Cristina is deaf and communicates using her own system of signs. She and her spouse Victor live with their three children in a neighborhood of families with limited resources. Unfortunately, their house had no means to secure the windows or doors, allowing thieves to rob the family of their meager possessions.
A small team of Friends of Cozumel volunteers visited their home to learn how they could help.
“We’re very excited to come along side this beautiful family,” said Shelley, a returning volunteer from Minnesota.
The house has no heating, air conditioning or plumbing. The bathroom has two, five-gallon buckets filled at an outdoor hydrant. One is used for bathing and washing dishes. They other is used to flush the toilet. Their furniture consists of a bed, hammock and two plastic chairs. Only one fork, two plates and a couple of pots blackened from wood-fire cooking remained in the small collection of kitchen items. Nonetheless, it’s a happy home. Cristina has made the best of their resources despite the limitations.
“In meeting Christina’s family, what stood out to me is the love and care shown, especially between the young sisters,” said David from Minnesota. “It was beautiful. I feel honored to help this family create a safer, more functional home.
To create a safer home, window security fencing and door locks were installed to prevent break-ins. Dangerous electrical wiring was also repaired and lighting was added in the room used as a kitchen.
Functionality was improved by constructing two countertops with easy-to-clean laminate. One was for food preparation and cooking on a single burner hotplate, and the other surrounded a new stainless steel sink where water could be carried in and then drained after use. Shelves were made from reclaimed materials from the recycling center and stocked with enough plates, silverware and cooking utensils for the entire family. The finishing touch was a gently used refrigerator, dining table and chairs donated by generous FOC supporters.
For the first time, the family of five could sit together around a table for their meals. But the first meal at that table included more than just the family.
“We want to be able to thank you in some way,” Victor said to the FOC volunteers working on the project. “You have done something wonderful for my heart and for my family so we want to feed you a special breakfast.”
The breakfast included a traditional beverage of horchata, guacamole, tortillas, refried beans and heaping servings of a savory pork dish seasoned with gratitude.
“We may have given them a sink,” said Kristin, a returning volunteer from North Carolina, “But they gave back so much more.”
Cristina and Victor’s family gave FOC volunteers an opportunity: to problem-solve, to give reclaimed materials a second life, and to cope with language limitations—both our own and Cristina’s.
But perhaps the most valuable opportunity was to be engaged with this family to build a sense of pride and connection for everyone involved.
“It was wonderful and humbling to see the smile on Cristina’s face as the improvements were made in her kitchen,” said Gary, a member of the FOC leadership team. “The enthusiasm the family had as they worked along side us and the gracious spirit of thanks given to us made me smile.” ###