Home Construction | April 6-14, 2019 | Trip Cost: $2,111 USD | GV19412
- Team Leaders: Haley Pope & Jeff Pope (a daughter-father duo)
- Location: Chiapas, Mexico
- Trip dates: April 6 – 14, 2018
- Team Size: 12 people
- Event code: GV19412
- Program donation: $2,111
- Program donation due and recruitment ends: week of March 1, 2019
Location: San Cristobal de las Casas
Chiapas is a state rich in cultural diversity and serves as a transition zone, where the indigenous world connects with the mestizo Mexico. Chiapas has its own history that distinguishes it from other regions. Part of that history is its peculiar isolation and the fragmentation of human settlements. Chiapas has a high degree of marginalization, mainly in indigenous municipalities on the outskirts of cities where the income inequality is very noticeable.
We’ll be staying in the town of San Cristobal de las Casas. It’s located in the Central Highlands region and is considered the cultural capital of Chiapas.
In general, Chiapas has a humid, tropical climate. In the north, in the area bordering Tabasco, near Teapa, rainfall can average more than 120 inches per year. In the past, natural vegetation in this region was lowland, tall perennial rainforest, but this vegetation has been almost completely cleared to allow agriculture and ranching. Rainfall decreases moving towards the Pacific Ocean, but it is still abundant enough to allow the farming of bananas and many other tropical crops near Tapachula. On the several parallel “sierras” or mountain ranges running along the center of Chiapas, climate can be quite temperate and foggy, allowing the development of cloud forests like those of the Reserva de la Biosfera el Triunfo, home to a handful of resplendent quetzals and horned guans.
Chiapas is home to the ancient Mayan ruins of Palenque, Yaxchilan, Bonampak, Chinkultic, and Tonina. It is also home to one of the largest indigenous populations in the country with twelve federally recognized ethnicities. Much of the state’s history is centered on the subjugation of these peoples with occasional rebellions. The last of these rebellions was the 1994 Zapatista uprising, which succeeded in obtaining new rights for indigenous people.
Since 1989, Habitat for Humanity Mexico has fought poverty through adequate housing, supporting and empowering more than 57,000 families in organized communities.
Despite the progress that has been made in providing housing in recent years, more than 53 million people in Mexico do not have the financial means to buy or build adequate housing (45%). Family income has been losing purchasing power. Sixty million people (51%) earn incomes below the welfare line, which are insufficient to acquire the goods and services they require to meet their most basic subsistence needs.
Habitat for Humanity Mexico works to combat poverty, supporting low-income families in building their homes; promoting community development through influencing public policies; attracting public and private resources for housing; and sensitizing governments, donors, and volunteers on the human right to live in adequate housing.
HFH Mexico builds new homes as well as conduct home improvements. The families choose the product that best suits their needs. You may be working on an entire new housing project, a progressive building project, an extension, or home improvement.
About Our Build
The family we’ll be working with during the week is of the indigenous group Tzotzil Maya and they speak the Mayan languages Tzotzil and Tzeltal (they also speak Spanish).
Pérez Juárez Family
- Pablo Pérez Jiménez 32 years old
- María de Jesús Juárez Hernández 28 years old
- Juan Jiménez Pérez 14 years old
- Sergio 9 years old
- Gerardo 7 years old
- Rodrigo 6 years old
- Andrea 5 years old
“My name is Pablo Pérez Jiménez, I’m 32 years old and I was born in the community of Los Llanos, my main language it’s Tzotzil, but I also speak Spanish. When I was 11 years old, I was forced to leave my community with my parents, we wanted to join the Presbyterian church, but the majority of people in the community didn’t agree and they wanted all to stay Catholic. We had to leave it all behind and start all over in somewhere new, we found that place in Monte de Sion in the municipality of San Cristobal de las Casas.
