A group of teenagers went to Mexico for March Break last week, but it was no holiday on the beach. The students weren’t tanning in the sun all day and partying all night, they were there to build a house for a single mother and her daughter. The youth group from Calvary United Church in St. Jacobs spent their break building a home in Ensenada, Mexico. The team was led by Chris McCracken, the director of youth and children’s ministries, and completed the build in only four days.
“It was quite the experience and one that I will not soon forget,” said Jenny Faubert of Waterloo who was one of 13 students to make the trip. “At first it was really hard for me to even hammer in a single nail, it was a little embarrassing, but I soon got the hang of it and we had the whole house up in four days.”
The team connected with a Mexican contractor to work alongside them making sure the house was properly built.
“They would keep us on track and tell us what to do next,” said McCracken. “All the adults that went on the trip were there for encouragement and to make sure that not too many fingers were hammered throughout the week.”
The students built a 16’x20’ house that would resemble a backyard shed here in Canada, said McCracken. Inside the structure the team built three rooms, including two bedrooms and a living space.
There is no indoor plumbing or electricity in that part of Mexico but the group wired the house for electricity with hopes that it would come to the area one day.
“We were just thinking ahead and wanted that family to have the benefits of (electricity) when it came,” said McCracken. “It just makes sense to put it in at this stage and they can hook up when it comes to the area.”
The wooden structure was built on a cement foundation that was poured before the arrival of the youth group.
To pay for the costs of the trip and the build the church held fundraisers throughout the year, including collecting electronic waste for recycling, held a café night with a dinner and talent show, sold Poinsettia flowers at Christmas and everyone on the team had their own support teams by way of family and friends.
The family who would eventually move into the house helped the team on the first and last day of the build. The youth group also had help from some local kids and was able to connect with the entire community, sharing in the experience of the build.
“The apartment that the family was living in before had a leaky roof and mold growing on the walls and the mom could barely make ends meet paying for rent and the medication needed to fight the sickness caused by the mold,” said McCracken. “The mom told us we built her a miracle house.”
“It was great to see the family move into that house and know that we helped them,” said Faubert.
The church has sent many groups to Mexico over the last six years and switch between an adult group and a youth group every other year.
“Our senior pastor, Drew Maxwell, was instrumental in launching our trips to Mexico through friend connections and that has grown so much that we were down there with four other United churches from across Canada,” said McCracken. “It is amazing to meet so many people trying to help others.”
After four days of working in some very hot temperatures and some very long hours the group headed to a near by orphanage to meet with the children and play games.
“That was a great treat for them and us,” said Faubert. “We played with them for hours all kinds of games. They are really good a soccer and beat us every time we played plus they loved piggybacks. A lot of these kids don’t get that chance to play with others and it was great being able to just be there with them.”