Oak Bay High students gather with local children from Colonia Vicente Guerrero

Heroes build more than homes

Holiday offers teens a chance to give back

Two Mexican families no longer sleep on dirt and concrete floors in leaking shacks after 35 Oak Bay High students spent their spring break building homes in Mexico.

The students participated in Live Different’s Hero Holiday. Live Different is a charitable organization that arranges humanitarian work for Canadian youth to help those living in extreme poverty. The students spent a year-and-a-half fundraising for the trip and flew to San Diego last month. They then journeyed by bus to Colonia Vicente Guerrero, a small town about 300 kilometres south in Baja California. To Grade 12 student Jane Lindroos, it was an eye-opening experience and the scenery vastly changed as they travelled into Mexico.

“Houses are big near the border and then get smaller and smaller as you go further south and then they are not houses anymore (they’re shacks),” Lindroos said. “You can see how things change economically as you go further south. You see it change drastically in the span of one-and-a-half hours.”

The high school students were split into two teams with one team building a two-bedroom home for a family with a one-year-old child and the second team building a three-bedroom home for a family with three kids, two of whom work in Tijuana.

“One of those kids is 17,” said Lindroos, also 17. “The mom is hoping this home will get the whole family working together again.”

The fathers of both families each earn $10 a week; one fixes irrigation pipes and the other picks strawberries.

The foundations for both homes were poured prior to the teens arrival, but they built the walls, roof and painted the simple homes which measure about 6.7×6.1 m (20×22 ft).

While this is Lindroos’ second time participating with Hero Holiday, her first time was in 2012, she was again overwhelmed by the experience.

“I thought this being my second time, that I could handle it better because I went through this before, but the experience was still so overwhelming and powerful,” Lindroos said, explaining the love and passion for life she saw, even though the people have very little.

“It sounds so cliché and cheesy, but this was the highlight of my life.”

Lindroos said the trip gave the students a new perspective as they witnessed extreme poverty. The teens also learned how valuable water is, as it was limited for showers and isn’t safe for consumption.

“You can really see how the trip changed them,” Lindroos said.

More information about Hero Holiday, including pictures and information about the families the Oak Bay students built homes for, can be found at livedifferent.com.

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