When I was 14, I decided to move to Mexico City to work as a mason apprentice; I stayed there for 8 months, then I moved back to Chiapas and worked in a sawmill and now as a mason. Besides my regular work as a mason, I also work as a farmer and truck driver. I live with my wife, she’s from a different community and she speaks Tzeltal, she helps me with the farming and the house, she also makes some handcrafts.
I got involved with the Habitat program a couple of months ago because some of my neighbors started building their houses with Habitat. I’ve helped to build some of their houses and now it’s my turn to build a house for my family.“
Type of Work
Habitat houses are built using the culturally preferred materials for construction: generally concrete blocks, steel rebar, and galvanized roofs. Worksite tasks typically include excavating the foundation, tying steel, mixing and carrying concrete or mortar, transferring materials, drilling, and/or placing the frame of the home. All tools and construction site materials will be provided by the affiliate, and a professional construction leader will always be present on site.
The masons on our build site will be able to speak Spanish, but it may be their second language to a native language. During the build week, it’s important for us to be patient and listen to the masons and the construction leader for instructions. Things must be done in a certain manner to be up to code, which may be different than what we are used to. We are providing free labor and support to the build, so please keep that in mind!
Below is the model of the house that we’ll help build for the family. At the moment, their house only has a foundation so we will help build the walls, floors, and roof. With our team’s work, we can save them up to 1 month of building time!
Dates, Cost & Fundraising
Payment Due Dates
Deposit: $350 to secure your spot on our team (non-refundable, non-transferrable).
Full trip cost: $2,111 is due on February 20, 2019.
Please pay this fee or the remaining cost using any of the following methods:
- Online with a credit card on the secure GV website
- Online with a credit card on your fundraising page by clicking the donate button in the top right corner
- By phone with a credit card: call 1-800-HABITAT, ext 7530
*NOTE: Include the GV event code (GV19412) and your ID # on any payment.
Your GV trip cost includes a donation to Habitat for Humanity Mexico and Habitat for Humanity International; meals; accommodations; transport (excluding airfare); cultural activities; health, accident, and emergency evacuation insurance; and team coordination from HFHI and the host program.
The trip cost does not include airfare, rest-and-relaxation (R&R) activities before or after the build, and visa and exit fees (where applicable). All R&R arrangements should be made independently by the team and directly with tour operators.
For those of you who have already set up your Share.Habitat page, keep up the great work fundraising! Please don’t forget to thank your supporters! You may even want to consider ways to draw them further into the experience, like sending them a photo of you at the build site.
For those who haven’t created a page yet, there’s still time. Create your account and share it on social media, through email, and word of mouth to encourage your friends and family to support your trip. This is not only a great way to help fund your way to Mexico, but also allows others not physically participating in the trip to know they’re playing an important role in supporting the build. Let me know if you need any help!
Arrival & Departure
UPDATE: Buy your flights now!
We are flying into the Tuxtla Gutiérrez International Airport (TGZ), Mexico. Please make sure you arrive on Saturday, April 6 by mid-afternoon. You can depart at any time on Sunday, April 14.
When you arrive, someone with a Habitat sign will be there to pick you up. Look for them after the baggage claim but before you leave the airport. They will be stationed inside the airport. After pickup, you’ll be transported to our hotel in San Cristobal, which is about a 45-minute drive from the airport.
You need a passport that is valid for at least 6 months after our dates of travel and at least two empty passport pages. Ensure your passport is current and valid. It is a good idea to carry a photocopy of your passport in a separate location from your passport in the event that your passport is lost.
You do not need a visa for a stay shorter than 180 days.
Health & Medical
IMPORTANT: If you have serious dietary or medical concerns, please think carefully before joining a GV trip. We will do our best to accommodate you, but please be aware of limitations while in foreign countries.
Habitat for Humanity provides health insurance for every volunteer on the Global Village trip during the trip. If your travels extend beyond the Global Village trip dates, you will need your own health insurance.
Please consult your doctor or travel clinic to find out what is specifically recommended for you. Here’s a link to the CDC website for Mexico if you want a preview of what your health care professional might recommend.
