Thursday, July 7, 2011

Mexico Work Project: Thursday

Thursday was an early day for most of the group. It was a chance to serve breakfast to the children in Tijuana before they headed off to school. These kids come from families who have built homes in the city's old dump, using materials that were discarded. Kent and I went on this outing together a few years ago, and it was the highlight of that trip for me. This time around, leaving at 4:30 a.m. sounded unappealing, so we and a couple others stayed at camp to fix a late breakfast for the rest of the group upon their return.

A little mission has built a kitchen and dining room along with a chapel to provide this daily meal for the children. Volunteers show up early to prep the food, serve it, and clean up afterward.

This time around, they also had a quick birthday celebration before school. Lauren is the one cutting the cake. She is a volunteer from California who fell in love with this work and has lived at Door of Faith for almost two years. She manages the visiting volunteer groups and is our go-to person when we're on site at the orphanage.

Following breakfast, volunteers usually have a bit of time to play with the kids and get in a quick tour of the neighborhood. Look at how the houses are built almost on top of each other.

Check out the power grid that residents have created.

Who said tobogganing wasn't a sport in Baja?

The two things I love about the people at the dump are their ingenuity (did you see those walls built from old tires?) and their self-respect. The children who came for breakfast were clean with neat clothes, many in school uniforms. The girls had their hair carefully styled. And they were all happy. When I was cleaning dishes, two little boys brought me flowers for my hair as a thank you gift. There is always a sense of gratitude from those good people, and never entitlement.

Because the majority of our group had waken early, we gave them the option of resting up for our big soccer game against another orphanage that afternoon. A few of us, though, went back to Buena Vida to work on building a bathroom for the girls' dorm. Our job was to make the floor. It was interesting to learn how to mix cement by hand...and it made me grateful for cement trucks. That heavy stuff is hard work!

Kent had prepped us mentally for that afternoon's activities. The group would all travel to Casa de Paz Orphanage in the valley above Ensenada, where we would deliver supplies, play with the kids, and most importantly DEFEAT THE ORPHANS AT SOCCER for the first time ever! Every trip, the volunteers play against these kids, and every trip we end up buying sodas for said kids because they ALWAYS win. But Kent assured us that was not going to happen this time!

The half hour drive is beautiful. The valley is covered with vineyards and olive groves. Kent kept our "team" pumped up--or at least entertained--with his music and dance moves in the van.

In no time at all, the game was on!

Admittedly, we had the advantage in numbers. I think it was six of them versus a dozen or so of us.

Within 10 minutes, we had four goals unanswered by them. They were probably making us feel good about ourselves, because at that point the tide turned.

After they ran the score up to ten goals against our original (and only) four, we called it quits.

You'll notice that I was only behind the camera. Soccer brings up bad childhood memories, so I was happy to watch from the side and jump rope with a few of the kids. By the time the game ended, I had learned a new jump rope song; but it was in Spanish, so I have no idea what we were singing!

We wrapped up our time at Casa de Pas by making crafts...

...and making good on our loser's treat.

While Kent was off buying soda, I fell in love with this little three year old. During the end of the soccer game, he stood next to me on the picnic bench, wrapped his little arm around my neck and pointed with his free hand to the players. When the field was empty, his caregiver blew bubbles, which he happily chased for half an hour. (He reminds me of #5.)

In the evening we headed to Ensenada for shopping and dinner. Sometimes we do our shopping in Rosarito. Either way, without fail someone always buys a sombrero and a serape.

Luchador masks are also popular, and on past trips my kids have always found the candy store.

I've learned to buy small, easily packed items, such as jewelry, which I selected while Kent enjoyed a seated massage out on the street.

Kent always takes the group to his favorite restaurant in Ensenada. He loves the birria there.

Birria is basically a bowl of meat in soupiness that you eat with corn tortillas. I'm not a big fan, but it is fun to enjoy Kent enjoying it. On his trip this past April, someone promised $1,000 to the foundation if Kent would eat the serrano chili from his plate. Kent's throat swelled and turned red and he desperately searched for something to take away the burn, but he earned that donation!

I'm including a picture from 2008 where I'm sitting with the Bratt Family. Perry is the president of A Child's Hope Foundation and has led most of the work project trips with Kent. He just happened to not be able to come this time around.

Adios for now!

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