Imagine if you didn’t have a home, or the home was a makeshift shelter constructed from discarded pallets, tires, tin, cardboard, or tarps. Unfortunately, this is the reality for countless families around the world – including families in Mexico. The floor is dirt and is wet and muddy during the winter rainy season. Mold, rot, dampness, and cold are a way of life in the Winter months.
This photo was taken last year. It is someone’s home in Rosarito, Mexico. There are no safety nets in Mexico. Public housing projects and homeless shelters are scarce, and those that do exist are in overcrowded Mexico City.
By God’s grace, volunteers with Project Mexico have been making a difference. Since 1988, Project Mexico has been building safe, secure, and weather-tight homes for some of the most impoverished families in Northern Mexico—homes with concrete floors. To date, they have built over 500 homes. Project Mexico is a pan-orthodox mission based in Rosarito, Mexico, and is run in conjunction with Saint Innocent Orphanage for boys.
Last year I was blessed to participate in this incredible mission with eight of my fellow Parishioners from Saint Sophia Greek Orthodox Church in Valley Forge. This year, our group grew to 13, including half of our Parish Council and two members of neighboring Antiochian Orthodox parishes. We burned up vacation days to complete this mission, but it was by no means a vacation. We slept in tents, took lukewarm showers at the end of the work day, and ate modest meals of traditional Mexican fare. While creature comforts were sparse, spiritual nourishment was overly abundant. Each day at “the ranch” (the grounds are on a former horse ranch) started at 7:00 a.m. with Morning Prayer services and a half hour of personal prayer and reflection time. That was followed by breakfast and a quick clean-up, and then we loaded into our vans and headed out to the job site.
Families that are the recipients of these homes go through an extensive vetting process. They also have to have “skin in the game.” The land where the home will be built must be owned free and clear. The houses are also made with no amenities. It is a basic shelter consisting of a concrete floor, a stucco exterior, and a weather-tight roof. The homeowner then needs to finish the interior walls, add utilities (where available), furnishings, etc. Even so, what they are provided is a drastic improvement over their current living conditions.
Each house is built in 4 days and is finished with a house blessing, gifts of a Holy Bible written in Spanish, an icon of the Theotokos, and the final step – handing over the keys to the home. As one can imagine, the culmination of the prayers for the family, the sweat and sore muscles of the volunteers, and the joy on the faces of the family makes for a very emotional and spiritually fulfilling experience.
If you would like to learn more about Project Mexico or Saint Innocent Orphanage, you can visit their website at www.projectmexico.org. If you would like to join next year’s trip, please contact John Pogas at firstname.lastname@example.org.