Sunday, June 2, 2013


Yesterday was a hectic morning, trying to get our act together to leave the Posada and head back to the USA and so there was little time to blog.  Watch over the next few days and many participants will be adding their reflections of the total experience.

Friday was an emotional day.  Some of the crew left early to continue making blocks at Norma's house while the rest of us headed to Ofilia's house to build the walls.  Shortly after noon we finished building the walls on the house and were ready to celebrate with the family that with in a month, Ofilia's family will move in.

The family set up a long board, set chairs around it, and we had the first meal in the 'new house', although there was no roof.
A delicious steak BBQ was prepared with rice and beans.  The favorite of course was the chicken mole.  (Mo-lay).  A wonderful sauce with a chocolate base.  It was amazing.  Children ran around excited to see the progress.

After lunch we circled up and said our good byes.  Everyone was touched by the hospitality of the people and their hard work.  We thanked them and we were told we always had a home to stay in if we came to Mexico, because it was our house also.  I have the sense they meant it.   Hugs went around and we hopped into the bus for what would be the most emotional part of the trip.  We headed to Luz's home, which we built two years ago.   Early in the week we heard she had breast cancer.

On arrival I hoped out of the bus and Luz came out, thinner and with shorter hair.  We both broke out into tears when we saw each other.  A tight hug communicated all that needed to be said.  After a few short private moments, the rest of the crew came into the house we built and Luz explained her situation and that she needs another operation, but is not strong enough now.  She is very aware that each day is a delay the allows more cancer to grow.  She told us she doesn't want to die, but if God calls her home she is ready.  All of us where overwhelmed by her strong faith.

I asked if she wanted the 'sacrament of the sick' and with out hesitation she said yes.   Not having any oil I asked if she had cooking oil, and a bottle of olive oil appeared.  I blessed the oil, and began the sacrament.  We all laid hands on her in silence..but tears were in everyone's eyes.   I could barely get through the ritual.  At the end of the ritual and the "Our Father" was said in both English and Spanish.
Tears were flowing during the prayer.  Somehow we collected ourselves, said our goodbyes and headed to the border to experience the 'WALL" as an Mexican experiences it.

At the wall there was much silence.

 There are many protests to the wall written on it.  Eduardo reminded us  that the wall is not Mexico's biggest problem, but helping build an economy where people will want to stay in Mexico is.   It is always a place of mixed emotions, as a citizen of the USA, we understand the need for secure boarders, but we also know of the longings of the Mexican people to give their children the best life possible.  As Eduardo keeps saying, the border is a complicated issue, with no simple solution.

After the time of contemplation of the border a few brave souls joined hands, and threw themselves into the Pacific Ocean at the beach that is at the border.

 After the sadness and solemness that we experienced laughter was needed.  Once in it was hard to take get them out.   The bus ride was full of dancing and fun.  We relaxed at the Posada, walked into town for some ice cream, and enjoyed our last night with Esperanza.

Saturday we packed, cleaned and headed to the border.  We left at 10 AM and crossed  into the US about 1 PM.  It was good to be home.  We got on the trolley with different groups getting off  at different spots depending on their plans.  We said each time, "this is it..see you in NY."

Well it wasn't it.  Later that evening we all met up at Lulu's Cafe in down town San Diego.  I got cheers as I walked into the Hookah bar and saw our gang at a long table with two hookah stands and everyone puffing away.  Finally a few hours later we finally departed.  Early this morning (Sunday) I hear my phone 'ding' with the first text message saying, 'we are home.'  A few more came in from the 'red-eye fliers.'

With that the 2013 Builders of Hope Experience ended, but hearts, minds and souls were full.

Friday, May 31, 2013


Yesterday we went to two different work sites for work.  One group went back to Norma's  house and another group met Ofelia and her family.  At her house we continued to dig a trench in her backyard, laid bricks (building the walls of the home)  and tied steel reinforcement bar (re-bar) into the cement.
It was a hard day with sore muscles, but with continued energy from the uplifting orphanage experience  and the support of friends we pushed through the pain.  

