two of whom are married and have children, and a few of those children have kids of their own. They are immigrants from the state of Oaxaca, and actually speak very little Spanish. Their native language is a called Mixteco, an indigenous language that sounds nothing like Spanish. We were able to communicate more easily with the men than the women, as they are out working in the fields and have more necessity for learning Spanish. Their current home is made from tarps and rope sitting up on a rocky, dusty hillside overlooking the town and out toward the sea. Great views, horrible conditions.
|Concrete slab for the new house foundation. Two of their three house tents on the right, one of which was built in part with an old Chipotle ad banner. Ironic.|
The first part of our group headed toward the border Friday morning - there were actually only 7 of us working for a half day on Day 1, including the builder and his two teenage sons, and the other dozen or so arrived midday Saturday. On day one we framed the house, leaving me with some lovely elbow pain from all that hammering, but amazed at how quickly the structure of a house came together!
|Building buddies, Jon and Alaa|
|Standing by their water supply|
|Juana doing laundry on her washboard|
|When the men returned from working in the fields on Friday night, they joined in the building process - on the bucket is Natalio's son, and Natalio is in the background.|
|Next to me is Cecilia, and Juana is in the aqua shirt in the middle. So great to see smiles on their faces!|
|The Day 1 framing crew, including Baja Bound founder, John Rose in the yellow shirt|
Day 2: Roof, painting and hanging outside paneling, insulation, and drywall... Once the rest of the team arrived we were really able to pick up pace, and several members of the family helped wherever they could.
This picture (below) is right after Juana and I finished the second coat of paint on the white trim behind us. We sat down to rest while it dried and had a chance to talk (as best as we could communicate with one another) about our families. I showed her pictures of my babies, and she shared that she also has a son and a daughter that live in California, along with two more grandchildren. It was so great just getting to spend time and talk with her, and I think she really appreciated it, too.
|(Notice all the blue paint on boys hands far right... done intentionally and he was quite excited about it!)|
|Guess I must have said something funny to make Juana laugh... :)|
|Beautiful view, right? The ocean is in front of that peak on the horizon.|
At the end of day 2, Nancy Alvarado (our awesome Baja Bound trip coordinator and member of the building team, holding her arms up in the middle), Jon (gray T-shirt), and Natalio (man smiling in front of them) were trying to learn how to say something in their language, Mixteco. He was teaching us how to count to 10 in Mixteco... eee (1), ubee (2), unee (3), comee (4), oo-oo (5)... that's all I can remember. Fun to see him light up as he was teaching us.
Day 3: Finishing the details, dry-wall and mudding, visiting the orphanage, and presenting the house to the family.
|Drywall team - Angela, Anna, Kelsey, Alaa, and me|
|Three pieces of meat drying in the sun to make jerky|
|Natalio and Juana's daughter, Elena, and her 18-month-old son, Salvador|
We had a short visit to a nearby orphanage to play and do crafts with the kids. Wish we had had more time to spend with them - it passed much too quickly...
|Blanca, who wanted to be pushed on the swings|
On the second day I noticed this tiny peach tree growing out of the crack between some rocks and the side of one of the family's tent. I thought it was so beautiful to see something alive and healthy growing in the midst of dirt, dust, and rocks. The same for the shoot of red flowers growing randomly and alone above their property.
On Day two Juana and Natalio gave me a gift - this woven white bird, made by Natalio (I happened to see him carrying it around as he was making it, but at that time unsure what it was), made from the plastic straps like you would find wrapped around a case or pallet. I felt very privileged that they made something special just for me!
The finished house! Two bedrooms, a living room area, and a loft with a ladder, four windows, insulation, electrical wires ready for them to connect when they are ready, and a locking front door. Simple, but an enormous improvement from what they have now!
|Presenting the keys to the house|
|A tight squeeze to try to fit our building team inside with the families for a group shot.|
On the third day (Sunday) we also gave the families different gift we had brought for them, including some clothing, hair accessories, nail polish, and a few sundry items just for fun. I had also brought with me a painting of a Stargazer Lily that I had done in high school, and that I thought they would appreciate to have hanging in their home to remember our group.
So in 48 hours, a group of 15 people was able to transform these families' lives and gift them a fresh start, and a chance at getting ahead. Such an amazing feeling to be able to bless them in this way! I'm so thankful to Jimmy and our families for their hard work back in Lodi, too, taking care of Caleb and Landon so that I could be a part of this experience. It is something that I love doing, and pray and hope that I will be able to shine God's love on more families and children on future building trips!
Bonus: Most of the group ended up crossing back to California on Sunday night since our building work was completed, but I stayed with my friend Jon and a couple of others until Monday morning. We had to take a detour on our way up to the border due to a section of the highway that had washed out back in December and is still under repair, and we decided on a whim to make a leisure stop at a beautiful new winery called Cuatro Cuatros (http://cuatrocuatros.mx/en/). We got to taste some wine and have a tour around the Cabañas and little restaurant that are on the premises. It was gorgeous! A very unique detail that first caught our attention from the highway was that their vineyards are planted in concentric circles! Click above on their website link to see a picture... Who knew that Baja California has its own little Ruta del Vino (wine route)!
|Huge doors folded open to a outdoor patio and tasting bar|