The Experience

Doxa’s primary role to accomplish the building of houses in Tijuana is as facilitator. Volunteer groups from all over the United States have the desire to engage in international work trips and Doxa makes that logistically very easy. Families all over Tijuana are in need of housing and Doxa connects them with a volunteer group that will help in building their house. At a surface level, Doxa’s role as facilitator is simple. Over its 30-year history, however, Doxa’s role has grown to be more nuanced.

Doxa’s engagement with volunteer groups starts months before their arrival in Tijuana. Communications are centered around trip scheduling, details, logistics, arrival and exit plans, trip budget, and answering any questions. Doxa helps each group craft a unique trip from start to finish. However, the execution of that trip is largely up to the group themselves. Most groups utilize the experience of building houses in Tijuana as a tool or platform, such as for the development of volunteer teams or youth ministry. The common denominator among all groups is that the house is not the only thing that gets built during their experience.

Doxa’s role with families in Tijuana starts with an application. Each family submits various documents, proves land ownership, participates in an interview, and completes 250 hours of community service (usually to a partner orphanage). Once all of these requirements are fulfilled, then the family goes on a waiting list for a new house. This process ensures qualified families receive houses and are good stewards of the home after the volunteer group leaves Tijuana.

The construction materials for each house are purchased by Doxa and sent in advance to Tijuana. Materials are stored in a secure location close to each worksite and it is the group’s responsibility to get the materials to the worksite each day. Materials are produced in a “kit-like” format with an easy construction manual. This results in a construction process that is simple, straight-forward, and can be achieved with quality results by volunteers.

While in Tijuana, volunteer groups stay at an orphanage in the same area that they are building houses. This results in a short-term immersion into Tijuana life, a horizon-broadening experience for almost everyone. Repeat groups often create ongoing relationships with orphanage people and others in the local community. Additionally, each group pays a hospitality fee to the orphanage. This earned income goes directly to supporting the orphanage operations year-around.

The majority of the 800-1000 people that come to build houses each year with Doxa are high school students. Doxa’s house building trips have been a platform to help young people make meaningful and lasting contributions in today’s world. A simple message that young people do not need to wait or “grow-up” in order to engage in significant work.

Overall, the house building experience has something for every skillset. The work is just hard enough and pushes people just long enough that teamwork organically occurs – planning, logistics, digging, cement mixing, framing, painting, roofing, window/door installation, cooking, driving the dirt roads, communication in Spanish, and cross-cultural relationship formation. All skill sets have their time to shine.

Since 1990, Doxa has helped build over 2000 houses in Tijuana.