Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Getting Ready for Builders of Hope 2010

The group has formed and we are beginning to get our gloves, hats and first aid kits ready. Some are hitting the gym to be ready to pick up the bricks and others are ready to jump in now. We'll be blogging again from the 4th to 9th of January! Follow us!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Reflection by Kimber Johnson

My name is Kimber, and this year’s trip was my third experience working with Esperanza International. This year presented many challenges when planning this trip to Tijuana, Mexico. There was the scare of increased violence among the border towns. Then, too much dismay was the scare of the swine flu. Both times, our media rocketed out of control. The violence was between the policia and the drug cartels. The swine flu ended up being more of a danger in the United States, especially hitting close to home in New York. (Not to mention, that all the while in Mexico, I never noticed any sort of panic. Yet, while in San Diego for a short few hours… I saw plenty of people wearing face masks in public!) Nevertheless, July 5th, 2009 came and it was finally our week to help make a difference in Tijuana.
The week went fast, as it always does, but there was just something about this trip that set it apart from my others. It was definitely a combination of experiences. So, please, allow me to share.
Sunday, July 5th, we arrived at the Posada. This year we were welcomed in the midst of a fiesta. It was a joyous celebration for one of the workers who graduated high school. We were introduced and invited to celebrate as well. Our group took time to be acquainted with the members of the Seattle group as well as some of the Esperanza families present. Overall, I could not ask for any other way to arrive in Tijuana.

Monday, July 6th, our group began the first day of work. Again, this year was unique. This year was my third trip, but it was the first time we would take down a house before building the new one. The house that required demolition was a wooden house that had been constructed by a religious organization. The most insane part was that the house was built from wooden pallets… and the pallets weren’t even dismantled. Problem is a real sturdy and lasting home requires concrete. Bug infestations cannot be prevented with wooden houses in this area. The wood is not treated with pesticides as it would be in the United States. And so, the house was taken down little by little. It really was something to see. Someone in our group questioned Ines, the home owner, whether it was hard to see her home come down. Roughly translated, she shared that this was not her home. It was a house that was built for her. While she appreciates it, she never met the workers and it was impersonal. This house—that our group was helping to build, meant more to her.

Tuesday, July 7th consisted of another hard day of work. It was after this hard day of work that our group, along with the Seattle group, made a trip to Tijuana Beach to see the border. We had some time to walk along the border fence from the Mexican side. To take in and process what the border means to us, and what the border means to the Mexicans. This year, the construction of a third fence commenced. Friendship Park is no longer. Friendship Park was once a place where separated families could once meet and hold hands. While these meetings were still through a fence, there was contact. This new fence eliminated this possibility. This infuriates me. I do not believe it is necessary for one fence to be separating neighboring countries and families, not to mention three. The most shocking scene to me during this trip to the border was the marking and vandalism of the monument. Last year, there was not one mark on this monument signifying the end of one country and the beginning of another. To see such anger, resentment, and sadness expressed was just unbelievable. To me, this sight states “We’ve gone too far.”

Wednesday July 8th After another hard day of work—digging, picking, removing tires, removing nails, passing buckets of dirt, and much more, our group took our first ever trip to Casa del Migrante. The Casa has the capacity to receive 180 male migrants. It provides shelter for about two weeks, clothing, basic medical services, food, assists the men in applying for legal papers, and contacting their families. This organization is also responsible for placing crosses on the border fence for those who have passed attempting to cross the border. The crosses have the name if known, the age if known, and sometimes the city if known of the person. However, if this information is not known, not identified is written. This organization is truly amazing for all that it does. Many of us were able to hear personal stories of men at the Casa.

Thursday, July 9th This evening after work our group was able to visit the orphanage. My first year working with Esperanza International, which was two years ago, we had visited this same orphanage. To my surprise there had been wonderful donations and a new play yard had been constructed. There was a huge rush of energy as the girls came running over to play with our group. Cameras were a hot item. Every single girl wanted to take pictures of anyone and anything, pretty much everything. The next big thing was a wonderful magic trick that one of the girls decided to show us. Once that was out in the open, the magic trick would be shown to you at least once from each girl, from youngest to oldest. Capuche was also a very popular game. I did not know this Spanish term when I walked in, but on the way out I knew, and will never forget that it means piggyback ride. The one thing I did notice that evening was one of the girls that had held my hand oh-so tightly two years ago, during my first trip to that orphanage. She was older and bigger, but looked the same and responded to Fabiola. I was torn at this moment—heartbroken at first, but then pleased. This place is a glorious place. The sisters take great care of the girls and it is probably the best family one could ever ask for. Not to mention that the girls are welcome to stay as long as they want. There is no age limit. They will not get kicked out. Instead, the sisters will help the girls find apartments when it is time for them to venture out on their own.

