Note: The following article was written by Kevin Koss, the Kenney Machinery Marketing Manager.
Recently, twelve employees from Kenney Machinery Corporation (including myself) went on a service trip to Mexico to build a home for a family in need. It was an all-around incredible experience, and I’d like to take this opportunity to share the impact it had on myself and others on the trip.
Purpose of the trip
First, the back story: last year, Angie Hubble, the General Manager of Kenney Machinery, made a service trip to Mexico as part of a trueU leadership training program. TrueU is an Indianapolis-based non-profit organization that Kenney Machinery has partnered with to help instill a culture of servant leadership in our company. You can read more about our ongoing, multi-year partnership with trueU in our series of blog articles on the topic.
Angie had such a positive experience on her trip that we decided do another trip this year, only this time around the entire team making the trip would be Kenney Machinery employees. The trip was part of a program called Homes of Hope, which helps families around the world pull themselves out of poverty by, among other things, building safe homes for them. The program is run by the Christian organization Youth with a Mission.
Arriving in Mexico
We arrived in Mexico on Thursday, August 10th and traveled to a base camp maintained by Youth with a Mission, where we would stay for the duration of our trip.
Thursday evening, we attended an orientation session with three leaders from Homes of Hope who would be working with us during the trip. They told us about the history of the program and explained the impact it has had around the world, so that we would understand how the work we’d be doing the next few days fit into their larger mission.
They also explained the logistics of how the actual home build would work so that we’d know what to expect for the next few days.
Building a home in two days
The next morning, after eating breakfast at the base camp we drove about 30 minutes to a remote area where we would be building the home.
For the most part, the people in the area lived in simple structures that were little more than shacks they had built with whatever materials they could find, including tarps and sheets. The level of poverty was staggering and very sad to see.
The site where we would be building the home had been prepared in advance. A 16×20 foot concrete slab had been poured earlier in the week, and the building materials were already on site.
Once we arrived on the site, we split into teams that worked on different parts of the house. One team assembled the walls, another worked on the roof, another team worked on painting, and so on. Homes of Hope has developed a very efficient process for building these types of homes, and as a result everything went very smoothly. We had the entire home completed by Saturday afternoon.
Meeting the family
In order to qualify for the Homes of Hope program, a family needs to go through an extensive application process. They must meet certain criteria, such as having a stable family life, a means of support, etc. Essentially, the organization wants to make sure that the family will be in a position to keep and maintain their new home so that it has a long-term impact. The family who would be living in the home we built had gone through this application process.
While the home was being completed on Saturday, some members of our team accompanied the family on a shopping trip to a nearby Walmart (that’s right—even in rural Mexico there is a Walmart within driving distance). The family was allowed to purchase whatever they wanted to furnish their new home with money donated by Kenney Machinery and our employees.
Once they returned and the home was completed, the entire team gathered together and had the opportunity to share with the family through a translator what the experience had been like for us. The family then entered their new home for the first time and had a few minutes by themselves to see the home. They then received us as the first official guests in their home, and had the chance to talk about what the experience was like from their perspective.
Debriefing the trip
At the end of the trip, the team gathered for a final dinner where we debriefed the experienced and discussed what it meant for each of us, what the next steps were, and how we could get more people involved.
For myself, the main takeaway was how grateful the people there were for the very limited resources they had. We live in a country that is so focused on getting more and more “stuff” while these families are happy to have a job that they can go to and earn $67/week. It was an experience that I will treasure, and I’m looking forward to accompanying many others from our company on the next home build.
Here’s some thoughts about the trip from some other members of Kenney Machinery’s leadership team:
Jim Davis, Landtech Design Manager
“I was very impressed with the YWAM volunteers (Esther, Walter, Gama, Pablo, and others), and their devotion to this mission of building better homes for the poor. A decision to commit to 2-3 years (or more) to such an effort is not made without a lot of inner soul-searching, combined with an innate sense of kindness. Knowing that there are still many ‘very giving’ people out there, throughout the world, made me feel so good inside and glad to be a part of the effort!”
Thomas Cangelosi, Chicago Store Manager
“I was surprised our group of amateurs built a nice little home in a day and a half with almost no glitches. You would expect something to not line up or turn on at the end but everything turned out great. I feel good knowing that we, as a group, made an impact in the lives of the Santiago family. Whatever I got out of it, their impact was 100 times greater.”
Jon Treadway, Controller
“Personally I just felt honored to be a part of something like this. It gave me an amazing feeling of fulfillment to be able to make a big difference in four people’s lives. I will have these memories forever and look back on them with great appreciation.”
Jeff Linder, Indianapolis Store Manager
“I am proud that the 12 of us had this opportunity to help make a life changing event that will have a lasting effect on at least 2 generations.”