One home. One family. One week. This summer, my two teenage children and I traveled to Rosarito, Mexico as volunteers with the Project Mexico mission team. We participated in a project that tested us emotionally, physically, and mentally. Our challenge was to build a home for an impoverished family from the ground up in one week.
There were two motives for making this trip to Mexico. The first was to provide my teens with the reality of the adversities and challenges that the less fortunate who live in third-world conditions face each and every day. My second motive served a more personal purpose, which was to take an active part in a project that truly served those in need.
In preparation for our mission, we were able to receive donations from the Mandarin Rotary Club and St. John Church which enabled us to fill eight suitcases with 370 pounds of gifts for the children of St. Innocent Orphanage in Rosarito. The gifts included soccer balls, cleats, pens, pencils, calculators, soaps, shampoos, and other personal hygiene items.
We embarked on our trip with emotions ranging from excitement to anxiety of what to expect, arriving safely in Mexico on July 24, 2014. Every day, from sunrise to sunset, we tirelessly worked together to build a home for this very deserving family. Although the home was only 270 square feet, without the convenience and luxury of power tools, it was a very labor intensive process to construct. The group of volunteers had no construction experience. We hand-mixed cement, sawed the wood frame, and tarred the roof, all while being exposed to the blazing summer heat. It was exhausting; never have we worked so hard physically. Each day was a constant reminder of how difficult life is for most of the world.
On this trip we learned a valuable lesson – simplicity and silence are golden. Not having a phone or the internet for a week was a very peaceful and calming experience. Not having these distractions that normally consume my everyday life was a nice change from the noise of our culture. At night, we slept in tents on a mountain with amazing breezes from the Pacific Ocean to keep us cool. I could hear over the mountains an echo of Mexican music, as though far down the mountain there was a celebration or perhaps some joyous time together. I could hear the crickets. At home in Florida, we close our windows, relying on our air conditioning to make us comfortable and we never hear the outdoor sounds of a peaceful evening. This experience of simplicity and silence gave me the opportunity to reflect like never before.
The reward of all of our hard work was being able to see the expressions on the faces of the family members when they saw their completed home at the end of the week – it is something I will never forget. You would have thought that we had just built them a palace. It was then that I realized that I had gained much more than what I had hoped for on this trip.
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