University of Alberta Students in Mexico – ‘From House to Home’
Hi Folks,A few days have passed since our last blog, and what a whirlwind it’s been. The house we started on Monday is now complete, and we did it all ourselves! It’s been a fast week of windy sunny days, and we watched our efforts slowly but surely raise walls, put on a roof, throw in some windows, finish the trim, and paint everything. After some final touches to the shower, outhouse, and interior walls, our set of small and seemingly simple tasks had created a house for a family we’ve come to love over the course of the week. With four rooms, solid walls, a roof that won’t leak, high ceilings, and a solid concrete pad, this new house couldn’t be more different than the one they’ve been living in until now- one small room, one bed, dirt floors, and a roof and walls that do little to stop the wind and rain.One of the most rewarding parts of this trip so far came yesterday: after building the house, we took the time to make it a home. We headed out shopping at local second-hand furniture store, a “Mexican Walmart”, and couple of other places to furnish the house, buy food for the family, and provide them with the type of necessities that we often take for granted- shoes for school, pencils, notebooks, etc. In the afternoon we put the things in the house and set most of it up: blankets on the beds, food on shelves, and a new stove on the counter.Tomorrow we’re headed out to the house where we need to do a couple of small touches before handing over the keys. We’re all really looking forward to the house dedication, the moment when all of our fundraising efforts over the last six months, the things we’ve learned, reflections we’ve had, hard work with newly acquired skills, connections with the family, and fun we’ve had will translate into the most real and tangible difference in the lives of others that we can make. Of course, this anticipation comes as a bittersweet reminder that while our task may be nearly complete, so too is our amazing time in this fascinating and powerful place. A small area where we’ve witnessed the most severe effects of abject poverty, a seeming lack of opportunity for the future that is tough to comprehend, and the daily struggle for food. And yet, in the very same place, we’ve seen the beautiful smiles on the faces of carefree children, heard laughter and giggling that breaks our hearts, and felt the love of a community that is more powerful than we had imagined. This truly is a place of contrast- and while our contribution to it takes on the form of four walls, a roof, and some furnishings, its contribution to us will take form through the thoughts, actions, and choices we make after we leave- ones that will never be the same.