A volunteering interview by: Lauren Tallichet
About a year ago, members of my church and I travelled to Mexico to build a couple houses for the less fortunate through Watermark Church. We dedicate our time and efforts in the city Tijuana. Arriving in Tijuana, it was devastating to see what was used as shelter. Off the side of the road, one could see scraps of homes that people put together, creating their own “home.” Three days were spent in Tijuana building two houses for two separate families that the church got in contact with previously.
The first morning, twenty-so people were ready to build with tools, planks and blocks of wood, paint, and dry wall. As we began to work with the local families watching over us, they asked us if we needed help with any of the construction. Of course, we let them know they must not worry and that we were here for them and that their help was not part of the plan.
I felt so welcomed to the community right off the bat. The younger children who were my age kept me company and entertained me as I built. When we had any free time, I would play soccer with the children who lived around the house as well as the children who would live in the homes that we were building. It gave me an amazing opportunity to work on my Spanish as well as interact with a culture so different than my own.
After three days of building, playing games, and practicing my Spanish with the locals, my perspective on life was forever changed. I was extremely surprised to see how welcoming they were to accept random group of people into their community. Everyone I saw had a smile on their face and were always outside with us asking if we needed help on the houses. It brought tears to my eyes that these people did not have anything close to what I have and they were kinder and more appreciative that anything I could have ever imagined.
I have been doing volunteer services for as long as I can remember. Whether I am feeling senior citizens breakfast or packing gifts, nothing in the world has ever been more meaningful to me than devoting my time to others. Growing up in Newport Beach, where most people have a sense of entitlement, I had always been surrounded by nice cars and big houses as an indicator of a successful and fine life. My plan was to volunteer somewhere where I can immerse myself in a community where they do not dwell on wealth or material items. I wanted this change because when I looked around Newport, I did not believe that wealth ever created happiness. I hoped to see if I was correct in my statement that family and a bonded community can make someone much happier than a fast car and other materialistic items. In addition to wanting to immerse myself in an abstract community, I also decided to volunteer on this three day event because I would be building with my uncle, cousins, and father. My father and I love to travel, I very rarely spend time with my cousins, and my uncle is the Pastor of the church that we were working with. This experience was a great way for me to travel and spend time with my family. Not only did I spend time with my family, I also became very close with the two other families’ lives. My time in Mexico was full of giving back to a community that had close to nothing as I built houses with people who have almost everything.
The Aha! moment…
Despite what I was told about Tijuana before my travels, the people that I spent time with throughout those three days were the kindest and most genuine people that I have ever encountered. The families that we helped were extremely poor and they treated me as one of their own rather than viewing me as a spoiled teenager from a wealthy part of California. This volunteer experience helped me step back and look at the world in a big picture. I was previously stuck in a little bubble, unaware of the world around me and the struggles that people have to face daily. It occurred to me on my trip that people can have so little and be even happier than someone with expensive items. We should all be thankful for what is naturally given to us and be thankful for those around us who are important in our lives. Being a part of this volunteering opportunity, I not only feel as though I helped out a community, but I also believe I met amazing people and created memories that will last me a life time.
To summarize it in three words…
Incredible, rewarding, life-changing
Why should you do this
I very much so recommend others to volunteer as much as possible. It is like no other experience, helping others and the world. Volunteering is an incredible way to make memories, lives and a difference, whether it is for the community around you or one millions of miles away.