A South Surrey mother and her daughter are leading a team of 12 women to El Salvador to build – at their own expense – a dozen much-needed homes for impoverished families.
The missionary work is organized through the non-profit Shelter Canada. It will be the fourth time Kelley McNamara makes the trip, but it’s her first bringing her 15-year-old daughter Lauren.
The women will be taking room-and-board with a family from Calgary that live in San Vicente, which is located near the geographic centre of the country.
Over the course of three build days, the women will construct a dozen earthquake resistant metal homes that are about 400 square-feet and contain two bedrooms and a main living area. The house will also feature a front door and windows that lock, “which it’s a pretty dangerous country, so that gives families security.”
After the women leave, Shelter Canada revisits the homes to pour a concrete foundation.
Asked to describe the living conditions of some of the families before they receive a new home, McNamara said there’s one family that comes to mind more so than others.
“The girls were living under mosquito nets, one was pink and one was green. It was pretty unbelievable, exposed to the elements. Their beds were kind of half under a lean-to and half exposed. In the rain season, in El Salvador, they just get soaked,” McNamara said.
Each participant is required to pay their own way, and raise money for the homes.
“Lauren baked, I’m going to say, 42 pies and charged $25 a pie,” McNamara said, adding that John Volken from PricePro donated all of the ingredients.
“Lauren worked her butt off, she made so many pies. She would come home from school and that’s all she would do. She made over $1,000 that way, and we had a pub night fundraiser and we went to people in the community.”
One of the highlights of the trip, McNamara expects, will be the opportunity to spend quality time with the El Salvador people. The women intend to teach Salvadorian women useful skills, and at the same time learn from them.
“They’re going to do a course on how to make Salvadorian candy for us, and one of the girls on our trip is going to teach them how to crochet. That feels good, too. You’re not just building a home, you’re empowering them with skills, something that they can use to make their own money after we leave.”
Although excited, McNamara said her daughter has some nerves about the trip. It will be her first time inside an impoverished country.
“It was funny. She came home from school last week and didn’t want to eat her pizza because it was cold. I said ‘Oh Lauren… You’re going to have a rude awakening in a couple weeks time.”
McNamara also has a 13-year-old son, who she intends to bring once he gets older.
“All of our kids are born into such a privileged situation,” McNamara said. “It’s really important to me to show them how some of the world lives and that there are ways we can give back.”
Although the El Salvador people have little in the way of materialistic items, they’re rich in family, community and faith, McNamara said.
“I feel like we’re the ones that have it backwards. We put so much value on materialistic things. It’s so refreshing to go there and be surrounded by people who are so full of joy, yet they don’t have anything materialistic. I think for me, not only is that a lesson and a reminder, it fills me up spiritually and I come back feeling like I see the world in Canada through a different lens.”
McNamara said she didn’t set out to make the trip consist of only women participants, it just happened to be that way, “which is pretty cool.”
The women leave for their trip Oct. 19.