Charitable Group Gives Housing They Build

Hammering for hope
BY: NICOLE MacINTYRE

Groups of volunteers are ready to begin hammering bright and early on a Friday morning, building homes in a colonia of Rosarito Beach. Mexico’s neighborhoods are called colonias in Spanish, meaning colony. Some colonia subdivisions lack potable water, basic infrastructure, sanitary sewage and adequate roads. Often sleeping on dirt floors, families living in the colonia use makeshift materials like cardboard, or overlays of metal for shelter, and it doesn’t end there. Most people living in these impoverished communities are not educated past the 6th grade. Tijuana, about 25 miles from Rosarito, has the highest rate of poverty in Mexico, but one organization is trying to change that.

charitableGroup.jpgA non profit faith based organization named Homes of Hope (HOH) has partnered with Youth With A Mission (YWAM) to be part of the solution. Sean and Janet Lambert, Homes of Hope founders, began building homes for the poor in Tijuana in 1990 eventually reaching communities in Rosarito and Ensenada. They have since built more than 5,000 homes in Mexico and worldwide, earning a reputation as a leader in their field.

Today’s build is for the Sanchez family on the east side of the toll road up in the hills of Rosarito. Gabriel, Francisca and their three children spend their nights cramped on a single mattress in an old abandoned trailer, while their grandparents sleep in a tent outside. Gabriel works hard to provide for his family as a night security guard in 12 hour shifts and raises chickens to supplement his income. He also works to pay medical bills for his eight year old daughter’s surgeries to treat her cleft lip. Francisca, her mother, also works hard as a phone operator to help provide for her family. Both hard working parents still could not afford an adequate home for their family, until the Homes of Hope stepped in .

The beginnings of HOH didn’t come easily, or as planned. In 1987, Mr. Lambert’s goal was to mobilize 1,000 high school kids to build homes for those in need, but only 40 to 50 kids signed up to help that summer. All was not lost however, because a decision to help out his brother-in-law in Tijuana and meeting a Tijuana local, Sergio Gomez, caused this to become the beginning of Lambert’s dream. Sean Lambert jokes, “There wasn’t any sort of genius strategy, but by default, just to help my brother-in-law out.” In 1990, the first year, HOH built 12 homes. In the following 12 years, 1,000 homes were built. In the four years following those, 1,000 more homes were built and today, 5,140 homes have been built by HOH worldwide, 4,021 of those, in Baja.

Here’s how HOH nails it: The homes are 16x20 or 20x20 on concrete flooring with three windows, a front door, two bedrooms and a living area. For all labor and materials the houses costs about $6,400 U.S. “It would take a family ten years to build a home like what we can build in one weekend,” says Lambert. Mostly that’s because the family would not be able to get a mortgage so they would have to buy a few materials each payday. This is why you see so many partially finished homes; they are being built on the payday to payday schedule.

Volunteers including locals from Rosarito pitched in to help their neighbors, and foreign business and community leaders with their families, work side by side to better the quality of life for the recipients of these homes. Although faith based, HOH is open to all people who want to help the poor. U.S Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, testifies, “My family and I had the privilege of working with Homes of Hope in Tijuana. We experienced first hand the joy and pride that comes with giving a family a safe place to call home. I commend the work this organization has done over the past 25 years which has positively impacted so many lives around the world.”

HOH gives the homes to these families free of obligations.

In Rosarito, the Sanchez family is doing better in their new home and now the grandparents sleep in the trailer, reports the team of volunteers. The family’s eight year old daughter Gabby said, “ Before all five of us shared one bed. Now my sisters and I have our very own bed, thank you for my new home.” Dreams have come true and lives are being improved because men, women and children have a functional roof and walls, a clean concrete floor and a living room where children can do their homework.

In 1981, researchers followed 1,800 families living in similar conditions, but half of the families held the title to the property they lived in. Two decades of research later showed that title holder’s families surpassed those that did not hold title to their property in a host of key social factors ranging from quality of housing construction to educational performance. (Argentine/Barrio Study, Wall Street Journal; 2005).

After 10 years, HOH reflects similar results. 93% of the families they’ve provided with homes are still living in their homes, with children still in school or having successfully completed their education. Sean Lambert believes “It’s not just helping people, it’s how you help them.” As homes continue to be built, hope continues to grow in the lives of these families. Lambert intends for Homes of Hope to be around for another 25 years and more, bringing hope not just to families, but to the entire community.

To volunteer with Homes of Home organization apply at: www.ywamhomesofhope.org.