Friday, July 10th was our last day of work and probably the most worthwhile. We dug all week. We dug about ten feet down. Digging does not show immediate progress. Digging is very slow paced. However, digging is the most important task for building a house. Without the excavation, a foundation cannot be poured. After digging all week, the last day we were able to lay the foundation bricks and begin building up the retaining wall. We took the necessary steps to insert the rebar and secure the rebar together with wires and pliers. Before lunch, we were successfully able to pour the cement. That day at lunch, we had a fiesta of our own with Ines and her family. Carne Asada was served with tortilla, avocado, frijoles, and extremely spicy items that I have learned not to eat. Lunch was delicious. But then it was time to say goodbye. And just as I am writing now—my reflections, we all shared our thoughts and emotions of the week that passed. It was time to say Adios. We took pictures, exchanged hugs, and promised to learn more Spanish for the next year. Well at least I did.

And so, with our week complete I write my reflections. But to me, it does not capture the entire spirit of the trip. It is something you have to experience for yourself. And so I urge you, if possible to experience this trip yourself. You won’t regret it. I will close with a very moving phrase written on the monument at the border “Deseo un mundo sin fronteras”. I wish for a world without borders.

Over all impressions

By Veronica Mirenda

This was my first experience to Mexico and I didn’t know what to expect other than hard work. I didn’t know any of my peers that were able to go after the date change, but I made long lasting bonds with my new friends. The Esperanza experience often leaves me speechless, even when not put on the spot. I have so many thoughts and reflections in order before my mouth opens and then I go blank. I appreciate having the privilege and opportunity to be able to go and be one with the community in Mexico considering all the prerequisites and protocol they may have to go through to come to the Unites States.

While in Mexico we were able to see the embarrassing extent as to which our government has gone to with the building of 2-3 walls bordering the 2 countries. To see the innumerable amount of memorials for those who died trying to cross the border makes one feel sad, uneasy, over privileged discontent and ambitious towards change. We were taken to a facility that helped to provide accommodations to those migrants who have been deported from the U.S. Some have been in here for so long that they no longer remember how to speak Spanish. They were taken from their families and have nowhere to go. This place offers them a room, meals, phone calls to their families and help to get back on their feet.

We went to a girl’s orphanage that was so uplifting that you lost yourself in the fun and excitement of these little chicas. Racing through them all, giggling constantly and having fun was great but so hard to say goodbye. Its sad to know what great little girls they are and knowing that they already had troubling life issues. It is exciting on the other hand because the sisters are providing a much better life for these girls and they have a great hope for a bright future.

During the days in Tijuana we worked on creating a foundation for Inez’ home. We took down a home that was built by another organization because the wood used for this initial structure was half rotted and cockroaches were infesting some of the pieces. After the house was taken down we went through all the beams and saved suitable pieces and tossed the bad ones. We had to remove the nails from each piece, as not to waste materials, also ones that were bent had to be straightened out for future use. Materials are so scarce and expensive that it really broadened my mind as to what is really going on I some parts of the world and how much we take for granted. We had to move about a 100 or so tires that were supporting the initial foundation for the wooden house and we dug and eleven foot trench and built a wall made of cinderblocks and cement to create a stronger and better foundation for the new house. After each accomplishment (even those as small as getting a nail out of a board) everyone moved on with great force and asked how they can help someone else or just helped if they were mid project.

There were people from all over town who came to help build this house and help build up this community. The community and the love are so great that you have such a strong sense of purpose and belonging. Inez’ son Caesar dropped everything to come and help build this house for his mother. They are a part of our family as we are now a part of theirs. Everyone is so appreciative and welcoming, it’s nice to work side by side and be one with them and their community. I have learned a great amount through this experience. I plan to share it with others and to learn more Spanish to be able to communicate more efficiently. This has opened my mind and body to all possibilities and Esperanza. (hope)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Some After Experience Reflections

Wednesday July 8, 2009

By Danielle Hindieh

Our visit to Casa del Migrante, in my opinion, was the most emotional
of all we have done in the past eight years. I believe that it showed
us directly how our actions effect the Mexican people. We heard
stories from the priest who ran the facility. He told us a case about
mothers who had dropped their children off at school and as they were
driving away they were stopped down the street and deported later that
day. What were their children thinking when they finished school and
no one came to pick them up? What will happen to these children? I saw
people from all different walks of life all brought together for the
same reason. Our government deported them.

I met two young men in their early twenties. They each had a wife and a young child back in the states. One gentlemen had gotten a new job in Florida and was one
his way back to California to get his family to move them when his bus
was stopped at a check point and he was deported later that afternoon.
I met another man who had been in the States for over twenty years. He
was deported because his INS card had expired and he didn't make it
down to the office to renew before it did. Back home (in the States)
he had a daughter in college and a son in high school. These men may
never see their families again. I started to feel guilty because
earlier in the week I had been complaining about some family problems
to a friend but I would see my family again in only a few days. I'm
not sure our citizens or our government realizes the serious problem we
have created. By making children born in the US legal citizens, and
not their parents, we create a problem when their parents are deported.
When their fathers are deported we created single parent households
with lower standards of living. That leads many children to join gangs
and involves themselves in lives of crime to support themselves. When
both parents are deported we just overload our already over crowded
system with more children. Our government needs to know the
repercussions of destroying the family system, So do our family and
friends. I tried telling a friend about it and she said so how is this
my problem? What should we do about it then? A suggestion is to write
our congressmen to tell them about the situation and how they should
work to protect families and keep them together.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Our Last Day

Here is a bit of our last day.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Internet has been down.

