There are so many different reasons to travel. For my own experience, I have traveled for work and school; to visit friends and relatives; to vacation and for adventure, but in May, I had the opportunity to embark on my first experience at Impact Travel. Here is some information about Impact Travel and why I think it is wonderful!
In May, I had the amazing opportunity to serve a community in Oaxaca, Mexico. This experience was organized by a fabulous group called Forward Edge. Forward Edge is a faith-based mission organization that arranges impact travel experiences all over the world. My church has partnered with them in the past, and this year, a team of volunteers ventured to Mexico to help an emerging community build homes and foster relationships.
I was honored to accompany this year’s trip, along with my 16 year old son, and a group of 11 other individuals with hearts for service. We knew we would be doing hard, physical labor in hot conditions in an area that was poverty stricken. We knew we would be working with and for Christians and non-Christians. We knew we were going there to have a positive impact for the people we were serving. What we didn’t know, was how much of an impact Oaxaca and her people would have on us.
This was my first mission trip. I have been in the church long enough to know what a mission trip is, and my church is very involved in mission work in our own back yard – although we do venture outside the US every 12-24 months. We knew we would be out of our element; not knowing much of the language, exactly what we would be doing and knowing that our “first world” comforts would be challenged. We all approached this knowledge with calm reserve and were ready to take on Oaxaca!
Headed to the airport at 2:30am!
Our nightly accommodations. This little slice of paradise was a 15 minute walk to downtown Oaxaca and a 40 minute drive to the community we were working with.
Anyone need a hat?
Another shot in our hotel compound.
The Oaxacan’s enjoy special care for their plants!
Every where we went, there were topiarys of animals and cool shapes. It seemed strange to find these little treasures around every corner.
The largest cacti in the world are found in Oaxaca – the candelabra cactus.
This little beauty is a Mexican freeze pop…these were wonders in the desert!!! Basically any flavor you could imagine mixed with dairy and frozen in baggies! They were 3 pesos (about 15 cents).
I won’t describe our day by day, but I will say that we did, indeed, work hard and made some fabulous relationships! We took part in various stages of building cement and earthen block homes, from the actual making of the cement and earthen blocks, to the removing of wooden framing (and pulling countless nails from boards that are used over and over). We helped mix, transport and pour bucket upon bucket of concrete and learned how to set up ceiling forms and unbend re-bar (the most frustrating job of the week). We cut out channels in concrete walls to accept electrical and water lines and we made doors for homes. We worked with the children of the area playing games, doing face-paint and generally losing our hearts to this crowd of proud, intelligent, diverse young people who live in this community. We worked with locals on job sites and were guided by Mexicans and Americans, alike. We grew together as a team and another family was born out of common experience.
The community we were working in.
Our host community.
Our host community.
The earthen block machine.
Earthen block machine.
Adobe – the special type of dirt that gives the earthen blocks their rusty color.
Completed earthen blocks. When dry, they each weighed 22 pounds each.
Some of the kids playing soccer, of course!
Who doesn’t love a tire swing?
The main home site I was working at. This is the home this family of 4 has been living in for the past 3 years.
The family’s NEW house!!!
“Forms” to hold up the concrete roof.
You see, not only did we help a community outside of our regular sphere of influence, we came together for a common goal – in a way we cannot do on a regular basis. In many ways, I feel most travel experiences lead us to this overwhelming opportunity to know what it really is like to depend on others. To work together. To NEED each other. An Impact Travel experience amplifies this experience out of necessity. Not only did I come home with a rejuvenated appreciation for my own life and opportunities in my home town, I came home with two new families – the one I hope to see in Oaxaca again next year, and the one I get to live life with here.
All of my travel experiences have had some impact on me. Impact Travel creates a bond that is unlike any other. It is a bond with people, with an experience and with a feeling. I hope you all have an opportunity to serve on some type of mission trip – humanitarian or faith-based. It will change you. It will challenge you. It will break your heart and it will restore your faith in the human race. It will make you a better person.
Here are some photos from my trip – our work site, our projects and some touring we had the opportunity to do.
Codex in Monte Alban
Temple at Monte Alban
Flowers at Mont Alban
About 30 minutes outside of Oaxaca
Monte Alban behind me!
Prickly pear blooms at the Monte Alban
WWAAYYYY up there!
Church in historical Oaxaca
Seasoned crickets at the market – I tried one and it wasn’t too bad!
At the main market in the historical center of Oaxaca
Beautiful building opposit the huge indoor market.
Historical main square – Oaxaca
Main square, Oaxaca