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March 19, 2013 > A special winter break

A special winter break

Submitted By Anu Asokan

Bay Area residents built two houses for Mexican families during winter break - December 26-29 - as part of a non-profit organization DOXA, also known as "Homes without boundaries." DOXA, established in 1998, provides services in Tijuana, Mexico, including house building. Fifteen families, in two groups of adults and children, supplied the funding for supplies and built the houses by hand. Each family was required to raise $1,000 for house supplies such as wood, concrete, electricity, and plumbing. Though electrical and plumbing services were provided by professionals, the families hammered, sawed, and finally raised the house. Mr. Ramachandran, leader of one of the groups, declared, "It was a great experience. I would love to go again and again."

DOXA volunteers stayed at Casa Hogar de los Ninos, an orphanage in Tijuana, with large halls for sleeping quarters and an industrial-sized kitchen. Sleeping bags and inflatable beds lined the walls upstairs; the mess hall and kitchen were located on the ground floor. A small basketball court and an adjoining five-story orphanage were located on the grounds.

Everyday, supplies - wood and paint - were loaded onto two large white trucks to be carried to the worksites, a few miles from the orphanage. The two building sites were only a hundred yards apart so both groups could share the expertise of Seattle-based architect and DOXA leader Alex Maxim. The houses, constructed on a 12 ft by 24 ft concrete base, consisted of two rooms of identical size, three windows, and one metal door. DOXA selects families living in dilapidated homes, often made of cardboard, who cannot afford a house. The only requirement is that the family must own the land for their new house.

In three days, volunteers measured the wood studs, sawed them properly, nailed the frames and siding, painted the house with white trimming and attached the roof. It was a great bonding experience for the volunteers and the new homeowners. Many of those in the group became close friends and learned building skills by the end of the trip. Riding in the back of the truck, meeting many new people and learning to cook for fifty hungry workers are just some of the lasting memories of this trip. DOXA helps everyone - a family gets its well-deserved new house, and the volunteers get an unforgettable experience.

For information on how to volunteer or donate to DOXA, please visit

Anu Asokan is a ninth grade student at Mission San Jose High School in Fremont who recently visited Mexico on a service project.

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