A life-changing trip to Mexico for student

Barry Swan, Rotary Treasurer, Sarah and Rhona Dunn President.
Barry Swan, Rotary Treasurer, Sarah and Rhona Dunn President.

Morpeth Rotary Club

Morpeth student Sarah Armstrong talked about her visit to Mexico with the M10 Christian volunteer group to help build three houses for homeless people in the village of Ensenada.

Each person had to raise £1,900 towards the trip, including £900 through their own fund-raising activities. Morpeth Rotary contributed a small amount towards Sarah’s total.

It took three flights and 30 hours for the volunteers to get there and they were very tired when they arrived at 2am. They only had four hours sleep on the first day.

Sarah was part of a group of 40 young people, with about 15 from Morpeth. They were mostly girls, with the youngest aged 15. They stayed at a Christian base just across the border. It was a lively centre, with lots of music.

Ensenada had few public services and litter everywhere. One of the jobs was to clear up the litter and clean out some very dirty water tanks. Volunteers did jobs around the place and painted community buildings. Half of the group worked at the orphanage, where there was also day care for the children of working parents. The youngest child was three months old. The other half went to a rehabilitation centre. They helped to clean and did games and activities with the children, including nail painting.

Some of the young people had disabilities. They helped them to practice speaking English.

The first house they built was for a couple who had lived in a trailer park in the United States. They had saved up money to buy a house, but the people they gave the money to disappeared. They had been given a piece of land in Mexico and a time limit of one day for the group of 40 to put together a house for them. It was to be basic and had a kitchen, with table and chairs, and a bedroom with bunk beds. Sarah helped to hammer in nails and do some painting. They got very hot and tired each day.

Another house was for a mother and two children who were living in a tent. They were emotional when they were handed the keys and had not realised that furniture would be provided as well. The family was taken to the supermarket to buy food.

On Sunday morning they went to church. The second stage was to break into two groups and for each to assemble a house under the supervision of builders. On another afternoon they had to put on an event for the whole community and hired a bouncy castle. They had a day off to visit the local market, where they could buy ponchos and sombreros, and also called at a nearby water park.

It was the best experience of Sarah’s life and she has been able to apply a lot of what she has learnt. She would like to work in other developing countries. She got help with funding from the church and local families and put on events at her village hall.