Tijuana Service Trip Builds Bonds


Sarada Symonds, Staff Writer

Over Spring Break, more than 200 students traveled to Tijuana, Mexico with the Moraga Valley Presbyterian Church to build houses for poverty-stricken families. The students were separated into teams, and each team built a house over the course of 7 days.

According to junior Candace Del Valle, who has been on the annual trip twice before, students spent the first day traveling by bus to Mexico. The next day the students took local buses to their worksite.

“We’re given all the materials. We start by building a foundation. We also put cards and pieces of scripture in the foundation to help with the spiritual foundation of the family. Then we build the walls, which takes a really long time. Around day 3 it begins to look like an actual house,” Del Valle said.

The volunteers also stucco the walls and put a roof on the house. Del Valle said, “It’s a really long process, but the family was really super pumped. Being around the family and seeing how happy they were was really encouraging.” According to senior participant Caroline Bell, 2 boys from the family helped the team build the house.

On the final day, the students dedicate their houses to the family, and hand over the keys. The students eat lunch and spend time with members of the family. Sophomore Mary Hildeburn said, “The dad of the family took us for a hike over a giant mountain with his machete. It was about 45 minutes to get to the top, but we could see all of Tijuana.”

The students also presented gifts to the families to make their new home seem welcoming. Del Valle said, “Someone brought a bag of toys to give to their family. We gave our family candles and potholders.”

According to junior Zach Cole, the trip was a life changing experience. “You form relationships with people that you don’t find anywhere else. When we gave the keys of our house to the mother, she cried.”

Students also experienced the gap between wealthier areas like Moraga and the rest of the world. Freshman Sarah Santaguida said, “The experience was really eye opening and I learned so much about what’s going on outside of Moraga.”

According to Bell, the families didn’t have toilets, running water, or enough food. She said, “Even in a regular house in Moraga, we have access to a lot of that stuff. It’s a weird feeling. So many people live like that, so different from us.”

Delvalle thought that building houses was a great way to benefit the families. “Seeing the family at the end of the week, in front of a house where they can live and thrive, was really rewarding,” she said.

During their week of service, students lived in tents they set up at the Amor Ministries campsite. According to Hildeburn, not everybody slept in the tents. “Some people got kicked out of their tents for being too loud at night,” she said. The students ate breakfast and dinner provided by La Cocina, a local food company. The volunteers would eat lunch at their worksite with the family.

Hildeburn, who has spoken Spanish for 6 years, worked as a translator for the Pink team. “As the translator, I got to know the family on a deeper level,” she said.

The students also had down time for leisure activities. Senior Kian Magnsoodnia said, “I loved playing soccer with the kids and they had the cutest puppies I’ve ever seen in my life. I considered taking one of them home.”

The group also bonded with eachother during down time. Bell said, “My 2 tent mates were Brooke Pentefold and Molly Pines, and we spent all night talking about everything and anything.”