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‘Men at work’ build homes in Mexico

First Presbyterian Church, in Newhall, sends group of volunteers to Tijuana on mission trip

Posted: May 29, 2009 9:38 p.m.
Updated: May 30, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Art Moore coats the house with stucco that was mixed by hand.

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Sponsored by the First Presbyterian Church of Newhall, six men left on their Amor Ministries trip April 24 and returned April 27.

Characterizing the all-male work group as "the finishers," John Favalessa, one of six, said, "It was the best trip ever. We finished three homes. We hand-mixed stucco and applied two full coats to one home and one coat of stucco to two homes. Now three families have snug, warm homes. The roofs and walls are solid and do not leak."

Don Trammell, the group's leader, explained they were among the first groups heading for Tijuana after spring break to work.
According to Trammell, Amor took thousands of eager, inexperienced youth volunteers over spring break and threw them into starting as many homes as they can.

"Afterward, they take groups like us to finish the homes," Trammell explained.

"We were an older group, but we had years of experience in construction. Amor likes us because we can work without a lot of oversight because we knew what to do."

Art Moore, an Amor alumnus with years of building experience, explained Amor wanted experienced groups after spring break to come and finish the homes.

"Many of the younger, less-experienced groups are unable to finish their project," Moore stated. "They have different skill levels.

"Some will only finish the concrete floor and framing on the house. Other groups will finish everything except the stuccoing. We finished three of these homes. Amor does not want the families to have to wait too long before their home is completed. That is why Amor likes groups like ours."

The group consisted of six males with over 60 years of building experience, including prior Amor trips and actual construction work.
The group consisted of Art Moore, Don Trammell, Sam Besse, Tim Knox, John Favalessa and Jay Headly.

"We did not have youth on our side - but we did have brains and experience," Favalessa said. "We had no injuries. Our average age was 62. We were sore, but it did not keep us from building homes."

Amor has been building homes in Mexico for over 30 years, Trammell said. He added it is also one of the most effective charity organizations.

"Right now, they have been asked by the Tijuana city government to build 200 homes for poor families," Trammell said. "Amor plans to build the homes for these 200 families. They need volunteer bodies to build the hundreds of homes."

Trammell said the organization is having trouble getting churches and organizations to send volunteers with all the recent stories about drugs and killings.

The 4,000 people that came over spring break were actually a very low figure, Trammel said.

"I think people should stop worrying and come. Amor is careful about where they send volunteers," he said.

"In all their years building in Mexico, Amor has had no trouble.

"We all felt safe working down there in Mexico," Knox said. "We finished three homes. I never felt that I was in danger working down there."

The men spent nine to 10 hours each day working at two different sites.

"We mixed the stucco by hand," Favalessa said. "I forgot how hard it was to mix everything by hand. I felt I had worked out in the gym for eight hours. It was hard on the back and arms."

"All this was done by hand," Trammell said, referring to the work. "Us ‘old men' did it."

Trammell said families who receive the homes really appreciate them.

"They are about the size of a two-car garage with four walls, a window and door," he said. "The roofs are solid, and the whole house is built on a concrete floor.

"They do not have plumbing, but when it rains, the family will be dry. The homes we built are much better than the paper, tin-foil, and garage door homes they were living in."

Knox was overwhelmed with the need for the homes.

"I saw the poverty and I wished we would do more," he said. "I wanted to work faster and build more homes."

Trammell said the First Presbyterian Church of Newhall was sponsoring another trip in October.

He added that the group would be composed of single adults and families, including older children and teens.

"Because First Pres. people know that the Amor people are so good at building homes in Mexico, we like to go down and help build at least twice a year. Generally, a group of men, calling ourselves ‘men at work,' go in the spring, and families in the fall. Some years we do more."

Trammell's hope was that the next group would be big, at least 20 people, so more homes could be built.

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