Students right at home in Mexico

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Education: Brant Christian School helps build a pair of houses in Tijuana

Some Okotoks area students have put in plenty of sweat equity — and raised cash — to build a pair of homes. They did it with plenty of heart in an effort to help a pair of Mexican families.

Brant Christian School high school students Brieanna VanderMey and Karlie Korthuis were two of 34 students from the school who travelled to Tijuana in February to build a pair of homes for those in need.

“There were a couple of different tasks that we had to do — the boys did most of the heavy lifting,” said VanderMey, who lives in the Aldersyde area. “The girls mostly did painting and things, but I actually wired up a whole house — putting in the sockets and the lights.”

She also did plenty of painting on a three-room house, which was built through Youth With A Mission program in Tijuana.

VanderMey said one of the highlights was working with the family who was moving into the home.

“That was awesome, but it was a little bit difficult because we couldn’t speak the language,” VanderMey said. “But, we had a translator with us. The mother and the son helped us with the painting a little bit and the father helped the boys with putting up the walls.”

Grade 10 student Karlie Korthuis from Okotoks also found herself holding a paintbrush for much of the week.

You can learn a lot of empathy in a week.

“It definitely changed the way I view the world,” Korthuis said.

“They were so happy to get such a small house and it took just a little time to build it.”

She said the homes were about the size of a small classroom.

Korthuis also enjoyed working with the family — including sort-of working with their two-year-old son.

“He was having so much fun, just running around painting random things — including people,” she said with a laugh. “It was fun playing with him.”

She admitted it was humbling to build a small house knowing she is coming back to her much bigger Okotoks home.

“It made me feel aware of all the stuff that we have and we should be thankful for,” Korthuis said. “They were so happy to get little things, and most of the time for day to day, we don’t notice things we have.

“We are so used to it.”

It took the students three days to build the house. Another group of students built a similar home just down the hill from where Korthuis and VanderMey were working.

They not only built the homes, the students also paid for a large portion.

The students raised $22,000 to build and furnish the home as well as provide groceries for a month.

It’s a worthwhile learning experience, said Brant Christian School principal Kevin Bailey.

“I have done this for a number of years,” Bailey said. “This helps give kids some independence and a greater collegial aspect among the students.

“And of course, it evolves around the mission statement of the church — to get involved in the community they live in. We teach our kids that the community isn’t just the little town they may live in.

“Wherever they find themselves, we welcome to participate to make the lives of others better.”

Building homes wasn’t all the students did to help those in Tijuana.

They also helped at a soup kitchen, a seniors home and an orphanage.

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