A group of teenagers from Morpeth went overseas to provide a housing lifeline for people living in poverty.
The house-building project, painting and interacting with local children were among the activities during their 10-day trip to the Ensenada region of Mexico.
And it was an emotional stay as they got to hear the stories of some of the people who have benefited from their efforts.
The North Tyneside-based M10 organisation recently took a party of young people out to Mexico to take part in a programme run by Youth With A Mission (YWAM) – an international volunteer movement of Christians from a range of backgrounds.
As well as the 16 teenagers from Morpeth, most of them (males and females) are members of the 1st Morpeth Boys’ Brigade Company, there were contingents from Whitley Bay and Filey in North Yorkshire.
The toughest challenge was putting together a house in one day for Pete and Anna, who are in their 60s. As it was 95 per cent completed by the evening, the married couple could move into their new home.
Under the direction of local builders, the teens and their youth leaders – including M10 team members Stephen Riley and Nikki Carmichael – sawed and painted wood, fixed plasterboards to walls, attached tiles to the roof, wired up the house so it would be ready when it had electricity installed and made sure it was waterproofed.
In addition, they were split up into two groups and each group was tasked to build a home in two days.
The Rector of Morpeth, Rev Simon White, was another of the adult leaders on the trip. He is also the Boys’ Brigade Captain for the Morpeth Company.
He said: “When Pete and Anna told us their story, we were all in floods of tears.
“Pete was deported back to Mexico after getting into trouble in the USA and as he and Anna looked to rebuild their lives, they met someone who said they could stay on his land and getting paid a little if they looked after his pigs.
“Although they had to live in a shed next to the pigs, they built up enough cash to buy a second-hand mobile home. However, the two men offering them the home went off with their money.
“After the minister of the church they went to got in touch with YWAM about the possibility of building them a house, M10 was contacted and agreed to help, but it was only given one day for the building work.
“It was a long day in very hot conditions, but it was worth it when Pete and Anna moved in – the minister did not tell them as he wanted it to be a surprise. The couple were gobsmacked that people from England were prepared to do this for them.
“As well as the physical challenges, it was a very emotional and spiritual experience for the group.”
The youngsters also organised games such as football and hair braiding activities with children at a village in Ensenada, painted an orphanage and a rehabilitation centre, which supports women who have had problems with drugs and alcohol and/or family issues, and did various tasks within the group to develop their team-building and communication skills.
Rev White said: “It was incredible that the children we met in Ensenada had so little, but were still willing to share things with us and grateful for what they had. It was very moving.
“At the rehabilitation centre, there was a 14-year-old girl who said that her father had exchanged her for drugs and she developed her own problems with substance abuse. However, through the work of the church at this centre, she has been able to turn things around.
“The young people who went on this trip have become more confident and it has helped them to have a greater understanding of their faith and the world in which they live.
“I think they will become more mature and well-rounded people as a result and they have built friendships with some of the others in the party.
“Everyone who went from Morpeth had to raise a lot of money in the months leading up to the trip (the combined total was about £30,000) and it was incredible how determined they to bring in the funds.
“The generosity of the people of Morpeth was amazing and the people who benefited from our work are also grateful as part of the money raised was used to buy materials and tools out in Mexico.”