Hearts Make a Home

“It takes body’s to make a house, but it takes your generous hearts to make a home!” 

The director of our house build for Corazon, Julissa, said that quote through the day when building the home for the young family, Roberto, Cynthia, and their son, Jose. I (Michele) went to build help build a home with my friend, Christina, our program director’s assistant, Aimee, yesterday. This program day will be next to my heart, as it was a beautiful experience from start to finish.

We arrived in San Diego on Friday evening to enjoy the evening together and get some much needed rest for our journey in Tijuana, Mexico. On Saturday morning, we woke up before the sun to head to meet the church we were joining for the day. The church we joined was Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Santa Barbara, California. This church has been involved with Corazon for over twenty years. Each year, they send a group of an amazing volunteers with Sister Kathleen, CSJ, to change the life of a blessed family. A Priest, from another parish, helping build a separate home for another family said a beautiful to prepare us for the day. After that, we gathered on the bus and headed to Mexico.

{Be mindful that this all took place on the same day.}

After an hour trip, (including the time we had to get off the bus at the border) we arrived at the site where we were going to build a house. It was a bit overwhelming to look at the area where we were going to build a house. This area was the bad area of town, in other words, the dump. You know what, the house owners were ecstatic about being able to actually own a home and did not look at the area. The property that they own was next to the young dad’s mothers house. When the home is finished, they won’t have to live under the same roof as their parent’s, they could grow their family in a home of their own. We started with a slab and plenty of hands to transform their property. Before we started the construction of the house, we needed to move all of the materials from one house to the other. As a team, as one huge heart working together, we moved the materials. Oh, and a part of the team was the family’s cousins, friends, and other people in the community.

{We started to create a home!}

 

We broke into teams, carpentry, building, and painting, each part essential to build a great home. After barely meeting the ones we were working along side, it felt as if we were family. Which we were a family and will always be a family because of the work we did together. We worked as a team, making sure everything was getting done, people were taking breaks, and of course, if people needed help. Little by little, walls were created. Wow- who would of thought in less than 3 hours that we could have built walls for the home? IT WAS AWESOME TO WATCH!!!! After the walls went up, the roof was created. A ROOF!!! People working together to put the roof securely on the house. SO WONDERFUL!!! Then the home started to come together, piece by piece. SO AMAZING!!! The amount of hard work everyone put into the home was paying off in a fantastic way. The goal from the beginning of the day was to build this family a home, and a home we built.

Through out the day, I worked on the painting team, I also helped create the kitchen counter. I was able to converse with many people and learn about them. One thing, I have been learning is to listen to the stories of other’s with all of your heart. By that you learn so much. Even, if I wasn’t able to fully understand the women who were a part of the community in Mexico, I learned a lot from them. I learned that even if you have little and live in terrible situations, you can be the happiest person alive. The family and community in Mexico, who were so hospitable to us, had so much joy to them and were happy to serve us as we were serving them. They blessed us with their presence. I will always remember when I spoke with the young mom, who owned their house, and her huge smile on her face. I asked her, ” Te gusta tu casa?” She replied, “Si, Mi gusta mi casa. Muchas Gracias para todo!!” She earned her house, and I was so blessed to be a part of making her dream come true. Her family will grow up in that house, and I will have been a part of making that possible.

{A dream come true.}

Near the end of the day, the closer and close we were to finishing the home, the family was more and more ecstatic. All of our hard work was worth it and so much more. We finished their home. We gave them a place to sleep of their own. The church we came with had donated a lot of house supplies and food for them to have in their very own home. When everything was finished, we gathered in front of the house to listen to Julissa, thank all of us for giving our time and recapping the day. Remember, this was in a day. After a few words, Christina told the story of the family. She was asked by Julissa earlier in the day to interview the family in order for the entire group to understand their story. What an incredible blessing for not just Christina but for all of us. We were able to hear from the hearts of Cynthia and Roberto about their life together, their plans, their future, and their family. They were so thankful for what we did for them.

As Roberto and Cynthia were thankful for us, we were thankful for them. They are an inspiration to all. They inspire me to keep going against the wind, never give up on my dreams, and to always thank God along the way. Also, to do everything with love, put your heart into something and it will be more than you ever expected. I was a part of something, something huge, something that will change Roberto’s and Cynthia’s lives forever. I am so blessed that I able to do that for a deserving family like them.

