When management asked Matt Sarmento, Operations Manager for IFS NE, Joe O’Donnell, Director of SE Operations, and Clark DeGroot, Director of Operations, (pictured left to right) to take a trip to Mexico they were thinking they’d be packing flip flops and swimsuits. Instead, they dusted off their tool belts and work boots and headed for a four day service project in early December.
They joined around 50 others through TRUEU Homes of Hope Leadership Program to build three houses for families in need in Ensenada, Mexico. After a six hour flight and two hour bus ride the trio got to see exactly what they would be rebuilding. The “house” that Matt, Joe and Clark would be renovating was literally scraps of wood and tarps nailed together (see before and after photos on page 2). “It was pretty shocking to find out that a dad, mom and kids were living in that situation - but apparently it is pretty normal for around there” said Matt. The family members included 32 year old Gumaro, 30 year old Petra, eight year old Leonardo and five year old Daniela. They moved to Ensenada seven years ago to find work. Gumaro is a field worker who lost the ability to speak in an accident six years ago and brings home $63 a week. They have no water and no electricity.
The team worked side by side with the family to get a two bedroom home built in less than four days. Joe says having only a generator with a small amount of power tools to use made the work a little tougher - as did only having bottled water to use for teeth brushing, hand washing, etc. Despite those unusual circumstance (along with the fact that all communication was through a translator), the end result was worth it. The gratitude of the family was sincere and displayed through hugs and tears.
Matt says “It was truly a life changing event. It is very rewarding volunteering and helping others in need.” He hopes to take his own family back for another project when his kids are old enough to appreciate the experience. InfraSource management knows the value of “giving back” and hopes to be able to offer more opportunities like this in the future. Not only was a family in need given a new home but Matt, Joe and Clark received hands-on leadership training by learning how to adapt to the environment and people in order to complete a project with a tight deadline and a lot of unknowns in the beginning.