Unexpected Challenges Highlight Service Trip

Amanda Young, Business Editor

In association with Moraga Valley Presbyterian Church (MVPC), a group of 217 students, 168 of them from Campolindo, made the annual spring break trip to Tijuana, Mexico to build houses for impoverished families.

Their trip, however, was met with a series of challenges.

The 1st came when President Donald Trump threatened to close the southern border in a Tweet posted on March 29, just 1 day before the students were expected to depart.

“If he shut down the border, we could not go into Mexico. But, if he did close the border- which he didn’t, luckily- we would have still been able to get back in because you can’t deny American citizens from entering the country,” explained sophomore Ainsley Woodford, who participated in the trip for the 1st time.

According to Tommy Branagh, 1 of MVPC’s pastors who helped plan the trip and accompanied the students, the church never seriously considered canceling the trip because of the Tweet but did make additional plans with their hosts in Mexico in case an extended stay was necessary.

“It is difficult to know how we would have been impacted by a border closing since so few details were released by the White House about what that would look like,” said Branagh, “But it certainly would have made our trip much more challenging, and the border crossing a lot less certain.”

Additionally, Branagh confirmed that the buses on which students traveled did not have the correct documents, leaving students stranded for 2 hours as they waited for other buses to show up. Once they were in Mexico, a group of students’ passports went missing, but were luckily recovered. On the returning trip, a tire on 1 of the buses blew out, forcing the students to wait for a replacement bus.

The unprecedented complications did not take away from the students’ experience. “The buses breaking down actually did lead to some exciting bus rides in which we squished extra teams onto buses and were able to have a lot of fun,” said junior Madeline Landau, who participated in the trip for the 3rd time and described it as “personally [her] favorite.”

“I would say they added on to the experience because you never knew what was going to happen. You kind of had to go with the flow,” said Woodford. “I still think it was a really fun experience and I would for sure go again.”

On the trip, students from various schools were divided into 14 different teams. Landau said that the extra time spent on the buses each day helped her team bond. “We were able to work incredibly well together,” she said.

The group’s teamwork allowed them to complete the house they were building for a family who had lost everything in a fire last November, and who had since been sleeping in its car. “It amazed me how grateful they could be for such a small house that a group of high schoolers was able to build in under a week,” said Landau.

Branagh said, “I think the main effect on students is that it helps them see that they can make a huge impact in the world by caring for the people around them, whether it be the people on their team or the families we build homes for.”