The foundation of a spring break mission trip to Ensenada, Mexico was laid 15 years ago. It has now been built up into an annual trip that benefits Vanguard students and women and children of a local safehouse alike.
While last year the group set the foundation for a new school, this year’s group (totalling 19 students, staff, and alumni) worked to complete the finishing touches on the second portion of construction, according to student leader Genesis De La Rosa.
The trip in itself has a history of influencing students greatly–giving them a learning experience of a lifetime. For some students, according to De La Rosa, the children of the safe house were the greatest of teachers during the trip.
“I have learned a lot from the kids in particular. Seeing how loving they are despite how much they have been through exemplifies the love God has for us. The trip itself taught me to be engaged, present, and consistent both in life and in the vision for the mission,” De La Rosa said.
The safe house has welcomed not only current Vanguard staff and students, but graduated ones as well–providing a space for them to get just as involved. Alumna Cassandra McGroarty returned for a second year because of the impact it had on her life.
“It was super special to get to go as an alum, because you’re more removed from the Vanguard community. So it’s nice to be able to connect back with people that understand you, especially being back in a place that feels so much like home,” McGroarty said.
As years have gone by, Vanguard’s connection with the site has only strengthened, assisting the safe house with not only its occupants, but its workers with construction as well, according to De La Rosa.
Despite the fact that many of the mission trip volunteers are women, they were not deterred by the physical labor from completing the vision for the mission trip. However, De La Rosa stressed the importance of having more males on future mission trips.
“We weren’t treated any differently by the on-site construction workers just because we were women. [However,] it is important to have more males on these mission trips, because a lot of the kids there do not have strong father/male figures in their lives. The bonds that the kids make with the males are completely different than the ones made with the ladies,” De La Rosa said.
Additionally, there were projects outside of the safe house where students were able to help construct housing for the women for after they leave the shelter. These are beneficial for the women and their children because they still recieve the help they need once they are ready to leave, according to De La Rosa.
“It’s a different trip because it involves some manual labor…doing labor intensive work is humbling, although there are moments where you may find yourself wondering how shoveling dirt is going to make a difference. But having the reason why you are on the mission in the back of your mind in the first place is a humbling reminder,” De La Rosa said.
While physical labor will still be necessary in the years to come, a potential future goal Vanguard has for the mission trip is to do more missionary intensive work such as helping the children with their education and providing aid to their mothers.
According to De La Rosa, last year the group was able to teach the children calligraphy, work on devotionals together, and play games. They were also able to bring self-care supplies for the mothers, as well as participating in blanket-making techniques for the mothers with newborns.
Out of the different activities they participated in, one that was particularly unique was that volunteers were able to assist the children paint and decorate buggy cars that they later will race throughout the town in an attempt to bring awareness to their fundraising for the safe house.
With the school fully built and ready for use, De La Rosa, in reflection upon her experiences on the trip, encourages anyone who is interested in going on their first mission trip to make this their first choice, especially since it is local.