We exemplified  true team work and cooperation.  We formed a line where we passed buckets of cement to one another.  When someone saw me struggle they were quick to help, and visa versa.  If someone needed help, I would be there to jump in.  It was team work at it's finest.   

Between that and our line of brick-passing, cultures, language and other barriers  were broken down and everyone was there to help each other.  We were there for the same reason, to build a house...a home..a better world.  Not to mention that in the process, Father Ted got 'Baptized' while washing the cement off the buckets.  I couldn't  help but get FT with a bucket of cold water.
 Smiles and team work made day 4 another rewarding one.  We can't believe how fast it is going.

After work we went to Eduardo's friend's restaurant the "Ana del Mar" in Puerto Nuevo.  Before dinner we went shopping in the quaint fishing village.
 Many shop owners were trying to draw us into  their restaurant with their 'promo's but we ate at the Ana del Mar beause it is supporting a local business.   Warm Mexican hospitality was present from the owners Antonio and Ana, not to mention the DELICIOUS food.
 A fun night of laughs and full bellies  left us for a final day hard work.


Kristin Legge and Takuya Yamasaki

Thursday, May 30, 2013


Hi Everyone!

Yesterday, Wednesday, was HUMP DAY!   We have officially made it half way through our trip.  I don't think any of us are too happy about it though.  We are having such a grate time here, it is hard to think about leaving.

We started the day bright and early as usual.  I was struggling to brush my teeth with bottled water when I heard Miguel mumble something about a 'clinic.'   I quickly decided that my toothbrush was rinsed well enough so I ran out to the meeting room to ask about the clinic.  I was very excited when Father Ted told us we would be visiting the "Esperanza Clinic" this morning.

We boarded the bus at 8:45 am.  About 3 upbeat Spanish songs later  we arrived at the clinic.  We were greeted by a very friendly faced nun  (Sister Silvia) who welcomed us and gave us a tour.   The clinic was built to serve the people living on a huge landfill.  She explained that many of the residents there get sick from living so close to all that garbage.

After the tour she brought us out back to show us a view of the whole town.  When she told us that the people lived on a garbage dump I didn't realize  how serious she was .  There mountains of scrap metal, tires and plastic that seemed to go on forever.  The houses were scattered  atop mounds of trash.

I think what surprised me more than the conditions that the people were living in was  that they were living at all.  We only met about three members of the community  for a brief moment but they seemed truly happy  we were there.   When we first stepped out to the back Sister Silvia  ran to the edge of the hill and yelled "Toni!"  A man came out and walked up a steep hill to us.  His face was wrinkled but his eyes were warm .  When he shook my hand  I could feel the callouses from years of working hard.   He looked up at me and smiled with the most beautiful, genuine smile.  From a dental perspective, his smile left quite a lot to be desired, but there was something about it that was so human, and that was what made it beautiful.

I think what surprised me the most was throughout this whole trip is how much joy and pride the people find in their homes.  We come and see the conditions that the people live in and we feel terrible about the  level of poverty, but they still live dignified lives.  It's amazing to see them working to help one another.  Every day three young boys from the neighborhood come and work as hard as we do to help their neighbor.
It shows us what real community is.  It's a lesson well learned.

Laurie Murray.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Trenches, Soccer and Kids!

Yesterday, Tuesday, was another busy and successful day in Mexico.  Everyone woke up, had breakfast  and headed out to Rosarito where we finally met Norma, (she was working on Monday) and her family, who will live in the house once finished.  They are a loving, funny, smart and gracious.  They were more than ready to help us, working with the wheel barrel and lifting buckets of dirt from the foundation trenches we are digging.   Norma had invited some of the neighbors to help and thus we experienced a sense of true community.

