The House that Changed Me

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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