Dietary Restrictions & Medical Concerns
Let us know if you have any dietary restrictions or preferences, food allergies, medical conditions, or anything else that might impact your health and safety while we’re in Mexico. We’ll share the food-related information with the local affiliate to make sure everyone is able to enjoy our meals while we’re away. We’ll also be carrying a fairly extensive first aid kit, but please remember to bring any critical prescription medications (and a copy of the prescription) with you.
During the build, we will be staying at Hotel Arrecife de Coral in the town of San Cristobal de las Casas. It’s located in the Central Highlands region and is considered the cultural capital of Chiapas. From here we will have ample opportunities for exploring the area and city during our free time in the evenings.
Please remember that Mexico is a developing country in a tropical climate. While the hotels and our staff will do everything possible to make your stay comfortable and relaxing, it is best to arrive with realistic expectations. Each volunteer will have a roommate unless you request otherwise, so please let us know if there is someone you’d like to room with. Single rooms will incur an extra cost to be covered as part of your overall trip cost ($_______ for the whole week).
All hotels that volunteers use will have an internet connection. Additionally, there will be several ways that volunteers will be able to use a phone to make local or international calls (either at the hotel or through Skype). All field coordinators that accompany GV teams in Mexico have phones to make local calls, and in certain situations, international calls.
While in Mexico, we will have the opportunity to try some of the local cuisines. Mexican culinary norms vary widely based on income level and social class. The diet of working-class Mexicans includes staples such as corn tortillas, beans, rice, tomatoes, chili peppers, and chorizo. The diets of middle and upper-income Mexicans are more closely aligned with the diets of Americans and Europeans. It distinguishes itself by retaining most of its indigenous heritage, including the use of the chipilín herb in tamales and soups used nowhere else in Mexico. However, while it does use some chili peppers, including the very hot simojovel, it does not use it as much as other Mexican regional cuisines, preferring slightly sweet seasoning to its main dishes. Mexico is known for its tequila, which is made from agave cactus that is well suited to the climate of central Mexico.
We will eat breakfast at the hotel, lunches will likely be delivered to our build site daily, and dinner will be enjoyed at local restaurants. All meals we eat as a team in hotels and restaurants have been vetted and are safe and healthy to eat. The hotels and restaurants that we go to have worked with us on many occasions and they take the proper precautions to prepare the food and drinks in a safe and healthy manner.
That said, it’s always good to keep in mind some general guidelines for safe eating and drinking when traveling abroad: you should avoid food prepared by street vendors; wash your hands whenever possible, especially before eating; if soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
Drink only bottled or boiled water or carbonated drinks in cans or bottles (please make sure to bring a reusable water bottle). Avoid tap water, fountain drinks, and ice cubes. Use bottled water for brushing teeth as well. Make sure food is fully cooked. Avoid dairy products unless you know they have been pasteurized.
*NOTE: If you have dietary needs or allergies, please let us know ASAP so we can make the appropriate arrangements during our trip.
Communication & Money Matters
Our hotel will have Wi-Fi internet or a computer in the lobby so you can stay connected as needed. It’s easy to purchase a local SIM card for your phone or you can purchase an international phone plan with your carrier in the States. Generally, purchasing a local SIM card will be cheaper. Chiapas is in the Central Standard Time zone (UTC-5). Mexico does observe daylight savings time and the time will change by one hour on April 7.
Mexican pesos should be obtained at ATM machines in the Mexico City airport (there are limited options at Tuxtla-Gutierrez airport. The exchange rate varies, but $1USD is approximately 19MXN pesos. Most places will accept bank, credit, or debit cards. ATMs are located at banks or near supermarkets, shopping malls, grocery stores, and occasionally in hotel lobbies. Most ATMs offer both English and Spanish, but the money amount will always be shown in Mexican pesos. Avoid using ATMs at night or in deserted places. When you withdraw money put it away immediately.
*NOTE: Be sure to call your bank and credit card companies prior to the trip to inform them of the locations where the card will be used. Take your bank’s international phone number in case you need to deactivate your card if it is lost or stolen.
