Building a house, one at a time
Since 1994, Faith Ministry volunteers and mission work groups have built over 2,000 houses for families in need. The cinderblock and cement houses we build provide families with the shelter, warmth and security they need. Mission work groups spend a week in Mexico building a house alongside our staff and volunteers, laying blocks and creating a home.
- Almost half of Mexico (that’s 54 million people) live below the national poverty line.
- With a minimum wage of $4 an hour, many families in Mexico struggle to make ends meet on a daily basis.
- A lot of the families in the colonias where we work live in homes pieced together by spare pieces of wood and corrugated aluminum, many times fitting a family of six in a 200-square foot space.
WHAT WE DO
We built 12-foot by 24-foot homes for families in need in our communities in Reynosa, Miguel Alemán and Naranjito. They have cinderblock walls, a concrete floor and roof, and include two windows and a door. When compared to wood houses, the concrete and cinderblock houses provide better shelter to the families and last for many years. They are sturdier and provide better protection in extreme weather conditions. They maintain a more constant temperature, warmer in winter and cooler in summer. The homes are funded either by groups who come to volunteer for the week and build the house alongside the family and other volunteers or by individual donors, churches or foundations; a house can be funded for $6,000.
HOW THE HOUSE GETS BUILT
The house is first marked out, and then the foundation is dug around the perimeter. Once it is dug, rebar is placed inside with vertical rebar at the corners (those will later be cement columns). Cement is poured in the foundation, and two to three rows of block are laid on top of the cement. This step is completed before a group’s arrival.
When a group arrives, their first task is to prep the floor by filling it first with caliche, or dirt. Once the caliche is filled to be even with the top row of blocks, wood is put around the perimeter to form a 1-2 inch lip around the foundation. Cement is mixed in a mixer, and the 1-2 inch cement slab floor is poured.
Next step is laying ten rows of block to form the walls of the house. Mezcla, or mortar, is mixed, and the blocks are laid in a staggered pattern, one row at a time. Group members team up in pairs to work on each section of the wall and helped and supervised by our foremen staff and local volunteers.
After the walls are built, wood is formed around the rebar at the columns, and rebar is laid around the top perimeter and formed up with wood. Groups then mix cement to fill these forms, which become concrete columns and ring. These make the house firm and steady.
Once the cement has dried on the columns and ring, the last step the group is tasked with is laying two more rows of block on top of the ring.
Because of timing, the roof is not done in the same week the house is built. Groups will pour the roof on a house previously built by an earlier group. Cement is mixed in a mixer and is passed up in buckets by people on scaffolding. After being dumped in wheelbarrows, the cement is poured at the top and forms the roof.
The last step to complete a house is installing the door and windows; each Faith Ministry house comes up a door and two windows with glass. From there, families can decide how they want to make their house a home by installing electricity, stuccoing and painting, and more.
HOW A FAMILY GETS A HOUSE
When a family comes to our office to apply for a house, we run a socioeconomic survey to assess the family’s needs. A Faith Ministry staff member then visits their current living space for an evaluation and interview. To be approved to receive a house, the family must own the land they want the new house built on, and they must provide a volunteer (from their family or friends) to work with Faith Ministry as “sweat equity” for the house for eight months.
WHY DO THEY HAVE TO OWN THE LAND?
We require families to own the land because this house will be a gift for the family, and if they do not hold ownership of the land, they could lose possession of the property once the house is built. Most of the families have been living in the same area for a long time and are able to build on a small part of land belonging to their parents. Other times, the families just came from southern Mexico, find land, and occupy or “sit” on that land for several years until they get squatters rights, which are legal in Mexico. Some families buy the land by paying little by little until they own the property, and some families receive support in their land purchases from donors through their special gifts to Faith Ministry.
“For me and my family, this house means security and a hope of having something of our own.”
Luz Elena (Reynosa)