Our internet has been down for the past day or so. Here are pictures of the past couple of days.
Alum Raymond Zhao joined us last night for our final day. After 4 days of digging we finally built part of a retaining wall and poured the cement to hold it fast. The family was grateful, knowing that in about 1 month they will have a new home that will not flood when the rains come. More to come on our experience.

Here is a synopsis. On Wednesday night we went to Casa del la Migrante, which gives people who have been deported back to Mexico a place to stay, food and help while they make their future plans. We met some people who only spoke English because they came to the United States as children and never learned Spanish. They are now in a country they do not know, have no family and have to make their way.

After a day of work on Thursday we went to an orphanage run by these wonderful sisters. We were impressed with how wonderful the place was. The girls seemed very happy. Even after they are 18 they can stay on until they figure out what they will do with their lives. Very humane.

Today we finished our evening with a wonderful meal the Ana Mar restaurant just south of La Gloria. It has been great here. We saw no violence, we always felt safe and did not experience any panic about the flu. It has been great.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Life in the Trenches

Day 2

The group spent a long hard day digging a trench which will soon be replaced by a load bearing wall. A hot day of pick-axing, shoveling, and moving endless buckets of dirt and sand left us all pretty exhausted, but with a feeling of accomplishment.

Before we returning the Posada for much needed showers and a hot meal, we made our way to the great ocean whose name means peace. Unfortunately, the road leading to the beach runs parallel to the border, whose very presence denies the possibility of peace. We saw the a wall stretch for miles before cutting itself right into the Pacific Ocean.

On the Mexican side of the beach we saw families under umberellas, strolling the beach, and kids playing soccer. Not one person stood on the American side, only a border patrol SUV. We saw a young boy quickly sneak through the fence to retrieve the soccer ball that had been kicked to the other side.

Apparently, one wall is not good enough. We have two, and have heard that a third is on its way up. We saw an area of the wall where a park once stood. "Friendship Park" was a place where divided families could be together. After the park closed, they could at least see and talk to one another through the fence. Now, the second wall makes the gap from our two countries so far that a person on the other side is barely visible.

It is hard to have answers for an issue as complex as immigration. After seeing the border I am left with more questions than anwers. One of them being: Do we really want to be the country that puts up a wall?

Builder of Hope 2009

Monday, July 6, 2009

Cement in My Gum

Reflections by Mary Ann Damato

I have known Father Ted Brown and worked with him on various projects since 1988. This This experience in Mexico seems to bring me back to many other wonderful service projects, but this is the first time I can honestly say that I have had cement in my gum. As I was literally pulling down a wall(we have to take down a house before we put up the new one) I was contemplating what it would be like to tear down the Wall that is so very present in Tijuana.
Also it made me think of how important it is to tear down all walls between people.

Anyway, the cement in my gum could really be helpful in taking the tartar off my teeth. Yes, there was a lot of joking around on the site that included seven of us from the C.W Post team and twenty of the wonderful Mexican men and women who are a part of the Esperanza Family. Many were the same people who were with us yesterday at the fiesta that celebrated a young man named Uriel. It was his graduation from high school.

Last night they were swinging a stick at a pinata, in between dancing the cumbia and meringue. Today the same people were swinging hammers to bring a new abode to a deserving family.
In doing the work one couldn't help but notice the little family articles: a Winnie the Pooh picture here, an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe there. We kept working in the the Mexican sun because the loving energy that bounced off each of us made the hard work lighter, and the antics of Eduardo, our fearless leader, kept us entertained enough for us to forget how hot and tired we were.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Arrival

Everyone arrived on time in San Diego with little problems. Within minutes the van was packed and we were heading to Tijuana. The boarder crossing was easy and within an hour we were at the "Posada." We arrived in the middle of a "Fiesta" honoring one of the young workers who had just graduated from High School. It was quite a big deal. At Mass I blessed him and he was quite moved.

Of course the first day had to have the obligatory trip to the Taco Stand in downtown La Gloria.
We left quite satisfied after a couple of taco's or other great food.

Above are some pictures of our arrival. Also after talking with the members of the Seattle group I found that the nephew of mayor Goodwin of Brookville is here with us. Small world.
Tomorrow the day begins early and we start the work. More later.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Leaving on jet plane

After postponements and the ups and downs of rescheduling, a hearty bunch of us are heading out to Mexico this weekend to do some housebuilding in Tijuana. We are excited knowing that we are there for these good people when they are really hurting. The economy is bad here in the States but it is having an devastating effect in Mexico and the charitable organizations that try to help.

Esperanza is down 60% in the number of groups and funding. We are happy to do our part. I hope to post some pictures here daily. Their internet connection is pretty good so it should work well.
This year's Builders of Hope are:

Fr. Ted Brown
Jeanette Murray
Mary Ann Damato
Aida Vera
Kimber Johnson
Veronica Mirenda
Danielle Hindieh

We are sharing the experience with the Seattle group that showed us the ropes so many years ago. It will be good to reconnect with them.