Orange County Branch Newsletter
Building Houses in Mexico
By Ziad Mazboudi, PE, F.ASCE, Past President
This is the second year I participate in this annual event to build a home in one day in Mexico with Corazon. I represented ASCE OC as I did last year, and one of the master builders, John Meagher, PE is also an ASCE OC member. On May 19, I woke up at 3:00 a.m., to meet the San Juan Capistrano Rotary Club. and headed to El Cajon where more than one hundred volunteers were gathering to construct three homes in Tecate. The Corazon representatives welcomed everyone, provided a briefing on what to expect for the day, and gave a safety briefing. Then the volunteers were divided into three groups, one for each house that would be built that day. Color ribbons were provided to identify each group to attach to their cars and then the caravan headed into Mexico. We arrived at our destination without any incident. Each house had a Master builder responsible to oversee the safety of the volunteers, keep the project on schedule, and provide guidance throughout the day. Since I participated last year, I asked the Master builder to assign me to lead the lumber cutting station. He was glad to hear of my previous experience and provided me with the house’s cut sheet. I found five volunteers to assist me and started to review the cut sheet, and directed a group of volunteers to organize the lumber near the cutting station. The lumber was organized by the volunteers by size, which made our cutting easier. I went over some safety items and provided made sure the volunteers wore the appropriate hearing protection and eye protection.
The organization of the lumber cutting team consisted of me with the circular saw, two members providing the appropriate sized lumber based on the cut sheets, two members making the appropriate measurements, and one member moving the cut lumber to the production stack with a marking to identification them. The identification matched the cut sheet, such as wall 1, or mezzanine, etc.. The cutting team worked well together and analyzed the cut sheets well to avoid waste of lumber. Since we started immediately, it helped us stay ahead of the other volunteers constructing the house. As soon as the assemblers were ready to put together the first wall, all of their cut pieces were already assembled together. Our quality control consisted of double checking the measurements, which allowed us to precisely cut lumber. The Master builder and the other volunteers were impressed by our efforts.
As the day went by, the site was like a bee hive. Younger members of the group painted the wood with rollers. By lunch time it was getting warm and we were ready for a break. Much had been accomplished in the first part of the day, the walls were up and the roof members were attached. The host family prepared lunch for us consisting of chicken tacos, rice, and beans. We rested for about an hour and enjoyed the meal. During the break the Master builder provided a talk on what it took to get a house. The family that receives the house must provide a certain amount of volunteer work and perform many tasks over a number of years before they can apply for a home. The afternoon went smooth and we finished cutting the rest of the lumber a couple of hours after lunch. The house was completed around 4:30 p.m.
The house was about 20 feet by 20 feet with a mezzanine for the kids and a small room on the ground floor for the mother. The husband had passed away a couple of years ago, and the wife was living with her family with her three young kids. The house is made of studs and plywood, no insulation or drywall. The house has no electricity, running water, or sewer. The toilet was a hole in the ground with a plywood seat in an outhouse. At first, I thought this is not wonderful, the house would be hot in summer and cold in winter with no utilities. My perception changed when I saw the look on the owner’s face. The mother and the kids were sharing a 600 square foot house with twelve other family members. I realized the importance of having a place to call home. Likely once the project is finished, the new owner will slowly improvement the house. At the end of the day, we provided the key to the new house to the family and there were a lot of tears as this was a very emotional moment. There was a lot of joy in the air.
So, why Tecate and why partner with Corazon or the Rotary Club. Anything one can do to improve someone else’s life is a positive action. Engineers Without Borders-USA and ASCE partner on projects all over the world to improve people’s lives. It is a wonderful feeling to volunteer in one’s community or other communities in need. As civil engineers, we have talents and expertise that come in handy to assist other people. We should give back when possible and help make the world a better place. My annual trip to Tecate has been fulfilling and I look forward to next year’s trip. If anyone is interested in joining me next year in May, so our ASCE OC team is larger, please contact me and we could start forming our team. E-mail me at [email protected]