It’s sobering to consider how much we take for granted in our every day lives. Hot water in the shower. Breakfast on the table. Locking your door as you leave the house. Gas in your car. Paved roads. Plumbing.
The list goes on endlessly for most of us but not for the members of the Rancho Bernardo Sunrise Rotary club, who spent a recent Saturday in Tijuana building a house for Sandra Elena Castro Zepeda and her four children Francisco, Nathaniel, Jesus and Josue.
“It’s a long, emotionally-draining, but ultimately VERY satisfying day” says club president Steve Sayler. Sayler led the team of 40 Rotarians, spouses, children and friends who all shared the idea of positively impacting lives of the less-well-off.
With a day that started at 4am, this group of community and business leaders drove a convoy of muscle and material into the heart of crushing poverty that is southern Tijuana. There, amidst the raw sewage and unpaved roads, they hammered, sawed, lifted, painted, and sweated their way through to 6pm. And along the way, the concrete slab they had started the day with had been transformed into a 320-square foot house (plus loft).
To a family of five that lives in a one-room shack with a sheet over the front door, this new living space including a door with lock, windows, and kitchenette is nothing shy of a prayer answered. Yet the Rotarians don’t see themselves as saviors or white knights.
“I’m just a guy who took a Saturday and got a little Charlie horse helping my fellow man” says Rotarian Jay Riordan. Riordan spends his week as president of Dream Design Builders, and therefore knows a little something about how people feel that first time they walk into an expanded living space that they can call their own.
Ironically, two days after building this house, Riordan found his own family in need of a new home as he became a victim of the Witch Creek fire. “We’re learning a lesson from the Zepeda family” he says, noting “even with our loss, we still have more than they do. They’re grateful for what they have…and so are we.”
Alison Farrin, who spent the day in Mexico working the power saw and also lost property in the fire, puts it another way: “Sometimes you have to do what’s right, even if it means a little personal inconvenience.” Adds incoming club president Kendra Jeffcoat: “Rotary is about much more than getting together for breakfast each week. We’re there to help wherever there is need in the community. It just so happens our community is near an international border where people have no place to sleep at night.”
With echoes of “It was the right thing to do” and “my kids learned a lot about the world around them,” the members of this troupe and the Zepeda family have earned a good night’s rest.