The Gift of Shelter
This year has certainly been stranger than most, and as we approach the end of the year and the holidays, reflecting on what we have, there is still much to be grateful for. I also know that not everyone in the world is as fortunate.
This year due to the pandemic, we were not able to deliver our usual Christmas gifts to customers. We took the opportunity to instead support a good cause we have worked with in the past – allocating our typical holiday budget towards those less fortunate and supporting our good friends at Baja Bound.
To give some more insight into the Baja Bound cause, I wanted to share my experience with them, as it was a trip like no other.
In 2019, I was lucky enough to be able to go down to Ensenada to help build houses for those less fortunate. It was very rewarding for myself and everyone who went on the journey; it helped put so many things into perspective. It was a real eye opener to see the utility of our resources, for what seems like so little effort, make a huge generational impact.
When we arrived in Ensenada, we saw families living in tents held up by pallets; by the time we left they had proper walls and a roof over their heads.
It was amazing to see the impact our work had on the families there. These houses provide a large improvement to their health and hygiene – they live in makeshift houses of scrap materials, and when it rains the dirt turns to mud and it can be a big mess. We sometimes take for granted what good hygiene means and its impact on your long-term health. When you make only a few bucks a day, it is insurmountable to be able to provide proper shelter on your own.
Baja Bound’s Process
There’s almost an unlimited amount of people that need houses in the Ensenada area; Baja Bound chooses families from the “working poor” of Mexico who have applied and been approved through their fair, yet stringent screening process.
To be chosen for a Baja Bound build, the families have to show they can afford to sustain the land and home after it is provided. Families usually start with purchasing (or having already owned) a very small plot of land on their own, which they’ll mortgage over decades, paying very little over time. They’re called the “working poor” for a reason – these are people who have jobs and work hard, but these jobs just don’t provide enough income to enable them to build a home on their own. Through a structured waiting period after applying, these families prove that they are able to maintain steady employment and will be able to keep and sustain the home once provided.
In the photo above, we were just starting to build the walls. We had a team of about 40 people (most of us trades people), so we were able to build two houses simultaneously in only a few days. The families were there as well and it was cute seeing the little kids try and help paint and having some fun.
You can see the house the family had been living in before, scrap wood, cardboard, plastic sheeting – basically scrap materials, whatever they could find built directly on the dirt.
Here you can see the house starting to take shape! Utilizing modern structural engineering, these houses not only will keep a roof over a family’s heads, it will also help insulate from the heat and keep the living quarters clean and free from mud and debris.
Here we are putting a literal roof over their heads and adding things like glass windows that can slide open to allow for some climate control. So cool! When you visit this area, you’ll see these colourful houses all over the place.
When we presented the families with the keys at the end, it was pretty amazing. The wife was crying because she was so happy, she knew she could now give her two kids a better life. The husband broke down in gratitude as well, they just don’t have the opportunity, no matter how hard they work, to provide the opportunity to give their family a proper home.
Looking back, I remember thinking how lucky our group was – the only difference between these families and ourselves was that we were born on different sides of an arbitrary line.
On the flight back to Canada from San Diego, I saw a little kid with Apple AirPods (a $350 pair of headphones), and recalled that where we were coming from a couple hours before, families struggle to put food on the table and live away from the dirt. San Diego is only 120 kms away from Ensenada – it’s shockingly close – and to see the massive disparity of access to opportunity was a little overwhelming.
More About Baja Bound
For over twenty-five years, Baja Bound has served the needs of the Baja region. They identify families ready for housing, connect them with groups from Canada and the U.S.A., and provide every needed element for the trip of a lifetime. They also offer creative orphanage and food programs for the children in these communities.
They stumbled across a magnificent plan to build an incredible home quickly and affordably; the rest is history. Here’s a video sharing a little more about their story:
Normally they are happy to host churches, schools, businesses, families, community organizations, or groups of friends to build a home for the working poor of Baja.
How You Can Help
As we’re all spending a little more time in our homes, it can be a good time to reflect on the great things we have. This holiday season, we understand you may not be in the position to contribute financially, but if you can you’ll be contributing to building communities and providing generational impact for those in the Baja region. Your dollar goes very far here. You can make a tax-deductible gift to their nonprofit at bajabound.org/donate.
Through the pandemic, they are still building houses for families in need and are employing the help of local tradesman to perform the builds.
If you aren’t in the place to make a donation, there are other ways you can help like sharing on your social media. Every little bit helps.
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