We arrived at Toronto airport three hours before our flight left so we had plenty of time to weigh luggage, move some stuff around so no one’s bag was over 50 pounds and convince US Immigration that Pia (an Austrian exchange student) was safe to allow into their country!
After our customs ordeal, we boarded a miniature plane bound for Minneapolis. After a two hour flight that landed in a strong cross wind, we had three hours of walking around the mall, which amazingly was inside the airport! Soon we were all on a plane heading to Los Angeles, California. We then quickly boarded a bus, driven by our very accommodating guide, Charles. He took us to our hotel for some needed one-on-one time with our pillows. At 6:30am we got back on our bus, and greeted Charles with sleepy smiles. Within an hour we were all craving some breakfast, so we made a stop at an IHOP just off of the highway, where they were surprisingly patient with our group of twenty-two!
After breakfast we embarked on a six hour bus ride down the Pacific coast. Across the Mexican border the scenery was beautiful and we just had to stop at a local lookout point just off the highway. The view was breath taking!
We finally arrived in Vicente Guerrero, our base of operations. We found the accommodations to be much nicer than expected, we were given two beautiful houses, and they even had bunk beds! After our debriefing we tucked into our bunks, dreaming of the day to come.
In the morning, we woke up to bacon, pancakes, sausage, eggs, and bowls full of delicious fresh fruit. After breakfast we had a quick information session and then hopped on the “Charles bus” for a quick five minute ride to our two building sites. Once we arrived we were greeted by the smiling faces of the two families. They were so excited to have a new house – even the children were picking up hammers and pounding in nails like little construction workers!
The houses are 20’ x 21’ and the process of taking mostly rookies and teaching them how to build a house is well honed. The concrete pad was already laid when we arrived. Today we cut lots of boards, painted trim, and managed to nail together and paint the four roof components and two of the walls. The walls even have siding on them already! Most of the houses in Mexico are very brightly coloured. Apparently our two families have chosen sky blue and deep red for their houses.
Charles says that tomorrow the walls go up and the roof goes on. It sounds ambitious but doable with our great Madawaska teams!
Carson Graham – This trip so far has been really amazing!
Carson Graham – This trip so far has been really amazing!
This trip so far has been really amazing!
Just getting to the place we are building was a huge shock. It is a big open desert field with a collection of small houses and huts, some of them made of cardboard or loose boards. The families have been great – Jose, the father in the family, has been incredibly kind to us and every day he has brought our group something different for lunch or a snack. One of the other families made us some traditional Mexican food on the first and second days of building. Everyone in the community is very friendly and social, and even though we are only building for four of the families, everyone who isn’t working and even some of the shopkeepers come out to help us paint or lift things. It’s a lot of hard work in the hot sun and dust, but from the reaction of our family when they saw the progress at the end of the day it was totally worth the effort! Our group’s house is almost completed with the walls up, the roof on and half covered in tar paper, the interior and exterior walls painted, and the windows put in. All we need to do is install half the tar paper and put up the last interior wall!
Everyone seems to say this and it’s completely true, this trip so far has had a huge effect on me, It’s a huge blast of perspective seeing people living in these conditions being so generous to us – the gifts of food, their sharing with each other, and just the way they act towards us. The thing that has stood out for me the most is that we have it really, really good back home in Vancouver. When a person here has something they’re extremely thankful for it and happy that they have it, while back home people are never satisfied with anything. Even when they have something simple like a cell phone that would cost months of wages for someone working in a field down here, they are still wanting the next new expensive thing. The thing that I want to take from this the most is that I shouldn’t be complaining about any of the little inconveniences of life back in Vancouver because there are a lot of people here who have so little, but who have modeled thankfulness and cooperation in such amazing ways.
Today I worked for the third day. I’m starting to get tired in the morning, but I’m still feeling great! Last night my roommates and I had a great story sharing session, and it was a ton of fun.
I’m working on painting the inside of the houses right now – at first I was trying to hammer nails into the window trim but apparently I’m really terrible at that! The family that I’m helping to build a house for has two little boys who speak english which so far has come in handy! Juan is an adorable 12 year old little boy, who might possibly have a career in photography! Today he bought me a chicken flavored lollypop, in between laughing at me trying to hammer in nails.
I’m feeling really good so far, the walls to the house are up, and the roof is being put together. The community has started to get to know us better and we all seem to be coming together. It’s a really welcoming environment! Sidenote – I think Hero Holiday has a thing for painting bathrooms bright blue, as this was the second one in 2 trips!
