During the summer of 2010, Andrew and I were given the opportunity to join All Saints' Parish from Peterborough, New Hampshire, on their fifth annual, mission trip to Juarez, Mexico to build a Boy's Dorm. What an experience we had! Sixteen students, four adults and Andrew and I built the structure of the dormitory, helped build a bathroom in a local house and also did manual labor at the facility where we lived for the week. Before we left, I had invited all my closest friends to attend a fundraising party where I raised $700.00 to donate to Central Victoria, the Church and home to many children saved from the streets by Pastor Joel. Along with the invitation, I sent an essay I wrote about my upcoming trip. I later used an edited version of that essay as my Motivational Statement for my AmeriCorps application.
My meme, at the time of my arrival home, was finishing up her college credit writing course and for one of her final stories, she interviewed me, used pieces of my original essay, added her own words and together, her article, "Hope For Juarez, Mexico" by, Doris Progen" was published over at youthworker.com the beginning of this year!
I have yet to finish a follow-up but I wanted to share with you for now, those who haven't read it, my essay that I originally wrote, dealing with the fears of violence and hopes of changing the world before I headed South of the border into Juarez, Mexico, one of the dangerous cities on Earth.
Written: January, 2010
Written: January, 2010
Other than declared war zones, Juarez, Mexico is one of the fastest growing, most dangerous cities in the world. Its population climbs higher each year and, with that, so does its poverty and murderous crime rate. Juarez leaves hundreds of children homeless, sick and on the streets each day. Boys are brought into gangs and girls are often left to lives of prostitution. This June, I am flying over the border, landing with my best foot on the ground and making the time to help these children.
Consisting of several Monadnock area youth and four adults, our team will travel to the impoverished community in Juarez, Mexico for the fifth consecutive year. This will be my first time. The mission of our group, led by and sponsored by All Saints’ Church in Peterborough, NH, is to spend a week under the desert heat in this underprivileged city, to lend our hard-working hands to Pastor Joel Cortez Ramirez.
Pastor Joel Cortez Ramirez is a religious man who has lived in Juarez, Mexico for over twenty years. He has a beautiful family and is the founder of Centro Victoria, a ministry of God for the people of Mexico. Pastor Joel was an only child born into a broken marriage, raised in Mexico by his aunts who lied to him and abused him. At the age of six, Pastor Joel was saved by “Hogar Victoria” (Victory Home), a place where children could go to receive a better life. Upon his admission, life was indeed improved, but by his early teens, he had harbored so much angst he could no longer deal with it. His angst turned to addiction and thievery. Since Juarez is one of the 14 cities along the southern border of the United States, Pastor Joel set out from Mexico City en route to Juarez to cross into prosperous land. Soon after, sitting on a bench near death, he was recruited by Christian rehabilitation and embraced into the arms of his God.
Today, Pastor Joel encourages trust and faith in God and also instills personal confidence, good character and integrity. These qualities were never taught to the children in Juarez before this time, but now, they are receiving education in their own schoolhouses that make up the elementary and junior high classes at Centro Victoria. Pastor Joel is persistent in reaching young girls who have been physically and mentally abused, or who come from dysfunctional families or the streets. Centro Victoria fills a crucial gap in a country whose government is broken and overburdened. In addition to housing these lost children, Centro Victoria provides medical attention, clothing, food, counseling, education on drug prevention, and space to discover what moves them spiritually, leaving room to heal, live, love, read the Bible and find security in a chance at a better life focused on community, social and family integration.
Each child given shelter at Centro Victoria costs Pastor Joel nearly $2,500 a year. Unfortunately, due to the difficulty of promotion, his mission is not supported much by outside sources. Small churches, like All Saints’ in Peterborough, who hear of the dire needs of the area, try to send financial support and youth groups to lend a hand. It is still not enough. Additionally, the economic crisis has also diminished the sparse support and the media, filled with negative reports from Mexico, generates a fear of Juarez. Yet through all the bad, Pastor Joel continues his work and relentlessly takes action to further his mission. His dream is to one day house one hundred children.
In previous years, Peterborough’s All Saints’ Church group has helped build houses and schools, mix cement for walls to surround the area, dig foundations, mortar cinder blocks and construct community centers for the children, all without the aid of machinery.
The full cost of the trip is $1,100 per person. Thanks to dedication and fundraising, the out-of-pocket cost per person is reduced to $400 per plane ticket. Mine is paid for; however, since I am not a high school student in the Monadnock area, I will not be involved in every fundraising event. I will, nonetheless, be participating in a wine-tasting benefit party and a spring clean-up raffle, though I know in my heart, I can raise more money for tools and extra donations for Centro Victoria.
Therefore, I am planning a fundraising party, inviting all my close friends and family to my house! What a way to celebrate with each other how fortunate we really are! Together we can make a difference in the world. Even if you can give only a little, all contributions are greatly appreciated. Every single penny adds up. Each dollar adjoined generates a huge contribution of help that is significantly valued. Without the security of the walls of Centro Victoria, children would fall victim to homelessness, gangs, drugs and prostitution. I plead for help and I express ample amounts of overflowing appreciation and exploding thanks.
I feel lucky to be a part of this group. I am grateful for the chance to work in the community of a different country, help make a difference and to enhance the well-being of the people of Juarez. I feel that this is just the beginning of a string of life-changing service events I will engage in that will be most rewarding. I strive to continue my quest of community service and my pursuit to someday soon, serve in the United States Americorps in their mission to reinforce community and expand leadership skills through team-based service projects. For now, this summer, I will swan-dive into these polluted waters to save schools of children and present them with crystal clear seas. How sweet it would be for these precious Mexican children to wake up in secure arms and benefit from our donations, which created what lies within the cement walls of Centro Victoria in Juarez, Mexico.
The team and children in front of the roofless structure of the three-room, boy's dorm on the last day.