The Shack

Spread the love

Mexican HomeLife is full of unexpected twists and turns. We are often thrown curve balls at the most inconvenient times, when we are least willing to embrace difficulty or instability. In the words of the great unknown poet, sometimes “Life Sucks.” There are moments when we can feel angered at injustice, hurt by cruelty, or even left alone in our despair. But for the almost 2 billion people on the earth that live in substandard housing, life is made more difficult than for most…because for them, tomorrow is neither guaranteed or taken for granted.There are over 100 million homeless people on our planet. They are not homeless because they are derelicts or law evaders; nor are they homeless by choice or poor money management. They are homeless because so much has happened beyond their control, and for some, each hour is an ordeal, and each day follows another in an endless blur of pain and suffering. To have a home at this level means to scrounge together what you are capable of finding and hope that tomorrow holds more promise.Inside of Mexican homeI have been in many homes such as these: cardboard for walls and ceilings, rusty tin for a door, abandoned posters to cover the holes to keep out the rain. These are the homes of those who were once homeless and have found some means of shelter. I have stood on the “floor” of such homes and have been able to stretch my arms to reach all the walls without moving my feet. I have held babies of mothers who have had to let them sleep on the dirt floor because there was no bed for them, and have seen the scars that have been left on their toes and fingers from rat bites in the night. I have smelled the stench of poverty: it is rancid, dirty, and stifling, and it takes over your senses in an instant. Yet, always I was a visitor: the one who was bringing the help and relief, and returning to my own world where, comparatively, things were much more stable.In our Hero Holiday base in Baja California, Mexico, life is sometimes hard and unpredictable. But because of where we were, we decided that it was time to give our students who work with us there a chance to experience life in a whole new capacity. It was time to understand our neighbours from an entirely new viewpoint. Two at a time, our students had the chance to experience what life is like for a homeless family as they built shelter for themselves, worked to provide what they could, and literally lived life from their perspective. The following is Nikki and Tara’s story of life in “The Shack”: 
The shackA few weeks ago, Nikki and I (Tara) spent four days living as a Mexican family in a cardboard shack.  We worked for eight hours a day, six am to three pm, with two ten minute breaks and an hour for lunch.  We were paid 100 pesos each day to provide everything we needed, including rent, water, food, soap, toilet paper, etc.  We were also expected to take two showers with a bucket and a cup, and wash our clothes by hand on a washing stone on the final day. The pitOur school of leadership class put this experiment together because we felt it would be very valuable to have a deeper understanding about the lives of the people we work alongside and build houses for.  We were fortunate enough to be chosen to go first for the experiment. Knowing we had a huge adventure ahead of us, we set off on an early Sunday morning to our new “home”. Our job for all four days was to dig a bano (washroom in Spanish) hole for our translator, Santiago.  It was exhausting work, with little to look forward to as the day finished because we knew it would be the same rigorous work the following morning (and that at the end of all our hard work it would become a huge hole full of poop!).  We got into a pattern, one person in the hole for about ten to fifteen minutes at a time, chipping away with a pick axe at the hard Mexican earth, and the other resting or pulling buckets of dirt out of the hole. Soon we began thinking in terms of only six more digs each until lunch…only five more digs each until lunch.  Usually though, it was safe to say, lunch was not going to be overly delicious.  With the amount of money we were making we could afford something to fill us and keep us working, but that was all.  One day we had plain, cold, white rice. (That was yummy!) Our budget was manageable though, because there were only two of us.  Thinking about what it would mean to feed ourselves and a few children, while planning for a future and trying to build a better life, is simply impossible.  People in Canada save money to go on a vacation, for a new car, or a relaxing retirement; basically for a future filled with more luxuries and fewer worries.  A Mexican family may be able to save all of five pesos one day (which is about 50 cents) which would probably be spent on food on a day when there wasn’t anyone working.  It wouldn’t be enough for an emergency trip to the doctor, or a new tarp when the one over your head got a tear in it.  They are trying so hard to survive right now that saving for retirement isn’t even a question: the minimal savings of an average Mexican family is an accurate reflection of their hope for the future.Looking across the street we saw our house, and longed for it and all the comforts we would be missing for four days…but it was only for four day. The hardest thing was wrapping our heads around the idea of hopelessness, because it is something that we will likely never be faced with, and it is something that is hard to create with a cardboard shack, or any other type of scenario. This experience did, however, bring us closer to that feeling than anything else we have ever done before. Those four days gave us a small glimpse of the life of a person who struggles to simply survive.  So many people we meet here on a daily basis are working long, tiring hours to fulfill their daily needs, with hardly any thought in mind towards their wants, mainly because what they want is to be able to simply fulfill those daily needs.  Every task of the day was complicated; suddenly making dinner, changing our clothes and doing laundry became work.  Living should not be that difficult for anyone.It is plain to see why relationships are valued so much in this culture. Because, to put it bluntly, sometimes that is all you have.  Talking with a neighbor became the highlight of our day. Now when we meet people at the grocery store, or on the street here in Mexico, we have a slightly better idea of the struggles they face daily.  With one exception: our understanding comes from four days – four days that must be multiplied by a lifetime to truly understand.Building a HouseEach year, Hero Holiday participants from across Canada and other nations join us to help build houses, schools, and hope. Why not join us? We need each other to make a difference!

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: May 24th, 2009