{God Bless you Roberto, Cynthia, and little Jose, may your dreams always come true!}

Welcome HOME Roberto, Cynthia and Jose!!!

May our hearts be with you in your beautiful home!

Advertisements

Change Begins With Awareness

On Saturday, February 8th, the St. Joseph Workers went to the Southern California Partners for Global Justice’s symposium on Human trafficking and healing through the arts. It was important for us to go because justice is one of our four pillars and learn more about human trafficking. A couple weeks before the symposium, I had mentioned to Sister Judy that I wanted to go to more justice events. This particular event had fulfilled that want. It was great to see a symposium done in a different light through the arts.

The opening prayer ritual was a beautiful opening to the day. While the presenter was reading the prayer, there quiet background music and mime, dancing on stage. The presentation brought it all to reality, especially using the arts. There was a play, written by someone who was trafficked. A poster contest of what people thought of the issue. The whole day was about bringing it to reality and to our attention. One of the things that stuck out to me is when someone said “change begins with awareness.” Going to the symposium made me more aware of the issue of human trafficking around the world and in the United States. If you do not know it is happening, then you cannot help. Once you learn about what human trafficking is, you have an obligation to help stop the issue and spread awareness of the issue.  Like the presenter said on Saturday, change begins with awareness. Being aware of human trafficking, changes things. It changes your knowledge on the issue, it makes you pay attention to situations that look suspicious, and makes you an advocate for those who are trafficked.

Here are some facts for you to be more aware of human trafficking:

  • 99% of victims of human trafficking are never rescued (projecthopeLA.org)
  • In the US the average age of entry into prostitution is 12-14 (projecthopeLA.org)
  • There are 12.3 million slaves worldwide (US state dept)
  • 50% of those trafficked are minors (US DOL 2010)

You might be thinking, “This is a big issue, i can’t do anything to change it” False, you can change it. By reading this, you are already changing the issue because you are aware of the issue. What else can you do change the issue? You can keep your eyes open and call 1 (888) 373 7888 if you suspect a victim of human trafficking.

You can also look for these signs of a child being trafficked:

  • Seems afraid to talk, socialize, or tell where they are from
  • seems traumatized and fearful
  • unable to go out or move about freely or alone
  • never seems to leave the home or workplace
  • physical injuries

The biggest thing you can do is to tell someone about human trafficking. As disgusting and repulsive as human trafficking is and hard talk about. We can’t stop the issue if no one talk about it. So tell your friends. Make them aware of what Human Trafficking is and how awful it is. Be an advocate who can’t stand up for themselves. Be a voice to those who suffer through trafficking. Be aware and pass on your knowledge of awareness. Pray. Prayer changes things, too. Pray about the issue and for an end to it.

After the presentations at the symposium, I am more aware about human trafficking and will be using my knowledge of the issue to pass on to others. Human trafficking needs to end and we can a part of the end of human trafficking.

Remember change begins beings with awareness. Be aware. Be a voice. 

Thankful.

In honor of Thanksgiving this week, here are a few things that a St. Joseph worker has to be thankful for. There are many, many things to list, but I will keep it to this list:

*The St. Joseph Worker Program
* Sister Judy
*All of the Sisters of St. Joseph
*Family and friends
* Faith in God

I am forever thankful for the St. Joseph Worker Program. Without it, I do not think I would have all of the opportunities that I do right now. As a St. Joseph Worker you have a plethora amount of blessings. It all starts out when you start considering to be apart of the program. I am thankful that I was given the opportunity to be in the program. A few short months ago, we started our official journey as a SJW and there is not a day that goes by that I Thank God for the program. It is a program that challenges you, challenges you in a good way so that you can grow and learn. It’s a program full of different opportunities that come up through the year. I am also thankful for my community members, Kristen and Gabrielle, who are on the journey with me. It’s a program that I am Thankful I am apart of, not only this year, but for the rest of my life. You see, the St. Joseph Worker program is only one year, but all of things I learn will be with me for the rest of my life.

