Los Gatos UMC Makes a Difference in Mexico

May 14, 2008

By Dave Wolf

San Jose District Coordinator for UMVIM

(excerpts published April 21, 2008, in the Los Gatos Weekly)


In what has become a tradition, youth from Los Gatos United Methodist Church gave up their spring break in April to build houses, alongside adults from their church, in Colonet, Mexico. The United Methodist Volunteers in Mission (UMVIM) team – consisting of 34 youth and adults – constructed two homes in this poor agricultural community, which lies 45 miles south of Ensenada, straddling the highway which stretches from Tijuana to La Paz.


The youth participated on all levels of the construction – and in fact took the lead with the plumbing and did much of the electrical work, with adult supervision. (The lights went on!) Karen Noe, youth minister Alex Hardt, and I headed the team, while Mike Parker and Chris Munson were foremen for at the respective homes. A local carpenter worked with us, and delicious dinners were provided by Senora Francis Jackson, who helps coordinate this and many other projects for the poor in the community.


The 240 sq. ft. homes, first designed by Jim Horne in January of 2001, consist of a kitchen area with a fine wooden sink counter manufactured by Jim's company; a bath with shower; a sleeping area; and a small sleeping loft for children. The paint schemes run from gray to radiant pink. The two homes just completed stand on the high hills east of town, one with a view of the ocean in the distance. The homes now cost about $3,500 each to build and the front door key is handed to the new owners after only four and a half days of construction (on an already-in-place pad). The new owner families work side by side with the Los Gatos volunteers.


There has been discussion about changing the construction style from wood frame to concrete block, which might be a less expensive material and is certainly more durable. The suggestion is to have local labor construct the block walls, with volunteer teams doing the roofing, electrical and plumbing, and completing the interior. The volunteers would also do the painting, both exterior and interior. New plans will have to be drawn up if this change-over in approach is adopted.


Over the last eight years, the Los Gatos Church has made an impact on Colonet and its people, constructing some 14 houses. Other UMVIM teams from the California-Nevada Conference have been at work here, too, resulting in some 40 new homes in total for locals who may only have dreamed of ever having a home of their own.


The town has warmly greeted the volunteers and has been enhanced not only by the homes, but also by construction of a kindergarten, senior center, and a 10-plex which now includes a medical clinic. The Delgado (an official similar to a county supervisor), the chief of police, and other officials joined us at our last dinner in Colonet in April and expressed their appreciation. 


Several families are waiting in line for future homes, to be constructed by groups from our Conference wanting to lend a hand and receive the warm hospitality of the people of Colonet. Will one of those teams come from your church?