Giving to the Community of Vincente Guerrero, Mexico. SOL Build Day#1.
To you, it was Sunday, April 16th, 2011 – jus’ a regular ol’ Sunday. But for us LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute)-rs down in Mexico…it was work day number one! And more importantly, for the volunteer paramedics from Vincente Guerrero – it was the first build day of their new centre. This week, we’re building an 8 x 8 foot building for a group of people that volunteer their time & effort to saving people. Ambulance services are privatized in Mexico, and there aren’t many. So in Vincente Guerrero, there’s a group of people that work as volunteers on a very small budget for saving a lot of lives.
After a morning of standard Hero Holiday sandwich making (you know we love our bimbo bread!) & packing lunch into the cooler, we grabbed our water bottles and headed for the site. This build is different than others for a few reasons – one of them being that the land we’re building on is just 5 minutes away!With the concrete pad so close, we got to the site quickly and jumped out of Gus (our trusty van), ready to build. Deryn, Sarah, Josh, Colin, Emily and I, alongside Nettie, Andrew, Dawn, Anthonie, and Santiago are working this week. All of us SOL’s are pretty excited about this project because it’s one that we’ll leave behind knowing we did as a team, a building that binds us all together a little more. Other reasons we’re excited? Well, this isn’t just ANY old build project – like I said, it’s different! This building isn’t just an experience for us SOL’s, it’s a learning experience for everyone involved. Usually, when you arrive at a build site, there are lots of people to meet, tool belts to put on, instructions to give, and work crews to join. But today, what met us wasn’t a family or any tools belts. Instead, we met Noe, his brother & father – our teachers for the day & the leaders of the build. Noe runs a steel construction company – he builds houses & buildings, out of steel rather than wood. So, rather than strap on tool belts and start hammering, we unloaded a trailer full of steel studs and set to laying out the framework.Using steel as an alternative to wood is an experiment we’re trying this week; and it involves some serious teaching because none of us have ever worked with it before! Although neither Noe or his family speaks that much English, they communicate well in what I’ve deemed ‘build site Spanglish’ – a mix of Spanish, hand gestures and Santiago translating! All day these 3 were really patient, teaching us & laughing with us, instructing us where to place screws and chalk lines.At first, I was really startled by how few tools there were. We only had one tool box, and there were more tape measures than anything else in it! But, as the day went on, I came to see that one of the benefits of steel built houses is that you only need a few items – power drills and screws are important, but those tape measures turned out to be our MVP – getting the screw on the line & into the stud is hard without them! Speaking of tools… holding a power drill feels pretty cool. Not only do you look really awesome, you can get A LOT of work done in a very short amount of time. Did I mention that you look REALLY AWESOME?! Another plus of power tools is that all day you don’t hear the sound of hammers banging – rather, the site sounds like…home to a Nascar PIT CREW! Which of course means that at least once, a race is necessary. Kudos to Nettie for beating Anthonie that one time! I was feeling pretty ‘superhero’d’ out with my special steel work gloves (all of us were issued a pair for maximum hand protection!) and my yellow drill – and a favourite phrase of Sarah’s, drill in hand? ‘If I can do this, anyone can do this!’The work seemed to go incredibly fast and by the end of the day, we had all 4 walls framed, sheeted, and standing! Plus, we’d had time for A LOT of joking, and some ice cream on the side. Noe & his family are involved with the Paramedicos and really care about the work they’re doing, both at the build site and in their ambulances – you can tell by the intent that they do it with and the care they put into each piece. Today was a collection day (the paramedics budget is made up of donations, with no extra funding. They wait at the busiest intersection in town and collect change from passing cars – so this is an important day of the month!) but at the end of their day, a couple of them in their crisp white shirts showed up, bearing cold drinks and smiles. The best thing about this build is that we get to work right in the community, close to home, and with people that really care about helping others – and for a cause that truly deserves it. These paramedics save upwards of 600 people a year, running off donations and often volunteering alongside other jobs. This building will mean they can move out of the space they rent & use that money for improved medical technology, as well as keep the ambulances running.Sunday, April 16th – day 1 for the Paramedico Pit crew (and the use of super cool power tools!) and we’re proud – the 4 walls of a better future are screwed in & raised.~ Leah, a School of Leadership student living in Mexico