3.02.2010

Inspirations from Mexico

I've been asked to be more descriptive and interpretive regarding my recent work in Mexico, so here goes. :)

Before I left for Mexico, I got the standard 'don't drink the water', 'don't wander around at night by yourself', and 'don't get stabbed' from friends and family. What they didn't tell me was to be sure I prepared myself to be awed, inspired, and fall in love with the country.

I love travelling. If I could get paid to travel the world, take pictures, and write about my experiences, I'd be a very rich lady. But, alas, that is not what I do. I try to do some good each time I travel, whether it's working in a soup kitchen, buying goods at a charity shop, or helping build homes in the local community. This trip, like many others I have taken, was with a group from my church. We went down to Tijuana to work with an organization called Esperanza International. This organization helps build homes in the local communities and provides support for the people that inhabit them.

My church group has been going for approximately 7 years. In these 7 years they have built a community of people with both the volunteers that are there during the same week as them, but also with the people they have built houses for. The families help build the homes, they provide lunch for those who are working, and they are responsible for the final painting and finishing of the home before they move into it.

Before I went to Mexico, I was all prepared for seeing poverty, dirt, trash, and all sorts of other heartbreaking images. I was not prepared to fall in love with the poverty, dirt, trash and other sorts of heartbreaking images. When I went back to school to get my Masters degree, I chose International Politics again, but I studied human rights violations with a renewed vigor, and that has been my research topic of choice ever since. I am constantly awed by the things that we can do to each other and how we treat one another.


Mexico was an eye-opening experience for many reasons. Initially, I was amazed by everything I saw and heard (yes I do speak some Spanish, so I understood what they said - for the most part), then I was awed by the work I went there to do. I knew what the organization was, what they did, and how they did it; but I didn't quite realize the impact it would have on my soul while I was there. We worked alongside the families to build their new homes - we put our blood, sweat and tears into those homes, and I couldn't be more humbled by that experience. Sure, our antiperspirant wasn't very effective after about 3 hours of digging, so we all smelled stanky (even man deodorant doesn't work well - I tried...), but that was the (uncomfortable) price to pay for making someone's life better.

The houses we were building were replacement houses for three families whose houses burned when an entire shanty town in Tijuana burned down. Currently, they are living in wood framed houses that are sparsely decorated. This doesn't bring their spirits down, though. It amazes me how contented and full of life someone who has lost almost everything can be. I am sure they would love to have big SUVs, brand new clothes, lots of money in the bank, and multi-million dollar houses; but they are content with the hand-me-down car and clothes, the meager wages they earn, and the 4 walls they have around them.

When we arrived at the building site, there were vendors constantly present trying to sell us bracelets, blankets, ponchos, purses, etc. These things were available almost anywhere else that we visited; they were on streetcorners, in shops, and almost everywhere else we visited. People were selling them to make ends meet. You don't see that here in the states. The experience was like none other. But in addition to the ever-present vendors, there were also a mass of dogs all over the place. Some were well taken care of, some were clearly pure bred, some were malnourished, and some were just existing; but no matter where you looked, there was a dog wandering around.

I cannot put into proper words the effect that Mexico had on my soul. All I can say is that I am changed from the experience, as I am changed from most experiences in my life. I have returned home with a renewed zeal for non-profit and human rights work, as well as a resolve to be more involved in my own community.

I wish for you all to have an experience like I have had in Mexico - to see how the other half truly lives, and not just what is shown on the television or in photos. Not only do I adore the Hispanic heritage and culture (everything sounds more beautiful in Spanish!), but I am in awe of the sights, sounds, and smells of Mexico; I cannot wait to go back next year and do some more good.

Please consider volunteering or donating to Esperanza International. They're doing incredible work for an incredible people.

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