After working all day in the sun, we headed back to the Posada and cleaned up to to St. Theresa of the Child Jesus Orphanage run by the Sister's of the Sacred Heart.  We enjoyed pizza with the girls and met the sisters.  The girls were very welcoming  and enjoyed our company as much as we enjoyed theirs.
Before the pizza a serious game of soccer broke out and it was quite a battle.

The teen girls enjoyed showing their skills against the us, the visiting team.
 We headed in for the pizza and the girls offered a 'rap' style grace and the pizza was served.

A language barrier came down easily  because hand games , smiles and lots of laughs  too the place of spoken words.  As we said our good-byes  the girls sang for us.  One song that touched us was John Lennon's Imagine; leaving us  with a message  that world can be a place filled peace and love.

Saludos (greetings)

Aida Vera and Christopher Silva

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


Yesterday, Monday May 27, was day one of working in Mexico.   The main objectives  completed were making bricks and continuing to dig the foundation.  When we arrived at the worksite, we gather around and met the family were helping.   After introducing ourselves to one another, we went straight to work.  Each person was put to work in a different station.  Some people shoveled sand into buckets and sent the to the next group who mixed the sand with cement  and water.  After the  cement was mixed , other volunteers  shoveled the mixture in the brick maker.  The bricks were formed  and placed in the sun to dry for 15 days.   Freshly formed bricks are incredibly fragile, but the will oiled machine that are the Builders of Hope finished the job before lunch.

A lunch of a variety of burritos and juice was prepared by the family and we a enjoyed a meal together as a community.

After lunch the volunteers were assigned  different tasks to do as we moved onto the next  stage of building  the house.   Some of the foundation was dug out before we arrived, but there was still much to dig out.  Some volunteers  were digging deeper  into parts already dug (we needed a 4 foot depth). Others took on the challenge of literally breaking new ground which involved using a sledge hammer  to break up pre-existing  concrete , using a pick axe to break up the dirt underneath the concrete.   While others shoveled the dirt and rocks into a wheel barrel  to be wheeled out to a place across the street where there was nothing but more dirt and sand.

For every small group of volunteers, it started out as everyone working on the same stage, but the more we worked, the more we realized  that each person had a different skill to offer that they enjoyed doing.  For example, one person liked sledgehammering more than they liked pick-axing and visa versa, thus each person was able to do the work more effectively because they enjoyed doing it.   This also meant  that while one or two people were working hard others where able to take a break which was needed in the hot weather.

After we completed our first day of work, we went back to the Posada (where we are staying)  to clean ourselves up from all the dirt and cement.  In Tijuana the people try to conserve as much water as possible, so here we take a 'two minute shower.'  It's a humbling experience  to take a quick shower and  realize  that it's taken for granted in the US.  

Being Memorial Day, we had an US style barbecue meal with hamburgers and hotdogs waffle fries and reflection on our day.  It was interesting hear the different views and experiences  of each of us, whether we were a new volunteer  or a returning one, able to speak Spanish or not.

As exhausting of a day as it ws, there is still much work to be done and more cultural experiences to be had with new memories to make.  We never know exactly what will need to be done  until we to to the worksite, but after work on day 2, we will be visiting an orphanage.   Stay tuned!

Mike Riggs and Amanda Kelly.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The 2013 Builders of Hope Trip

On Sunday, May 26 ten members of the LIU Post community arrive in Tijuana, MX to build a house for a family.  We'll dig, mix cement, lift bricks and put up walls.  We'll visit an orphanage run by the Sisters of the Sacred Heart, experience the border as a Mexican does,  have a chance to shop and absorb the local culture.

We'll do our best to keep this blog up, but the internet can be a bit sketchy.  We thank all the people who donated and made the trip possible.

Please pray for us while we are there.  The work is hard, and like any construction work has it's own hazards, but also pray for us because we'll be tugged through every emotion possible.  Finally pray for us that we'll be able to see where God sneaks in.

Pope Francis wants the church on the 'outskirts of society,' bringing the Good News of Christ to the poor.  This is a very 'concrete' way we do that.