Tears welling, a Mexican principal accepted keys to his new school.
It’s a moment Saanich teen DJ Katz remembers best.
He’s among those who worked four days in mid-March to build the new high school as part of a contingent from Saanich Baptist church. The church believes in serving society and in line with its mission statement – act justly, love mercy and walk humbly – members make three trips to Mexico a year.
“In North America, you’re so used to really shiny stuff. Once you go to a (developing) world country it’s not there, there’s rarely shiny stuff,” said Katz, a Spectrum Community School Grade 12 student. “It’s humbling because it really puts you in your place. You get to see how much better off you have it.”
Katz was among 45 high school students, young adults and chaperones who traveled to Vicente Guerrero, Mexico to build the two-room school. Located in the Baja about three hours south of Ensenada, Vicente Guerrero hosts some of Mexico’s poor, many of them seasonal farm workers.
“When I come back I hear … people complain a lot and it’s about the littlest things,” Katz said. “These people are living in houses sometimes made out of paper. It’s crazy. It lets you appreciate what you have here.”
Steve Sundby, the lead pastor, says that one of the keys to breaking the poverty cycle is education. So, the church raised the $10,000 needed to build the school. Working with Tom and Sue Card, who live in Vicente, and with the Mexican government, the church made a commitment to help people out of poverty through house and school builds. Over the past few years the church has built one other school and 24 homes.
The church now makes three trips a year for these building projects.
The trips are life changing for many who go. To see and experience poverty where people are living in cardboard homes and working 10 to 12 hours a day is overwhelming. On this last trip, many of the youth were quite touched by the experience.
“This was my second trip down to Mexico. It’s an incredibly enlightening and humbling experience,” said Katz.
“You learn not only about what’s going on in different parts of the world, but also things about yourself and other people. Being able to help and serve is absolutely amazing.”
That moment handing over the keys is what makes him want to return for a third trip next year.
“I want to go back because my favourite part is seeing the kids’ faces when the school is done. They’re so happy,” he said. “The principal this year, he was on the verge of tears because we were giving him the keys.
“Everybody was so happy, it’s such an incredibly happy moment on the last day of the build.”
For more information about the Mexico mission call 250-744-2020.