We drive or fly to San Diego area, and then we gather with the rest of the Corazon staff and volunteers at 6 AM in Chula Vista.
We rent a bus, and it takes us directly to the build site and back. The bus provides a great sense of relief for me as I do not have to wry about my folks getting lost in Mexico. That delightful task falls on me as I take my truck in to carry tools and bottled water for the group. In addition, the bus does not have to wait in line for hours and hours to cross the border back into the US!
The first thing that happens when we arrive at the build site is to hear, once again, a quick safety brief and the game plan for the day from our lead builder. In this picture, Mike (black jacket on the left side of the image) is our fabulous lead builder who directs our build with skill, patience, and finesse.
One of the safety tips we hear is to drink plenty of water. If we have not used the baño (bathroom) by lunchtime, we are not drinking enough water.
On some builds, the baño is a neighbor's bathroom, and lately, Corazon Mexico has a construction toilet dropped off to the site.
The first order of business is to clear the site. All of the materials for the build are stacked neatly on the cement foundation and have to be cleared off before we can build a house!
We usually make a "fireman's chain" and pass material from hand to hand.
The slow part of any build, especially for the folks who want to pound nails is the first half hour or so.
The lead builder or a blue shirt will find a square corner and from there, layout the dimensions with chalk line and construction crayons.
Next the wall plates are marked, and the nailing can then begin.
The layout is an essential first step and is always performed by a builder with that skill. If these crucial first steps are in error, the house will not be square and will take much more time to complete. Spending a little time with attentive layout now pays a dividend of time saved later!
We build the walls on the foundation slab. The slab was poured with hand mixed, bagged concrete by the Mexican Corazon community. Often it is the woman and children who perform this grueling work as the men are working away from home. I am usually amazed by how flat and well constructed these slabs are without the use of any modern leveling tools and floats.
Walls are framed and sheathed with the flat stock and either moved aside or stacked on each other so the next wall can be built.
The paint lead gets the painters going as soon as the stock is moved off the slab! Our best practice is to paint only the smooth inside side of the flat stock. This way when we install it on the wall frame, the footprints and marks will get painted over when the walls are stood up.
While the walls are being built on the slab, the rafter builders are looking for a large flat space to build the two rafter halves. The rafters are typically built on the roadway. This can be a challenge, depending on how busy the street traffic is!
As soon as the rafter builders complete their task, the painters jump into action and paint the rafters, so the paint is dry when we haul them up onto the stood up walls just before lunch!
One of the highlights of the day is when we stand up and nail the corners of the walls together.
Our work is starting to look like a home!
It takes many hands to stand up walls and a few to hold them there until we nail them together. It is fun to watch the teamwork under the careful direction of a lead builder.
There are gallons of paint that need to get applied. We often mix the colors with the paint that is available, and as much of the material as possible gets painted before it is nailed onto the home.
The walls are stood up, and painters have begun to paint the exterior side of the wall. The painters frame the door and windows with the chosen exterior paint so the window installer can get going.
One of the blue shirts typically install the door as installing the door can be tricky, especially on a less than flat and true slab!
The last task of the morning before lunch is to carry the rafters to the house and lift them into place. Again, for safety sake, we use many hands to get the raters up and in place.
If the painters were not able to get to the rafters until later in the morning, this process could be a messy task! :)
Pictured on the right is Mike, he is one of the superstar Blue Shirts and lead builders. He is about 5-carpenters all rolled into one, like the Energizer Bunny with a hammer!
Lunch is provided by the Mexican community and is it delicious...Mexican food! Typically the meal is beans, rice, and chicken, cacciatore style.
One of the fan favorites is the cactus salad. Alas, it is not often made, so if you are lucky enough to have it served on your build, you are in for a real treat!
After lunch, one of the Corazon staff talks about the rest of the Corazon family, trade training, and education programs. Then it is back to work!
On the March build, we had a bit of rain. So, Richard, our paint lead, took the time to clean the walls as best he could before the painters got busy.
The priority for the painters is to get the outside of the walls painted. After the outside are painted, many of the painters will head inside to paint the interior wall spaces. I then walk around and hand out foam earplugs—the roofers nailing down shingles make quite a bit of racket!
Tar paper and shingles are next for the roofers. Since the slope of the roof is relatively low, roofing a Corazon house is surprisingly quite comfortable.
The hardest part of the roofing task is getting a 70-pound bundle of shingles up the ladder and onto the roof for the roofers.
There are several small and essential building projects to get completed on a build. Diane and Pat are constructing the ladder for the loft, and one of our young builders is laying out the studs for the room separation and support wall for under the loft.
One of the tasks I failed to grab a picture of during the construction process is tiling the counter for the kitchen area. I do have a picture of the completed project a bit later in this presentation.
Windows and the door are installed in the afternoon. Steel mesh wire is mounted on the outside of the window frame to protect the glass from rocks.
By late afternoon we are putting on the finishing touches. The last of the nails are pounded and the last splashes of paint are applied.
On this build, Holy Cross provided drapes for the windows created and donated by Karen Riney (thanks so much they are wonderful) and a throw rug. These gifts really warmed up the living space nicely.
The cozy home is comprised of two rooms under the loft. The children in the family typically get to occupy the loft for their bedroom. It is thrilling to see their eyes light up as the climb the ladder for the first time!
Over the living area is a 4'x8' storage area and in the corner is the tile counter for the kitchen.
It is now 3:30 in the afternoon and our house build is complete and ready for Hector to occupy.
On our builds, we usually have multiple priests to bless the house. For this build, The Rev. Thomas Skillings, the senior priest at St Paul's Burlingame prayed for the community and blessed our house.
Thomas and I have been friends since were in youth group together as kids. It was a special blessing for me to have Thomas on this build to build and bless this home!
The last step of the day is to present our signed note to the new homeowner and have our volunteer translator share the new resident's thoughts of thanksgiving and gratitude. Often happy tears are shed by many!
Finally, a housewarming gift is presented and then it is back on the bus and head north to the border and a BBQ dinner back at your host parish, All Soul's Point Loma!
Incidentally, the diocese purchased two mobile shower rooms on a trailer for use in their homeless ministry. It is a fabulous five-star shower experience!