Dress Code & Packing List
The temperature in San Cristobal in April is usually in the 40s at night and in the 70s during the day. It can sometimes be humid and there is a good chance of rain, so have clothes for any type of weather. Make sure to follow the packing list below.
When packing clothing for the trip, keep in mind our daily activities: we will be working during the day (bring old clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty) and afterward, eating dinner at local restaurants and socializing in the evenings (bring clothes other than working clothes). At the worksite, loose, comfortable clothing is best and it’s mandatory to wear sturdy, closed-toed shoes, long pants, and bring your own work gloves. There may be an opportunity to do laundry at the hotel. If so, each volunteer will pay for these services independently.
For the worksite:
- Long and short-sleeved t-shirts (no spaghetti straps or tank tops)
- Long pants, such as jeans or hiking pants
- Closed-toe shoes with a hard sole (work boots if you already have them, otherwise, gym shoes are perfectly fine)
- Lightweight rain jacket
- Hat and bandana
- Sunscreen and bug spray
- Chapstick with sunscreen
- Work gloves (you can find these at any Ace, Lowe’s, Home Depot, etc.)
- Reusable water bottle
- Camera (not an expensive one!)
- Hand sanitizer
- Insect repellent
- Supplemental snacks if you have dietary restrictions
- Gatorade/Powerade powder to add to your water
- Small backpack or bag to carry your things to the worksite
Here’s a picture of a recent volunteer group – this is what you should wear – look at all of that great sun protection!
Off the worksite:
- Casual clothes (shorts are fine)
- Personal toiletries
- Baby wipes or make-up wipes
- First aid items (there will be a first aid kit on site, but it’s nice to have Band-Aids, Tylenol, Advil, Pepto-Bismol, etc. for yourself!)
- Any personal medications (bring your prescription as well)
- Earplugs (you will be sharing a room)
- Small flashlight or headlamp with batteries
- Electrical adaptor
- A good book or two
- ATM card
- Personal spending money
- Journal and pen and pencils
- Snacks – granola bars, nuts, etc.
- Passport and a photocopy
- Shower shoes
- Zip-lock or plastic bags for soiled clothing/shoes
- Photos of your family (avoid photos depicting wealth)
- And of course, don’t forget your passport, ID, and money!
What not to bring:
- Anything expensive you’d be devastated to lose (watch, laptop, camera, jewelry)
- Large amounts of cash
- Gifts (as discussed above in the gift-giving policy)
Day 1: Travel (Saturday, April 6)
- Depart the U.S. or home country in order to arrive by late afternoon
- Arrive at the Chiapas-Tuxtla Gutiérrez International Airport (TGZ)
- Greeted by Habitat staff upon arrival
- Transported to accommodations near the project site
- First team dinner
Day 2: Orientation (Sunday, April 7)
- Breakfast at accommodations
- Visit the Habitat office in Chiapas for the initial orientation
- Free time to explore the area and visit a local handicraft market
- Welcome dinner with team and Habitat staff
Days 3 – 6: Build (Monday – Thursday, April 8 – 11)
- Breakfast at accommodations before leaving for the work site
- Worksite safety and health orientation
- Work on the build site (8 am – 4 pm) with scheduled breaks for snacks and lunch
- Travel back to accommodations, time for cultural activities, group reflection, and dinner
Day 7: Celebrate (Friday, April 12)
- Work on build site from 8 am to 12 pm with scheduled breaks and lunch
- Goodbye ceremony with Habitat affiliate members, partner families, masons, and house dedication
- Time for team meeting and reflection
- Team dinner and free time
Day 8: Explore (Saturday, April 13)
- Guided tour of two other local indigenous communities near San Cristobal
- Farewell team dinner at a local restaurant
Day 9: Goodbyes (Sunday, April 14)
- Breakfast at accommodations
- Transportation to Tuxtla Gutierrez airport from San Cristobal
- Departure to home or continue on with personal travel
Cultural Activities & Evenings
During our build, we’ll have some built-in free time to avoid over-working ourselves and also to make sure that we have an opportunity to get to know the community. We have some fantastic options for how to spend this time.
