Building lives one home a Time

Saturday, July 23, 2016

RHS'69 Reunion Committee member John Takara goes to Mexico on a regular basis.

He and his church group build homes for familes..and make lives a little bit better.

Pale, beaten mountains slump against the horizon. Stunted trees, crippled by heat and drought, dot the dusty, barren vista below.  Broken rocky gullies, clutching tough, thorny bushes and sparse patches of dying grass, claw at the rutted, unpaved road upon which I stand.

I am very far from my home in Hawaii.

This is the desert five miles south of Ciudad Juarez and adjacent to Mexican Highway 2, a land so exhausted that it can offer nothing to the people who live upon it.  Still, people do live here, many with children.

They occupy communities of eroded concrete bunkers and shacks of all descriptions, a mile-wide shantytown stretching seven miles along both sides of the highway that serves as an economic lifeline for the residents.  

I've visited this area four times over the years to build a house for a needy family.  I come with a group from my church, each time in the benign month of October, avoiding summer's scorching heat and winter's frigid chill. The house we build is a vast improvement, but it would hardly meet our standards.  We fundraise $11,000, sufficient to pay for all building materials, a bed, simple household furnishings and salaries of a Mexican work crew. Coordinating with Mission Ministries, the organization that maintains secure living facilities for us nearby, we build the house in just two days.

Before our arrival, the concrete slab is poured and precut lumber delivered to the worksite.  We provide labor to nail walls and roof together, insulate, hang drywall and apply paint.  The finished house measures 10 ft. by 30 ft. with two partitions creating three rooms, each 10 ft. square. We install six windows, a door and, if the area has electricity, four light bulbs. With no running water and an outhouse for a toilet, plumbing is not required.

Construction is simple enough that even children can join the work crew.

When construction is complete, we visit an orphanage, making crafts and treating the children to a meal and snacks.

In the evening we join a worship service at the local church that sponsored our family.

I'll be back this October.  Building a house and a life for a family in Mexico makes the world just a little bit better.  I'm glad to help but I have other reasons to go.  On each trip, I'm inspired anew by the human spirit. I witness perseverance, resourcefulness, sacrifice and demonstrations of faith and hope far beyond anything required of me. I leave new-found friends behind with a profound sense that we are all somehow connected. Returning home, I'm acutely reminded to be responsible with the luxury and security that surround me.  

And that awareness makes my life just a little bit better.

Video of a house building here.

Many commute by bus to jobs in Juarez, a city called the murder capital of the world for its drug wars.

These people are not squatters. They pay $9,000 for their 6,000 sq. ft. plot of desert upon which to build shelter. While some live comfortably, many can only afford structures cobbled together with warehouse pallets, discarded plywood, tires, tar paper, plastic sheeting, cardboard, even blankets.

During the winter, asthma is rampant among children as desperate families will burn anything, even rubber tires, to keep warm.  There are no medical clinics, no running water or sewer system. Water to drink, wash clothes, cook, and bathe is delivered once a week by truck, typically poured into two 55 gallon steel drums in the yard. Neither are there social services, no fire department, police, trash pickup or ambulance. It's common to hear of difficulties faced by families such as choosing between buying medication for a sick child or having dinner that evening.

Life is difficult here.