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Making ripples of change in Jurez

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By Kirsten Laskey

This year’s House of Hope building project in Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico, almost didn’t happen.

The diocese for Trinity on the Hill Episcopal Church, which operates House of Hope, prohibited plans to go down to the city and build a house. The upswing in violence in Juárez pushed the decision.

Members of House of Hope, an all-women team of volunteers, didn’t take no for an answer. In an act of faith and perseverance, they meet with the diocese to state their case and eventually earned permission to go.

As a result, 14 women loaded up on buses Oct. 8 and journeyed to the city to change a family’s life.

Building a home casts a lot of ripples. It’s not just the new homeowners who are impacted by the construction project – the construction workers, the volunteers and the supervisors all ride on the crests. That feeling of hope and excitement for what awaits when the project is completed is contagious; even the neighbors seem to get swept away by the emotions.

For the past five years, members of House of Hope have provided this wave of change.

And this year I caught the wave, too.  

The House of Hope volunteers with Gateway Mission Training in El Paso, Texas.  The nonprofit organization provides the materials, the project leaders and a few experienced construction workers to build the house.

According to Gateway’s Website, all the houses are identical. They are all 450 square feet and feature three rooms, which have been wired for electricity. It takes three days to complete a house.

When we arrived at the building site, which was located next to a school and medical clinic, a square patch of concrete that served as the foundation and the house’s floor had already been made. It was our job to finish the rest.

Building a house, even one as tiny as this one, with minimal amenities is tough work. We sawed planks of wood and whacked nails in to make the frames for the walls. We nailed plywood to make the exterior and interior of the house, tacked pink insulation into the walls and drilled in sheets of drywall.

The House of Hope team tightly embraced this project – everyone had their favorite part, whether it was working on the roof, applying stucco to the house or wiring for electricity. They also threw their arms around the local workers and the family, which included Eliseo Xalate Serrano, his wife Miriam Saldana Espinoza and their son Angel Eduardo, age 2.  They played with Angel and the women taught English phrases to the construction team members.  

The project was lead by Andrew Klooster, a homebuilder and son of Rev. Dan Klooster, executive director of Gateway.

Joining Klooster was Jose Limas, a team leader, his sons and homebuilders Luis Daniel and Aner. Hector Hernandez completed the team,

It was more than just a job for them, too. For instance, Hernandez said he had worked for Gateway for five years. He described his job as enriching. It was enriching, Hernandez explained, to help someone.

He said he would like to spread this assistance to other areas such as the Navajo Land, where Rev. Klooster is hoping to go travel to next year to build a house. He also plans to construct a home in Belize.

In fact, Rev. Klooster said he hopes to have 30 houses constructed in 2010.

There was a lot of joy and warmth being exchanged in all directions and on Monday, it felt great to hand over the keys to the house and give the family a new direction in their lives.