Last year this time I was busy applying for the Peace Corps.
My application was bare but my essay, I thought, was comprehensive. So I sat on the application for half a year in anticipation of the response, which didn’t come until March. I wasn’t as discouraged as I thought I would be when I found out that I wasn’t indeed on my way to living in Mozambique and teaching English to local children for the next two years. Though I realised the implication of losing another year, considering I am only getting older, I knew that it was something I was going to do one way or another and that all this roadblock meant was that the most high needed me to stay here for another year. (That was solidified when I went to an activity with returned volunteers, and saw how much different people who give are from those who spend their whole lives taking.)
Then, this happened.
I quickly realised that his passing was probably reason number one why the most high kept me here as I thought about how much of a mess it would be for me to be planning a move during the midst of this emotional turmoil to somewhere halfway across the world to live alone under arduous conditions.
Still, I came back from Jamaica after we laid him to rest to a message from a beautiful soul who I happened to meet as a result of my Peace Corps interest. Most of you who know me know that I am pretty much an introvert, but my job at the newspaper two years ago took me out of my comfort zone so much that I learned how to open my mouth when necessary. Thus, I met Ellie at the returned volunteers event earlier this year. She had been just as anxious and excited to find out the status of her Peace Corps application and we shared in that anxiety as we networked with people who served as much as 30 years ago and still go to the events. After that, we exchanged information and she orchestrated a camping trip in March up in central Florida where I canoed for eight hours straight with two strangers, one who talked the whole way and the other who helped me help us make it out alive. It was the only time in my life where I ever had to push myself to the absolute limit because I literally had no other choice. (I really should’ve written a blog about what an intense and hilarious and insane experience that trip was, but I digress.)
We kept in contact even after that, and around the time of my loss she contacted me to ask if I would be interested in going to Costa Rica with her on a building trip.
Naturally, because of the timing of the message, I was in no place to even think about making such a commitment. But I knew it was something I wanted to do. As time passed and I started to gather myself, I reached out to her about it and she was able to get me involved at the last minute.
Now, we are two weeks away from a four-day trip to Costa Rica where we will be building 10 transitional homes for people living in poverty, and we haven’t yet raised enough money to cover the building supplies for all of the homes. We are short about $2,500, leaving me no choice but to come to you guys now to help. I am not on Facebook, no longer on IG, and most of my Twitter followers live in Jamaica. So I’ve turned to my only real online resource to help me get this out so that we can make this project happen. I’ve already given more than $150US that I don’t really have to this trip, in addition to my flight, and I’ve joined forces with a group of dedicated people who want nothing more than to fulfill a selfless promise.
For three days, we will be using our own hands to physically build a home for people who need it. At night, we will sleep in sleeping bags inside of a local school, to wake up the next day and start again. For three days, we will work nonstop, with no access to even a shower. And all we are asking you to do is help us buy the supplies.
The efforts are implemented by a Latin American organisation called TECHO, freshly present in the U.S. Its volunteers have built more than 100,000 homes across Latin America and the Caribbean, working alongside local community volunteers and even the families themselves. It was founded in Chile, ironically, and has completed projects in Brasil, Honduras, Colombia, Haiti, Uruguay, Argentina, and other countries. Even more ironic, is that it has proven harder to mobilise and get financial help in the US than in those other countries because of how desensitised and detached most Americans are to/from things like poverty and hunger.
I get it though. I understand we ‘have our own lives’ and are all trying to make ends meet in a rough economy. But literally every single dollar counts. Change makes change. And if it helps, all the donations are tax deductible. I worked in a donation call centre for my university for a year and we made something like $2,000 every night just from asking alumni and parents to give more money to a school that has already gotten rich off of them. And they don’t even know where exactly that money actually went.
Still, people were that willing to give away money to a university that doesn’t even need it.
If we can get just a fraction of that a day, imagine how many houses we can build? TECHO’s goal–to try to eliminate extreme poverty and homelessness–is expansive, I know. And though it may seem like an impossible mission, the first step is to simply try.