After day one, the week gets easier for workers spending their spring break on a life changing trip in Mexico. The members mix concrete by hand to demonstrate fancy tools are not needed to have a great outcome. Courtesy photo
Greyson Venhaus is one of many youth spending his spring break in the service of others.
Venhaus, a LAHS senior will be taking his fourth annual trip to build homes for the poor in a joint effort between the United Church of Los Alamos and the Unitarian Universalist Church. The duo of destiny are hoping for your support at their Mexico Mission Auction on Sunday, March 6 to raise the funds to send travelers and pay for building supplies.
While crossing the border for the first time provides a different glimpse of the world for many first time youth, to return year after year is passion of the heart.
“One of the best memories of the trip would have to be handing the keys of the house to the family we have built for,” Venhaus said. “I look at the house that we have built for somebody who, before we arrived, had close to nothing. The feeling is indescribable. I think it is one of the best feelings a person can experience knowing that they changed the lives of others.”
Venhaus walks us through the week of the worker, from laying the wood frame and hand mixing concrete for the foundation, a pain staking, muscle intensive day which ends in an 11X22 foot future for a family.
The next few days are comprised of many activities including, hand building the walls, putting the walls up, adding a roof and adding tar paper and chicken wire before the handfuls of stucco that complete the final task.
You would think that today’s teens would just lament about what they gave up for the week, but Venhaus demonstrates a tenderness and compassion that makes a parent proud.
“I like to take a step back and just look at the house,” Venhaus said. “I begin to reflect on the week. I imagine everything that has led up to this moment and I feel an array of emotion. I feel proud, joyful, and peaceful among other emotions.”
The Unitarian Universalist has taught him well, because one of his many feelings in one of accomplishment. He bases that accomplishment on one of the seven Unitarian Universalist principles; justice, equity, and compassion in human relations.
“Building a house for these people, I have brought justice to them by providing them with an equal chance to succeed in this world,” Venhaus said. “I showed my compassion by simply being there to help.”
The transformative week is so much more than helping, it is a life changing gift that is given to each family at no expense. It is stated during the key handoff that the home is a gift and they owe nothing for it. The students and their adult counterparts, especially those on their first trip, learn through the process of the build how very lucky we are in Los Alamos and how much we take for granted on a daily basis.
“What makes me want to go back again and again is that last day where we hand over the keys,” Venhaus said.
Even after four years, he still gets the same feeling during that monumental moment that keeps him going.
“The idea that I have made a difference in this world,” Venhaus said. “Our sixth UU principle is the goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all. And this trip, personally, is the process that will bring us to a more successful world community.”