This Labor Day weekend we took a trip to Ensenada, Mexico. We were able to visit two
different minority farming communities. Each day brought a new adventure on a mission to help as many people as we could.
Our trip began officially on the second of September, but our gathering began on the first. We gathered at David's house before making the seven-hour road trip that brought us to our destination. Fortunately, we were able to rent a van with funds from two Green Grin garage sales and donations from Nanum Farms and members of the community. We departed at 10:00 PM and, after a multiple bathroom and snack breaks, notably at a delicious taco stop in Mexico, arrived at 5:00 AM at our home for the next few days.
After settling in, we were briefed on our daily activities and ultimate mission. We split into three teams of four, each choosing a leader and meal duties. Our first task was to clear some used wood around the house and go to the campo to make tables and beds. Because it was still early, we were able to squeeze in a bit more sleep, though the teams charged with breakfast and lunch got less.
After breakfast, we set to moving and breaking down used wood and other materials into a stack that could be reused for other purposes. We worked at that for about two hours before heading off to our first campo. The people’s situation there was more severe than we had expected. Their houses were single rooms without lights, furniture, or any of the luxuries we were used to. The squalor, especially in the bathrooms, was shocking. We were there to make them furniture, a labor we divided. First came beds. One team made the legs, while the other two made the frame and attached it to the bed box, to which we all nailed the legs. Then we built the tables and painted them green. We made in total nine beds, nine tables, and two smaller tables. By this point, a crowd had gathered, interested in the foreign activity. After we had finished, the town convened for song, a mini-mass, and a small feast of soda and bread. After the meeting, we Americans individually carried the tables and beds into the people’s homes. This gave us a more intimate view of their homes and lifestyles. They had nothing beyond a few piles of clothes in the corner and some laundry hanging outside. When the furnishing finished at about 8pm, we returned to our base. One team stayed to make dinner while the rest went off to a hot spring to shower. After everyone had eaten and bathed, we debriefed, discussing the positive impacts of our work that day, things we could have done better, and got the next day’s schedule.
We woke up extra-early on the second day to make our lunches. After breakfast and a short meeting about the day’s activities, we went to church with the same locals as the day before. Their songs were like ours, excepting a few variations in language and beat. The church, the small upstairs of a building, had nothing but a few pews and some instruments for hymns. We left mid-mass to ready the lunch we would serve: hot dogs, chips, jalapeños, and fruit punch or lemonade for over a hundred people. When all was set up, we helped the kids not attending mass draw. With our paltry Spanish, we guided them through their drawings and, soon thereafter, the food line; we served the little ones first before the adults arrived. Once all had eaten their fill, we set up our next activity: three stations for a clothes drive, polaroids (automatic photos), and games. The clothes drive, open to all, distributed clothes from our two yard sales. The photo booth snapped family and friends in groups and individually upon request, consuming 200 of our 300 exposures. The games station included jump rope and tug o’ war. When all were satisfied with their pictures and clothes, we went out to the field at the nearby school, which served as both a soccer field and basketball court. Grouped by age and gender, we played the villagers a few matches of soccer. Then we went to another campo to do the same, scaled down some for a smaller population. This campo was in an even worse state than the last: more dirt, smaller houses, and more isolated from any stores or shops. We gave out food, clothes, and polaroids (no games this time). One family showed us their house and it resembled the ones at the last campo but smaller and made of metal. After the visit, we hit the hot springs, dined, and debriefed to consider our effects, how long they would last, and how we might improve them. We understood that although our service to those people would not last forever, we had given them some basic necessities, insight into another culture, and a sign that the outside cared. Meanwhile, they’d taught us about the positivity in poverty. Although we live more privileged lives than theirs, they found happiness in things beyond the luxuries we commonly overlook. Their contagious cheer fueled a late evening for us of games around the campfire.
We had started the trip groggy and tired but finished it in high spirits. We ate, packed, and bid goodbye at 11am and, after another taco break (where we found an incredibly magical horchata), returned at to David’s house, invigorated with a new sense of accomplishment.