Today we also went to a candy shop and everyone went NUTS! The coca cola here is really great, as there is something a little different about it. All the girls are going to be doing a lot of early morning walks with Mrs. B to work off all that sugar!
Today we continued our journey of building houses. Throughout the past two days, we have greatly enlarged our perspective of the world. Our emotions are fluctuating, we’re happy to see the smiles on the faces of the families, yet it is discouraging to see that people live in circumstances like this even in the present day.
Today, excitement and courage took over our team! We all took roles in building the house, be it measuring and cutting the wood, painting, or framing. Once everything was framed together and painted, the next step we took was standing the house up. Anxiety then took over! We were afraid the measurements would be too short or a nail would collapse the whole house – but in the end, it was a success.
Meeting the families was an experience that completely shook most of us. Observing the shacks that the families live in, produced of wood and any scraps found, around hit us hard inside. For example, a family of six live in a dark shack almost a quarter the size of a high school classroom. However, the families weren’t ashamed to invite us into their homes, they were open and welcoming. All our hearts were shining with passion and empathy. These are extraordinary people living in harsh circumstances, and yet they will not give up; they take care of their families, feeding them, providing some sort of shelter over their heads, and most importantly, they have an extreme bond with one another. That was something that truly inspired all of us.
On the first day when I met my family of six, we asked the mother what building a house would do for her family. In reply she said, “open up doors and hope for us.” Providing a house means that we’re helping to provide future opportunities and inspiration. That is something we are extremely proud of to say. We are truly thankful for having the opportunity to experience all of this, and more importantly, to be a part of openning doors for families in need.
So here we are, much anticipated and it is all worth it. Already I can see the euphoric expressions on both our students faces and also the families. I have had the pleasure to meet one of the four families and learn about their humble ways – and to see how content they are with what they have is truly admirable. We were only able to spend fifteen minutes with the family and I believe I speak for everyone when I say we already have a special connection. I can only imagine what the atmosphere is going to be like on day 8 or so!
This is my first time coming to Mexico, and so far I am loving it. The mountains are so beautiful and the weather is amazing! On the bus ride in we passed many horses and cows along the side of the road, and I also made some new friends. Many of the houses that we drove by were painted in very bright colours, and this brought a smile to my face. The bus ride was long and dusty, but very, very entertaining. 🙂
Ever since we first arrived at Vicente Guerrero I noticed that people (myself included), who never talked before started talking and laughing together. When we met up with our families for the first time, it was a very unique and unforgettable experience. I couldn’t help but notice the sense of joy and excitement beaming out of everyone’s smiles!
I am very excited, and grateful to have this opportunity to help change someone’s life with something that we take for granted every day. I am looking forward to building houses for these families, and I am excited to get to know everyone a bit more everyday!
There is never a single moment that makes your life or your story better. We are all warriors and we all have our own demons. You can never compare another person’s story to your own because none of us will ever face the monsters that hide under each others beds. We can only find strength in each other and in how we’ve beaten our demons. Every monster combined cannot beat us if we stand together and help each other through. Our team has opened our lives to share how we battled our demons so that people know that they can beat theirs too.
It isn’t that we just share strategic ways to overcome life’s battles – it’s that we let people into our story. What the students that we share with don’t realize is that their own stories of triumph impact us greatly. When they tell us about the monsters that have wreaked havoc in their lives, their strength inspires. In my opinion, it takes much more courage for a student to come up to one of us and expose their lives one-on-one than it takes for us to get on stage and tell our stories. We don’t have to look anyone in the eyes if we don’t want to, we have practiced our stories so they are spoken easily, and we don’t have to be personal with one person directly.
After a month of being in Ontario, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island, we have met students with stories of all shapes and sizes. Some students have a drug addiction or have overcome one, some have been hurt and abused by people that are suppose to love them, some have been hurt by strangers, and some are trying valiantly battle a loved one’s monster. The point is that everyone has something in their closet or under their bed that is begging for them to fall but the beauty is that they are still standing. Our goal is to help them understand that they don’t have stand alone and they won’t have to fight forever; eventually monsters discover that they were never any match for that person and they grow weak and perish.
We can find light in all our darkest situations if we open our eyes. Light, like monsters, comes in all shapes and sizes. I’d like to think of our team as a form of light. We take our days to shed light on people’s darkness and share how we fought against our own demons. We are no better or braver, just common warriors with big hearts and open ears willing to be the ones who listen to people when it feels like monsters are the only ones listening to their fears.