Visit Tijuana Mexico with the Amateur Traveler. 13 times in the last 15 years I have made a trip down to Tijuana Mexico to work with a group from my church and a Mexican organization called Esperanza International to build houses out of concrete for and with the working poor. Esperanza means “hope” in Spanish. This video shows what that work is like.
Esperanza says that what they are actually trying to build is community, houses are just the byproduct. They put in credit unions and teach people how to save money, help people help their neighbors as they build sweat equity in the program, and teach people how to build cement bricks. The family and their neighbors must construct every brick for their house before a volunteer crew like ours will help dig trenches, pour a foundation, pour a floor, stack walls or pour a roof.
In our last trip, we moved 85 cement mixers full of concrete (about 500 pounds per load) by hand using a bucket brigade. We also moved 3 dump trucks full of dirt. You end up with very sore muscles a few scrapes and very very dirty. You also end up with friends South of the border. One of the neighbors who we worked alongside on this trip was a woman whose house we had helped build on a previous trip. Nothing cements a friendship like… well like cement.
Oh yeah, and the food is great also. For more information check out an early episode of the Amateur Traveler on Building Houses in Mexico.
The problem of poverty is a dirty problem and it seems insurmountable. The percentage of the population that was able to help is practically immeasurable. The Tijuana landscape is largely unchanged by this effort, but the life of one family is changed. The character of one neighborhood is change. If you think someone needs to do something about poverty, I encourage you to put your money and your muscle where your mouth is.