College students spend winter break building houses for destitute in Tijuana

Students on winter break from Mesa State College and the University of Northern Colorado, Greeley, spent time in Tijuana, Mexico, building dwellings for the less fortunate. The volunteers mixed cement by hand, and power tools were not allowed.

Where there were houses made of cardboard, tarps and mud floors, three sturdy homes now stand.

A group of 31 people, including Mesa State College and University of Northern Colorado students and other adults, built not only homes, but cultivated relationships with our neighbors to the south.

What should have been winter break for the college students was transformed into a trip to build homes for those less fortunate in a destitute neighborhood in Tijuana, Mexico.

“It’s a great time for students,” said pastor John Mok-Lamme, who has helped facilitate the trip for the past three years. “I have one student who says you have to do this because it gets you out of the bubble.”

The program is organized through Amor Ministries, a San Diego-based, Christian organization. Amor Ministries works with local churches to help identify families in need of housing.

For this project, makeshift homes had been built in a ravine in an area that previously flooded, killing residents, Mok-Lamme said. Volunteers worked to build homes that are 11-feet by 22-feet with two rooms and locking windows and a locking door.

Volunteers mixed cement by hand, and power tools were not allowed. The presence of power tools is thought to be disruptive to a neighborhood and is believed to hinder community involvement. Much of the work was completed on a weekend, so the receiving family and others could help out.

“Everyone gets a hammer,” Mok-Lamme said.

Volunteer-based mission travel to Mexico had dropped in recent years as border towns are experiencing high levels of violence. Indeed, some parents pulled students from going on the trip, and some staff decided at the last minute not to go, Mok-Lamme said.

The group received some strange looks from locals, but the experience of seeing how some people live in abject poverty was powerful, he said.

Mok-Lamme said the Christian Student Fellowship at Mesa State College and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at the college will be meeting again soon to discuss plans for next year’s trip.


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