Los Altos United Methodist Church has put out the call for those willing take a break from Silicon Valley life this spring to transform a family’s living quarters from a dirt-floor shack to a two-room stucco house.
During spring break on the Los Altos school calendar, April 5-12, the church invites local residents to join a group traveling to Tecate, Mexico, to build houses for the working poor. The group will participate in the program run by AMOR Ministries, which has coordinated volunteer groups from all over the United States for 32 years as they worked in several Mexican cities and on the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation in Arizona. The church has worked with AMOR Ministries for 19 years.
The group will include families, adults and teens, and organizers said it is an “eye-opening” experience for all. Membership in the church is not required.
“This trip, to me, is a real big reality check,” said Brian Wipfler, 18, who has been on several Mexico trips. “A lot of us think we could not be an hour without Facebook, MySpace, email, texting, cellphones, etc. The people we meet will most likely spend their entire lives never able to see any of this stuff. I have a chance to be able to see how they live for a week and see the world for what it is outside of our community.”
AMOR Ministries has adjusted its program to ensure the safety of all the participants. Rev. Susan Grace Smith, who has participated in and led many AMOR trips, including one in summer 2013, said the groups have never felt unsafe in the neighborhoods they serve with AMOR.
“The AMOR staff has built relationships in the areas where they operate, and we are welcomed as guests into the community,” she said.
The interactions with the families and community are just as important as the house building, according to participant Barbara Wipfler.
“There’s nothing like seeing the look of excitement and anticipation when we arrive and unload people, gear, crafts, etc.,” she said. “The local children are amazing and already waiting for us by the second day and are so eager to play with our children and just hang out with us.”
The AMOR program includes no power tools, so team members of all ages can participate in the entire building process.