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This article was published 16/12/2010 (3685 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The students of Calvin Christian Collegiate in Transcona belong to many communities — their church, their family their school and their neighbourhood.
But Gwen Neufeld, an educational assistant at the school, said those students are also deeply connected to another community — one located next to a desert, thousands of kilometres away from Winnipeg.
Since 2005, senior students from the collegiate have been traveling to Puerto Penasco, Mexico to build houses for families in need.
On March 18, 2011 the collegiate’s Grade 11 and 12 students will board a bus for the 40-hour ride to Puerto Penasco — the fifth mission trip for the school.
They will spend five days there building three houses from the ground up, before getting back on a bus for the long ride home.
Neufeld said the idea of creating a mission trip was important to Calvin Christian even before it opened its doors in 2002.
The school’s focus on community was a huge inspiration, she added.
"We though: how great would it be if we could do a mission trip to the same place each year so we could build a community there," Neufeld said.
The collegiate partnered with Amor Ministries, a Christian organization that has worked with Mexican pastors for more than 30 years. Those pastors recommend families in need to receive the new houses.
Neufeld added the experience is a lot of work — not only physically, but emotionally too.
Student Colton Sawatzky, 16, who is going on the mission trip this year, said he’s a bit nervous about what it will be like to confront the extreme poverty that exists in Puerto Penasco.
"I don’t know if I’m emotionally prepared," he confessed.
Still, Sawatzky admitted he is looking forward to the experience.
"I expect that it will definitely change the way I think about all I have, and make me feel a lot more blessed and thankful for what I do have."
Neufeld said previous mission trips have had a tremendous effect on past students.
"First of all, it’s an eye-opener to them because the people are poor. They’re very poor," she said, explaining the people living in Puerto Penasco have no running water and no electricity.
"The other thing I think impacts them is how content the families are," Neufeld said. "The kids talk about it around the fire, ‘How can they be so happy when they have nothing?’ "
This year, for the first time, fundraising efforts for the mission trip will include more than just the students.
While each pupil is still responsible for the $1,200 needed to pay for the trip — a portion of which goes toward building supplies — the Christian radio station CHVN will hold a donation drive with two live broadcasts out of Epsilon Creations jewelry store at 938 Corydon Ave.
Bruce Wachal, the owner of Epsilon whose children attend Calvin Christian, said he wanted to hold the promotional event to let people know about the mission trip.
He said he hopes especially at Christmas time — when people will easily spend $200 on a single present — people will take the time to make a small donation for those in need.
Every penny raised will go toward not only the new homes in Penasco but also other programs provided by Amor Ministries, such as its clean water initiative and school program.
"This gets people thinking in another way, and gets people to do something for someone else who needs it," Wachal said.
The live broadcasts will take place Dec. 17 from 2 to 5 p.m. and Dec. 18 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Donations can be made in person at Epsilon, or over the phone.
Donations of $20 and more are eligible for a tax receipt and a ballot to enter a draw for a diamond bracelet donated by Epsilon.