Each night we will eat dinner and talk about the events of the day as a group, but after dinner is free time for everyone. Although this region is considered safe, we will adhere to common sense safety practices like traveling in pairs or groups. Some nights we may choose to stay in and I encourage you to bring your favorite card or board game and challenge your teammates!
On Sunday, April 7 we will visit the Habitat for Humanity office in Chiapas for our initial build orientation. We’ll have some free time in the midday to visit a local handicraft market.
On Saturday, April 13 after our build, we’ll enjoy a guided tour of two other local indigenous communities near San Cristobal, each with their own customs and languages.
Gift Giving Policy & Donations
Habitat for Humanity takes a very strict stance on avoiding paternalism and fostering any sense of dependency or inequality among our partnering communities. Essentially, giving gifts are not allowed. It can create jealousy, competition, and enmity within the community. In some cultures, people feel if they receive a gift they are obligated to reciprocate. If they are unable to do so, your generosity may lead to unhappiness or disappointment on the part of the recipient. It also undermines the ideal that Habitat is trying to promote – a hand up not a handout.
If you would like to donate anything in addition, which is certainly not necessary, the team leaders will collect the items and give them to the host program who will distribute it appropriately and fairly without names attached. Read the Habitat Mexico gift policy.
That said, there are a couple of exceptions. Here are some guidelines:
- Never give money, or promise to give money, to anyone. Although rare, you may be approached and asked to sponsor a child, make a mortgage payment, or give money for daily items. Under no circumstances should you agree! Habitat strives to promote independence and personal capacity, not create dependence on others— especially those outside of their own community. Let us know if this happens during the build and we will address the situation.
- If you have gifts to give, they must be shared anonymously by the host affiliate. We will collect any items you wish to donate and at the end of our trip and pass them along to the host affiliate who can then distribute to those most in need in the community. Some examples of appropriate gifts are below:
- Work clothing and shoes
- Tools for building (tools will be provided on the work site. You are not required to bring your own tools).
- Bring toys to play with the children, but then take them back home. Some ideas include bubbles, Frisbees, balls (with pump) etc. The only guideline here is that at the end of each day, we take back the items to comply with the gift-giving policy. Remember if you share something with one child others will expect something as well. This can cause problems in the community, including violence between children who didn’t receive a toy and those who did.
Photography & Photo Sharing
Taking pictures is a great way to capture special memories and keep them with you – and you are highly encouraged to take lots of photos on the build! But please remember Habitat works to promote dignity in the families and communities. Here are some guidelines:
- Please ask permission from any local people prior to taking their photo.
- Avoid photos depicting people in “destitute” situations. The families and communities we are serving are working hard to better their lives and we should strive to document that hope.
To keep our funders and supporters in the loop, it’s nice to share photos of the work we’re doing at the build site while we’re there. Please include the hashtag #GVMexico2019 to any photo you share on social media.
After the trip is over, I’ll set up a Flickr album for the trip with everyone’s photos so we all will have copies of the build.
As a reminder, Habitat’s policy regarding alcohol is that you’re permitted to drink moderately after work, but should do so with discretion and remember to act as a representative of Habitat for Humanity at all times. You will be responsible for purchasing any alcohol you consume – it is not a covered expense by Habitat.
- Mark your calendar for February 20, 2019, when recruitment and final trip payments are due.
- Make sure you have scheduled an appointment with your health care professional to discuss any immunizations.
- A short bio about yourself with a photo, so we can start to get to know each other before we depart.
- Do you have a roommate preference? Do you need a single room? Let us know!
- Do you have any dietary restrictions/preferences/allergies and any medical conditions that may impact your safety on this trip? Let us know!
- Begin to think about packing – assume you won’t be able to buy anything you’ve forgotten, so make a list and check it twice.