For the second year in a row, Skanska employees trekked to Mexico to lend a hand on a building project that would change people’s lives in a community in need.
It was before dawn on Saturday, May 14, when approximately 30 Skanska colleagues piled into a bus to make the trip from our Riverside, CA office to Tecate, Mexico, to participate in the Skanska Corazon Build project.
This year, the team of construction veterans and relative newbies brought their enthusiasm and building skills to construct a community center that could function as both a classroom and day care center (rendering, above).
“Driving down from the comforts of Southern California into the hills of Mexico, you take in the scenery and see the living conditions in this town and it’s humbling,” said Alex Six, a Riverside-based participant in our Core Competency Training Program. “Homes are literally made from scrap sheet metal, and when it rains you get a flood in the house. To put these modern structures up for people to use is really a game changer for them.”
Many of the Skanska employees involved had taken part in last year’s build in Tijuana, which gifted a simple – but invaluable – home to a family. This year’s build was more architecturally complex, says Six, with an inverted roof and “extra math and angles” that had to be figured out.
“When you first get there you’re excited, it’s fun. You meet colleagues that are helping. Some aren’t familiar with building or how to swing a hammer, and there’s a lot of teaching and communication going on,” he said.
The team ended up erecting the walls and roof of the community center, leaving some of the finishing, windows and door installation for a future team.
“At end of the day, it kind of hits you that you’ve done something extraordinary. It’s great to help people who need it,” says Alex.
Others had a similar reaction to the volunteer experience.
“I’ve always tried to be very mindful and thankful for all that I have in life. This trip down to Tecate has opened my eyes even more. Their poverty and living conditions there is nothing like poverty here [in America],” said Dana Zuccarello, Document Control Coordinator, “I’ve always taken for granted the fact that I have locks on my doors and that I don’t have to worry about people coming in to steal my food. And to hear one woman tell the story of being thankful for a lock on her door just amazed me. If given the opportunity again next year, count me in!”
The structure will be completed in time for an opening ceremony in October, which Six says he will return to take part. Six said there were some tears shed by the locals at the close of the day, because they were excited to see this important building starting to take shape in the middle of their town.
“It was [your] positive attitude; this belief that what you were there to do was important and by working together, we will get it done. I expected a certain level of proficiency from a group like Skanska, but [your] patience and enthusiasm was inspiring to me, and was especially inspiring to the locals who were there,” said Terry Mackprang, Corazon’s US Vice-President and the leader of the build project. “They told me how exciting it was, what a great building it was going to be as their classroom and day care center. For me, this has always been the most important aspect of US volunteers coming down [to Corazón]. I want you to know what a difference you have made for [our] families. I think it may have made a lasting impression on them as well.”