I am a student of the Multimedia Arts and Design Academy at my school, otherwise known as the MAD Academy. Every year, MAD students volunteer in a group project and it just so happens to be that this year, it took place in Mexico! It was an experience I will never forget and I was so fortunate to be given such an amazing opportunity.
After a four hour drive to the Mexican Border, we made our way to small town on the outskirts of Tijuana where we worked for a week. Each day consisted of getting up bright and early, eating our usual rice, beans, and tortillas (which we also had for lunch and dinner every single day), and leaving our campsite to head off on a bumpy ride to our worksites. The mission of the trip was to build houses for the families in the town who could not afford houses otherwise. Our group of approximately seventy volunteers was split into six teams, each team in charge of building their own house with the guidance of experienced carpenters and program directors.
I use the term “house” loosely for multiple reasons. In America, people often think of a house as a right, not a privilege. Consequently, most homes have excessive luxuries such as multiple floors, extra amounts of rooms, and an insane amount of utilities and electronics. The houses in the town we were volunteering in could not be more different. Many of the existing homes we saw barely had supportive walls or steady roofs. However, because of how accustomed to that way of living the people of the town were, they didn’t seem to realize what they were “missing” and as a result, were very happy. For the people of Mexico, ignorance was bliss and the less materialistic possessions they owned, the more content they were with what they had. This was just one of the many lessons I was able to take away from this experience.
All of that being said, the houses we built were incredibly simple but amazingly, so much more than what the families had to begin with. During our three work days we mixed concrete to create a slab as a base, constructed walls using nothing but hammers, nails, and wood, stuccoed the walls, and glued down a waterproof exterior for the roof using tar.
My favorite moment of the entire trip was sitting on the roof after some volunteers and I finished gluing it down. I remember having such a special feeling of pride in my heart as I was able to sit there on something my friends and I had built with our own hands, in such a short amount of time. I was even more excited to be able to hand the family their brand new house keys and I still constantly think about how grateful the mother of the family was when we gave them to her.
By the end of the trip, the MAD Academy built six houses for six different families. Leaving the trip was the hardest part of it because of how happy I was when I was there. Until next year, Mexico!
Thanks for reading, and comment below to tell me about your favorite volunteer experience.