A GROUP of teenagers became handymen and women to help a Mexican family on the poverty line.
A house-building project was one of the activities that 16 youngsters from the Mitford Youth Group took part in during their trip to the Ensenada region of the country.
They raised at least £1,500 each during the last 12 months to go on the mission, which also involved work to improve the facilities at a women’s rehabilitation centre.
The 14 to 18-year-olds attended a church service and did some role playing to highlight what life is like for people struggling to make ends meet in Mexico.
And they got the chance to relax as well as visit a popular tourist spot.
The Tyneside-based M10 organisation took them out to central America to take part in a programme run by Youth With A Mission (YWAM) — an international volunteer movement of Christians from a range of backgrounds.
Two of the days were spent putting together a new home for a young family who were living with relatives, which meant six people were squashed into three small rooms.
Under the direction of local builders, the teens and their youth leaders sawed and painted wood, put together frames, fixed plasterboards to walls and attached tiles to the roof among other tasks in temperatures of up to 34˚C.
This section of the trip was filmed and a four-minute piece was shown on BBC Look North.
Tom Mann, whose work on the house included nailing the frame together and helping to put up the walls, said: “I was taken aback by how derelict the area was, especially out the back of the home they were living in before.
“We had to keep putting suncream on because of the heat, but we were determined to keep going and finish the job.
“It was satisfying for us to see how much the new house meant to the family.”
The 18-year-old added: “Mexico is so friendly and there seems to be more of a community than in the UK and certainly the USA.
“The food is excellent and I have been sweating for tacos since I returned.”
Charlie Potter, 17, was also involved in making a sign for the front of the property which had the family’s surname painted on it.
“We were shown round the house they had been living in and it was hard to believe that six people were living in such a small space,” she said.
“I was amazed with how well we did as a team. Everyone found something to do.
“It was a very rewarding experience when we handed over the keys. We’re all good friends, but this has brought us even closer.”
The rehabilitation centre treats women who have had problems with drugs and alcohol — many have children with them.
With some of the surplus money from their fund-raising efforts, the group paid for equipment and a builder to make an area used for meals and socialising into a proper building.
They helped to clear the area of scrub and stones, lay the concrete floor and put up the walls.
Charlie Trotter, 18, said: “It was more back-breaking work than the house building as I was filling up wheelbarrows with stones and scrubbing the floor so it felt really good to see the end result.”
Becky Forbes said when they first went to the centre, all the children there were delighted to see them and wanted to play games.
“Hearing some of the women tell their stories was very emotional so we were pleased that we could do something for the centre,” the 17-year-old added.
The teenagers took part in a range of sessions organised by YWAM, including a Justice Day where they played the parts of refugees and people living in poverty.
They were able to have fun too, with activities such as a football tournament that included local teams, hair braiding and a photo workshop with a professional photographer who went out with the group.
James McCabe, 17, said: “I really enjoyed the football event as it was good to meet people of our age and interact with them. We couldn’t speak to each other in depth, but playing football allowed us to do something together that we all love.”
They also enjoyed a day at the beach with some American teenagers who were doing similar YWAM projects and they visited La Bufadora (The Blowhole), a notorious natural marine geyser that is capable of shooting water well over 60 feet in the air.
Becky Hancox, 14, said: “Mexico is a beautiful country, but the main reason of the trip was to show us how lucky we are compared to many people living in poverty around the world. I would recommend it highly because it’s a life-changing experience.”
The youth group has links to the Church of St Mary Magdalene in Mitford, although it is open to all young people in the area.
Rob Hancox, one of the youth leaders who accompanied them, said: “This trip showed our young people that they can make a difference to other people’s lives and an important part of being a Christian is helping those in need.
“Seeing how pleased the family and those at the rehab centre were with what we did for them will have a long-lasting effect.
“When we asked the group if they would want to do something like this again, whether it’s abroad or in the UK, they all put their hand up.”