When the Rotary Club of Parksville takes on a project, it’s a commitment! Since 2014, Rotary Team Mexico has built six houses, a kindergarten, an adult education centre, a trades classroom, and an addition to a seniors’ centre. For the past eight years, in partnership with Canadian charity Live Different, the Club has led a team consisting of Rotarians and their partners, Interact students and various friends of Rotary.
The latest chapter in this venture occurred in February of 2023 when 18 Rotary Team Mexico volunteers arrived in the small town of Vicente Guerrero in the northern Baja, the community where Live Different has established a home base and where the previous builds have all taken place. The goal for this build was ambitious – two houses in five days!
Marie Felix (widowed grandmother) and her family and single mother Benita and daughter Ashley are the recipients of the houses, and all quickly became part of the work team. Neither of the families had ever lived in a real house, with a real roof, real windows and a locking door.
Employing local labour, site preparation had already been completed by Live Different. Cement had been poured and the concrete pads for two houses were ready for construction.
Rotary Team Mexico 2023 is an eclectic group, consisting of both novice and experienced builders, a mix of ages and backgrounds.
By the end of the first day, walls were up, painting was ongoing, and two families were beginning to realize that they will actually be moving into brand new houses by the end of the week.
By day 3, Rotary Team Mexico was raising the roof with much excitement and enthusiasm! Community and family members, young and old, joined in the build, making it truly their own.
While some intrepid Rotarians and Interactors took to the heights, the majority of the team preferred to stay on terra firma where there were jobs for everyone, regardless of strength, skill or ability.
While most volunteers arrived without previous building experience, there were many opportunities to learn, and participants soon realized that the build was much more than construction. All members came home with heartwarming stories of family and community connections … and there were even cooking lessons during home visits in the community.
With Live Different expertise “on the ground”, local talent, and the enthusiastic people power of Rotary Team Mexico, both houses had taken shape by the end of the third day.
Once the structure was up, team members moved to the finer details of windows, door frames, and shelving.
Soon it was time to add the furnishings, equip the kitchen and make the houses into homes.
Rotarian Deidre Michael paints the following picture: “Today we finished one house. Felix is delighted with her new home. Her daughter and other relatives were very involved with the work. Her son Crispin learned many building skills and was a strong support. Sylvia, her daughter, took days off to paint. It was all gloriously chaotic with children from age 2-6, tiny dogs and a cat underfoot. Miraculously no one got hurt.
There are several broken hearts that we can’t take the tiny blond puppy home. The children found her, and Felix would love for one of us to take her”.
With colours chosen by the families, Felix now has a new pink house, while Benita has decided on grey.
And there was good news about the little pup, now christened “Peanut”. Following a visit to the local vet sponsored by two sympathetic Rotarians, she has a clean bill of health, is getting better nourishment and should have a happier future in her cozy new home, along with Felix, her daughter and grandchildren.
Once again, Rotary Team Mexico has completed its mission, on time and on budget, with support from the Rotary Club of Parksville, District 5020, and the participants themselves.
With the coordination, local knowledge and hands-on support provided by Live Different, Rotarians feel privileged to be a part of these eight builds and are already looking forward to the next one. There was a lot of hard work, but also much laughter and camaraderie, partially fuelled by youthful exuberance.
After long days working in the hot sun, a day of excursions was also welcomed, including a visit to a local dog sanctuary, a trek up a volcano and a kayaking expedition.
On Dedication Day, house keys were presented to the families, and they began their new lives in warm, secure homes where children can play and be safe.
All participants leave Mexico feeling gratitude for the opportunity to experience the kindness and generosity of the local community. Well done Rotary Team Mexico and Live Different!