Two out of Three
You know the feeling: the alarm goes off, you fumble through a few snooze button moments, and then you finally haul your carcass out of the bed and across the room. On the way, perhaps you step on the cat by accident – or clothes that you panicked were the cat – and brace yourself as you do that which 10 minutes ago was unthinkable: you turn on the bathroom light. It sears your little eyeballs and for a moment you feel like a gremlin when you see the light. Then, the moment you have been praying for happens: you turn the knobs in the shower and the angels sing as the beautiful, hot, clean water comes gushing out, promising you that today you can take on the world.In Baja, California, Mexico, our Hero Holiday staff lives and works among the poor. The population is often internal migrant workers who come up from Oaxaca state to work as day laborers in the strawberry and tomato fields with their families. They soon become statistics of lack of proper nutrition and sanitation, as they work for offensively small amounts of money. Some of them eventually make enough money to return home, but the majority of them are soon stranded between starvation and exposure to the elements, and desperately praying for another day of work. Life in the Baja is quite harsh: the desert is relentless, as the days can seem to burn up with sun and wind, and the nights are often cold enough to require a jacket. Water is scarce here, but not for the most obvious reason you would think. Due to low water tables, the Mexican government will only allow so many wells to be dug, and because the large plantations need so much irrigation, they are given priority, and the other few wells are left to those who can afford to pay the high cost of getting the permit. Needless to say, the migrant workers are not of those who can do so. For them, water isn’t even within walking distance – you have to pay for almost every drop you get. When life is this harsh, you have to stay focused on what is important to you.
As we drove out that day with the Hero Holiday staff, this truth became a glaring reality.One of the families we were preparing to build a house for is a single mom with 6 kids. We pulled up to their current home, which consists of boxes from the strawberry fields and rolled out tin cans, and were chatting with her about the plans for the house. As I stood under the roof that she probably constructed with her own calloused, tired hands, I looked around and tried to memorize what I saw: beds that sagged in the middle and were filthy beyond recognition, covered with threadbare blankets that you wouldn’t even allow your dog to sleep on at home. I looked up and could see the sky through the roof and feel the wind move my hair through the wall- the cold, biting wind of a Baja winter. I looked down where I was standing and realized that my feet had sunk into mud: the mud that was actually the floor where the rest of their family walked on barefoot…and I thought that a hot shower was my ‘right’? How could I even explain the concept of a hot shower to these people? They don’t even have access to any clean water except that which they buy from a truck when they can spare the money.I have to be honest here: I didn’t even want to look her in the eye. I felt like my cheeks were hot as I remembered my own hot shower earlier that day. A shower that she might never, in her life, have ever considered was possible. After hearing her story of what her life is like, after seeing it with my own eyes, and smelling it with my own senses, I wanted to somehow honor her and communicate to her my deep respect and admiration. On impulse, I reached out and kissed her cheek. It was weathered, but beautiful. There was a quiet dignity that rested there. This was a woman who I was humbled to be under her roof, and this was a woman who I wanted to see have a much better roof over her head, with clean and warm beds for her family, and the ability to grow and prosper amidst such disappointment and heartache.As you read this, two thirds of the world is without access to clean water. Two out of three. 66.67%. Why is there so much disparity in our world? We can spend our whole lives just trying to be safe and avoiding any discomfort, and in the end, perhaps all we have really succeeded in doing is alienating ourselves from what we could truly accomplish if we were willing to try. My experience with working with the poor has given me a lifetime of education, and ever since I have first encountered poverty, I have always been struck by the smell. It is hard to describe the smell of a busy, dirty alley in a slum, or a home that has no access to clean water, or the smell of damp, rotten earth for a living room floor. It is a smell that exists because there are no resources to wash it away. It is at once repulsive and compelling, and it begs to be noticed. Without simple, clean water, it would seem that it cannot change, but yet, we must do something to bring about that change. How much could be possible if we all decided that we could do our part?”Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”~Margaret Mead
Hero Holiday, a humanitarian program of LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute), runs trips to Mexico throughout the year. We work and partner with a community in Baja, California, because we believe that together, we are stronger, and together we can change the future. We have built over 55 houses in that area, and most of those were built by Canadian teenagers and adult groups who saw a need and realized they could become part of the answer. We build these houses because we believe in the fundamental right of every person to have safety and security, and we also have realized that by providing adequate housing, we are helping to alleviate some of the pressure on those families for their survival. In 2009, we are hoping to build even more homes, as well as to continue to work with the women’s cooperatives and pre-schools that we are helping to get off the ground. Please consider partnering with us to make a difference in the lives of more families in Baja, Mexico.