Tri-Cities Voice Newspaper - What's Happening - Fremont, Union City, Newark California

July 5, 2006 > One day wonder

One day wonder

by Barb Fuhs

To build a house in a day...that was the challenge St. Joseph's Youth Group in Fremont took on when asked by Corazon to come to Mexico.

Corazon, meaning "heart" in English, is a nonprofit group founded in 1978 that coordinates groups of about 50 workers to build one-day homes in Mexico, usually in Tijuana or Tecate. Families qualify for a house by doing 100 hours of service work in Mexico, such as building other houses and gardening. They also take classes to learn skills they can teach others.

After committing to participate, the teens of St. Joseph's attended three, two-hour meetings to prepare for their mission. They went shopping for tools and presents for the family. They asked the parish of St. Joseph's for donations to fund the $6,000 house costs. As always, the parish came through with flying colors providing enough beyond the $6,000 to fund additional tool purchases to use in Mexico. The balance was donated for a future house for another family. Volunteers paid their own food, transportation and lodging costs.

Friday morning, June 2, 20 teenagers and 12 adults (parents and volunteers) rolled out in a caravan to Chula Vista, south of San Diego, to spend the night. The entire trip was coordinated by St. Joseph's two youth ministers Mary Machi and Megan Erker. After arriving at their destination Saturday morning, they proceeded to lay the floor and build the walls. It was painted inside and out. The roof took several hours to frame and nail on but the teens were up to the task.

The house is 16' x 20' with a loft, stairs, and a small enclosed room under the loft. A kitchen counter was installed for a propane stove. Five windows and shades were mounted along with a door, complete with lock and key - a far cry from the flimsy shacks many families share south of the border.

At the end of the evening, the keys were presented to the family in a moving ceremony with teens Liz and Jose Ruvalcaba translating the thank you letter from the lucky family to St. Joseph's team of workers. Dad, mom and their 5-year-old son also received gifts from the teens' families, including towels, utensils, pots and pans, dishes, a large trash can, and a few toys for the child. Prior to this, the family had been living in a 300 square foot house with nine other people. Now, they have a home to call their own.

Upon returning from the trip, youth minister Machi exclaimed, "I am so proud of this group. This is my 13th time participating in this project and I have never done it with less than five Corazon building experts and less than 50 people. This time, we had two experts and 32 people. Everyone worked extra hard to get the job done in record time." Youth minister Erker added, "The teens worked all day with enthusiasm. Even with the very hot weather, everyone was determined to finish the house no matter what." And they did!

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