Members of two northeast Winnipeg churches played a big-time role in sheltering a Mexican family.
Congregants at North Kildonan United Church and St. Saviour Anglican Church went down to the town of Vicente Guerrero in the country’s Baja California province. The build was co-ordinated through the Live Different movement.
Bruce and Sharon Wiebe of North Kildonan United met the Silva family during a scouting trip two years ago, an occasion where they also built a house, and were moved to do what they could to help them. In all, 16 people worked on the build, which took place over four days in July.
"There were only enough of us to do one, but we could have almost done two," Bruce said.
Fellow builder Dorothy Franklin said the 22-by-20 foot house will replace their family’s previous dwelling that was made of sticks, plastic, and cardboard. In addition to building the house, organizers also staged the house with furniture, kitchen supplies, bedding, clothes, and even chickens.
"The family was with us side-by-side. Kids, too," Franklin said of the Silvas, consisting of father Abelardo, mother Maria, and children Jose, 8, Mario, 5, Carmen, 2, and one-year-old Karen. "This is the first time (Maria) has ever lived in a house with anything but a dirt floor."
Sharon Wiebe, whose sons Aaron and Cameron also went on the trip, noted the house will be the start of a turnaround for the entire family. The parents both work picking fruits and vegetables, though Abelardo got a brand-new job including a raise (making $12 a day over $7.50) during the build, which will set up all family members to have happier, healthier lives.
"The kids will go to school more. They won’t have as many sick days," she said. "They’ll be better able to help the rest of their community."
To get the home built, organizers held fundraisers like a concert and selling slips of paper detailing what particular donations would buy in Mexico (such as a chicken for the family).
The Wiebes and Franklins have to make their own way to the town, flying into San Diego before taking a bus the rest of the way. They then slept in a dorm with bunk beds and a sleeping bag and ate among the locals.
"The cooks would make what they would make for their families at home, but more of it so they could feed us," said Bob Franklin, Dorothy’s husband.
Attempts to reach the travelling members of St. Saviour before press time were unsuccessful.