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Student Volunteering

Take a Trip to Mexico

Volunteer Service-Learning Programs Provide Another Kind of Escape

This spring break, like hoards of other students, I went to Tijuana, Mexico. But instead of going to drink and do drugs, I went with 10 other Univ. of Dayton students on a service trip.

We were picked up at the airport by Sara Gomez from Tijuana Christian Mission. She piled us into a van and drove us over the border from San Diego, describing in English what we saw from our windows. “There are six thousand children in the streets here,” Gomez said. “There are 700 women in Tijuana who need shelter every month.”

We lived for a week within the walls of an orphanage home to 70 children. During the day, we spent most of our time sanding, painting, and tiling rooms in a nearby women’s shelter. We also cleaned glass shards from a sandbox that children were playing in, and built a wall of tires and mud to stop a house from sliding off its foundation. We surprised a family of nine living in one room and told them we would build an extra room onto their house.

After work, we returned to the orphanage, where we spent our nights playing with joyful, energetic Mexican children. “The orphanage gives the children a chance to keep moving upward in a society that pushes downward against their individual hopes and dreams,” said Theo Wirtz, a graduate student along on the trip.

In going to Tijuana, I expected nothing more than a chance to leave the country and maybe pick up more Spanish. What I found was that Tijuana Christian Mission is a place to escape your worries by doing useful work and living with children who do not worry about their own problems. Sharing their outlook on life was an alternative way to overcome one’s own stress and worries, while helping people in need.

For More Info

Sara Gomez, Tijuana Christian Mission, P.O. Box 85, National City, CA 91951-0058; 619-428-4638, fax 619-428-4073; tcmcor2@hotmail.com, www.tijuanachristianmission.org.

For additional short-term volunteer programs see the Volunteer Abroad section of TransitionsAbroad.com.