The House that Changed Me

Coming to Mexico, I always knew that I would be building houses for Mexican families who can’t afford them. I knew that they would be living in makeshift houses that leak when it rains and wearing tattered clothes over and over again, but for some reason I just wasn’t expecting what I experienced these past few days.

On Saturday, January 21st, our first Hero Holiday team came down to Mexico to start their house build. They were building for a family with 7 children who live just over the hill from our house, about a 5 minute drive down a bumpy dirt road. The mom and dad both work in the strawberry and tomato fields full time, leaving the four older children to go to school during the day, and the three younger ones to stay home and take care of themselves.

On Saturday afternoon, my friends and I arrived at the work site. As soon as we stepped off the bus, we were surrounded by little Spanish-speaking kids asking us for “capucci’s (piggy back rides). There were so many of them! We definitely had our work cut out for us: paint and play with kids at the same time! But the kids were quite willing to help as much as they could. They weren’t afraid to get their clothes covered in paint, that’s for sure! After I had gotten a bit used to the amount of excitement around me, I had a chance to look around. What I saw was a dozen sticks used as support, tarp and garbage bags used as walls and roofing, and a sheet for a door on a “house” that was the size of my bedroom. The children ran around playing in the dirt, wearing the same clothes each day we were there. The family’s bathroom was a hole in the ground enclosed by tarps and garbage bags. And the children would have all slept on a dirt floor. The mom explained to us that she wakes up every morning at 3am to prepare food for the family before work, and spends her evenings doing housework after a full day on the fields. The mother showed my friend and I how she does the laundry for her family every day and let us try it out. Let’s just say it’s no piece of cake!  For the next three days, we worked on building the family a brand new house with the help of the mom, dad, and their children. I worked so hard on getting the paint job done perfectly that I think I almost forgot what we were actually doing there. I forgot how big this was for the family. They had never been able to afford a house before in their whole entire lives, and now they were getting one for free.


On Wednesday we finished the house and had our “dedication ceremony” where we each said a few words to the family and then handed over the keys and got to watch as they explored their new home. Of course they had seen the house all along, but now with their few belongings in it, some brand new outfits, 5 beds and a fully stocked kitchen, this was their home, and I had been apart of making it possible for them! It was honestly an overwhelming experience to be apart of. Last night they slept in a leaky hut made of tarps in the pouring rain, and tonight they will be sleeping in their own brand new beds, with blankets, and with food ready to be put on the table in the morning. I can imagine they probably feel like they’ve just been given a mansion. I will never forget the smiles on their faces and the gratitude they had for us. This family truly had an impact on my life, and I will always remember my first house build.

Written by LiveDifferent Academy student, Cynthia Burmaster

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: January 27th, 2012

The Faces of Dominican Republic

Our life is full of faces. Faces that in our society pass us by. How often do we see the faces that pass us by? It seems as if we are so focused on where we are going and putting one foot in front of the other, that we often forget where our foot is in a specific moment.

Here in the rural areas of Domincan Rebuplic, I often find myself looking down at my feet, for multiple reasons. At first, it was a foot full of concrete followed by a complaining thought. But what makes me look up at the face in front of me is when I see the people of this society running though the  dirt streets, cluttered with garbage in bare feet, and the realization that my concrete covered shoes can’t be described as anything other than fabulous. When I look up to a smiling face in front of me, it is one that I can not forget, and with that smile, the only person you feel sad for becomes yourself. For as I sit here ad listen to some debatable karaoke music and a slightly sore back, if those are my only complaints, there is really nothing to complain about!

The people I have met in this nation I often find myself troubled to feel sad for, for they are always smiling. It causes you to consider if possibly love can be a greater power than we believe. You hear words of happiness- and not just words, but voices. Specific voices, coming from a specific face,  coming from a specific identity. These people are not a statistic, they are individual identities, named Migueal, Anniette, and Klara. Along with their faces and voices you find joy and faith.

Last night as we had the privilege of taking part in multiple Haitian weddings, where they sang a prayer. A prayer that brought tears to my eyes. Although these tears were not brought on because it was a prayer of despair or complaint, it was the pure happiness that caused me to wipe my eyes. If it is possible to feel energy within a room, this room would not have been able to collect it all. Not because we were in a small room, but the energy and joy was too imense for even an NFL football stadium! As tears started in swell in my eyes, it was hard to think of a happier moment, because their happiness was all you could hear. To find out that the prayer was not only a prayer for them but a prayer for us, was truly warmed my heart. The fact that a stranger I just met has taken that time out of their day to put thought into my well being is astonishing because I come from a society that often screens phone calls from their own family members.

As we toasted the brides and grooms, I realized that their faces are more engraved in my mind than the students I pass each day at university. I think this is because you see happiness. Among hardships, there is always a smiling face waiting for you to come along here: to embrace you and welcome you to their home. To show you their pig, which brings them more pride than any owner of a flat screen TV at home. But maybe it’s because the pig even seemed happy. And why shouldn’t he, he is alive and loved. Really, what more do you need?


~Megan, D.R. Hero Holiday VolunteerFaces

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: January 3rd, 2012