Doxa creates opportunities for people to serve Tijuana through
house building, education, and long-term community.
We are now three-quarters of the way done with 2020 and not a single nail has been hammered by an American volunteer group. That’s a statement most, if not all, of us never thought would be the case. Instead, local building teams have been hard at work cranking out houses (15 houses completed so far). This has led to a very interesting dynamic, a worksite with all Mexican builders.
With the onset of COVID-19, it became clear that this year was going to look very different for house building operations. While Doxa was firmly committed to building for qualified families that had been on the waiting list, it would be accomplished with the hiring of local building teams and raising financial support from groups and individuals. This new model has showcased some of the best of everyone involved. Groups and individuals have shown enormous generosity in giving, families have worked hard on their own houses, and Doxa has been able to provide increased employment opportunities for builders in the local community. Seeing everyone shine in their roles has been a privilege.
Many times groups that have experience building in Tijuana assume that locals would build the house much better and faster than they do. While there may be some truth to this, there’s still a learning curve. The local teams use cement mixers and power tools to speed up the process. It’s also not uncommon for them to pre-cut all of the lumber the day before. These steps dramatically speed up the assembly process on the worksite. Not to mention the experience that these teams gain week after week of working with each other and the 12-hour days they put in.
Of course, there’s still the moments of “oh, I forgot the box of roofing nails back at the orphanage” or “I could have sworn that the window lengths were 46” instead of 46 ½,” guess we’ll have to recut some lumber.” Squaring up the walls and roof can also be a challenge. It doesn’t magically just come together for the local teams, either. Kids on the worksite still play in the paint while moms chase after them. It seems as though, even across cultures, we still have things in common.
One thing that is different on the worksite is the feel and atmosphere. There’s less talking and more non-verbal communication. There’s an awareness of process and order of building that is unspoken. When things are explained, few words are used. Everyone is keenly aware of the overall goal of finishing the house and is constantly looking to see how the group is progressing. To describe it in a nutshell, it is a group mentality versus an individual mentality. It is approaching the task from the standpoint of what is needed, instead of what I want to do. Not surprisingly, the time with the most talking is lunch time. Conversations start and drag on through the food; until it’s time to get back to work!
Through the end of this year, our goal is to keep the local teams building and houses coming. We are about half way to our goal of funding 20 more houses. Thank you so much to everyone who has already contributed, you’ve already made such an impact. If you’re interested and able to donate, please do so through our secure website.
Just as COVID-19 has caused many schools across the United States to transition to distance learning, Tijuana schools have taken the same approach. Since April, there has been no in-person classes and there won’t be any until at least 2021. Zoraida, a Tijuana schools assistant principal, shared that distance learning is largely dependent upon the teacher. Various methods are being used such as Google Classroom, Zoom, WhatsApp, and broadcast TV. Zoraida believes it’s important to have some sort of communication with each student and their family, but what that looks like is dependent upon the family’s resources and teacher capability.
For the students sponsored by Doxa’s education program, Rosa notes that distance learning over video seems to work for middle school, high school, and college students. Elementary school children, however, still need the in-person atmosphere in order to properly learn. In preparing for this school year, Doxa equipped all of the middle school, high school, and college students with the technology and access needed to learn remotely at home. For elementary school children, Doxa has opened its after-school program for in-person classes. Of course, all the necessary safety and health precautions are being taken to ensure students remain healthy while getting the educational support they need.
Hogar de los Niños and Unidos por Siempre are equipped with laptops, Internet access, and tutors to help their children engage scholastically. The older kids often help the younger kids with their homework. Thankfully, both orphanages have a dedicated classroom where kids study throughout the day. Unidos por Siempre even has a school teacher who comes a few days a week. The children in both of these orphanages are fortunate to have school brought to them this year.
For a school year where learning in the classroom probably will not occur, we are so thankful for the new solutions that still allow learning to take place. Even though all of these students will be automatically passed onto the next grade level, our goal is that they will learn the material at the same level they would have in-person in the classroom.
As expected, we have seen an increase in scholarship applicants and the cost of equipping students to learn remotely. Through the end of this year, our goal is to raise an additional 50 scholarships and we are half way there. If you have already supported, thank you so much! If you’d like to get involved, you can purchase any of the school supplies from our Amazon list or give a monthly scholarship. Any and all support makes a huge difference, thank you!
If you haven’t met Maria yet, here’s your chance! She is the director of Unidos por Siempre orphanage and Doxa’s house building manager for East Tijuana. Her words and interview below have been translated from Spanish to English.
My name is Maria Esther Figueroa Torres and my motivation for doing everything I do is my family, love of kids, and becoming a better person every day. I am originally from Tijuana, Baja California and what I like most about this city are the traditions, food, and people that live here.
How did you learn about working in orphanages?
Initially, I worked as a volunteer at Hogar de los Niños where I did all sorts of things like work with kids under 5 years old. It was then that my love and interest in working with kids started.
How did you end up in the Rojo Gomez neighborhood of Tijuana?
I ended up in that neighborhood because they (local land board) gave me the land to start a soup kitchen and all I had to do was construct a small house. I was already looking for somewhere else to go because of my poor financial situation and domestic violence situation with my husband.
Why did you decide to work with kids and open Unidos por Siempre orphanage?
Because I thought about my kids growing up, how I had difficulties in providing food and supporting them in their studies. So I thought about helping other kids have better possibilities for school, food, and a dignified life.
Since you’ve lived in Rojo Gomez, how have you seen the community change?
I’ve lived here since 2002 and was one of the first people to move here. There have been great changes and I’ve helped to work with the government to build local schools and install running water. Working with Doxa, we’ve been able to provide dignified housing to families.
What are the primary needs of people in Rojo Gomez?
The most important needs are quality food, street pavement (or street grading for dirt roads), street lights, and quality houses for families.
What do you like about your work with Unidos por Siempre?
I like to see the evolution that each child has after receiving the attention, love, and space to live freely. That they are converted into educated professionals that will have a positive impact on their community in the future. I also enjoy seeing how families react in their new houses and the ownership they have. This makes the community better little by little.
During this time of sheltering in place due to COVID-19, what have you learned about yourself?
I have learned more about each of the kids at Unidos por Siempre, the ways they live together and develop. My love for them and for this greater work has only continued to grow. I’ve realized that if anything happens to them, it also deeply affects me.
Before leaving, I’d like to thank God for putting you in my path and for helping Unidos por Siempre unconditionally. I’m thankful for the boost you have provided and knowing that there are people who care about our well-being is invaluable. I send you blessings and hugs from Tijuana.
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