I am forever thankful for Sister Judy. I am thankful that she was so willing to answer God’s call and start the St. Joseph Worker Program on the west coast. She is an absolute God send for the program and for me. Without her and her willingness to start this program, there would not be a SJW program on the West Coast. Not only is she the fearless director of the program, she is an awesome supporter of us workers. She spends so much time invested in us and I am so very thankful for that. I believe with my whole heart that it would be completely different if we did not have Sister Judy on our side. Thank you, Sister Judy, for all of the hard work you put into the program and us.

I am forever thankful for the Sisters of St. Joseph. Before they knew our names, they have been supporting, loving, and praying for us. They are super sweet and so very giving of their prayers to us. Like we are apart of their family, they are an essential part of SJW family.

I am forever thankful for family and friends. Without their support for my service year as a SJW, I would not be able to be as strong as I am. They are there for me to lean on when things get tough. They are there to hear me laugh, cry, etc. They are so special to me, each and everyone of them. If it wasn’t for their constant support, love, and prayers I do not what I would do. All of them are a complete blessing to me.

I am forever thankful for my faith in God. My faith in God continues to grow more and more as I get older. It is an extreme blessing to be able to practice my faith freely. He gives an over abundant blessings to me and that I am grateful. He watches over me while I live here on Earth. He walks with me through my journey. Everyday, I am challenged to have faith in Him. That is what this year is about, growth and challenges. I am grateful that I have the chance to grow and be challenged in my faith as SJW. Without God, this would not be possible. Thank you, God, for walking with me on this journey.

I am so very thankful for everything in my life, and especially for the SJW program. I am excited to see where the year takes me. As always. I will count my blessings and be forever thankful for all of the opportunities that come my way.

Blessings and Have a happy Thanksgiving!!!

How did you get here, Michele?

Hi, my name is Michele and I am a part of the inaugural group of women for the St. Joseph Worker Program on the West Coast. One of the most frequent questions asked is “How did you get here, Michele?” I am from Buckeye, Arizona, which is a small town outside of Phoenix. I graduated in May with a Bachelors of Arts degree in Religious Studies from the University of Arizona.

My family on graduation day

My family on graduation day

Nearing the end of my college career, many people asked me what I was going to do. I had ever intention in going to grad school to receive my Masters in Education. After working hard on my applications to grad school, I did not get accepted into the grad schools. At the time, I thought I that I would just stay in Tucson and work on getting my teaching credential. Even though I had a plan that I was going to sought out after graduation, but God had a different plan in store for me.

In Mid-February, I was given a brochure that changed my life. My friend, Brian, gave my roommate, Mary, The St. Joseph Worker Program brochure. She thought I would be interested in the program and that I should take a look. I read the brochure, and quickly became interested in the program. Sr. Judy was still around the Newman Center, I went to go talk to her about the program. We talked at the front desk about the program, my interests, and what I wanted to do after graduation. We exchanged contact information and she told me to look at the application for the program. That night, I went home, prayed to God about the day and asked him to show me his will for me after graduation, (which was 3 months away at that point). He had told me that I needed to do something different, something new, and that He would protect and watch over me.

Never in a million years would I have thought that I would apply and consider for a service year. I had always thought that it wasn’t for me and that it was for others. Well, I was wrong. After praying about the program, I came to a realization that I love to serve others. Which should have been easy to realize because all of my life I have had a passion to help others. To make a long story short, I applied for the St. Joseph Worker Program in Los Angeles to work as a teacher’s aid at St. Joseph School. A month after I submitted my application, I received a call from Sr. Judy extending an invitation to accept to be a part of the inaugural group of SJW’s in Los Angeles. I remember that day like the back of my hand. I was so happy and ecstatic! I finally had concrete plans after graduation. Not only did I have concrete plans, the plan was to help make the world a better place, to serve those who have little. I was doing what God had in store in me which was that something different and something new.

It was so meant for me to find the St. Joseph Worker program through my friends. Now, it has been a little over two months since I officially started as a St. Joseph Worker, and I thank God for bringing me here. The past two months have been a complete blessing for me. I often say that this program was created at the right time for the right group of women. I have two beautiful roommates who support and love me. I have a wonderful director who nourishes and loves us. Then there is the community of CSJ’s who are fully supportive of the work we do and send their love and prayers to us. We are so incredibly blessed here in Los Angeles. I can not help but to think back to the day in February that started my journey in becoming a St. Joseph Worker and smile.

IMG_9891