Families Helping Families is providing homes and services in MexicoJul 08, 2021 01:43PM ● By Jackie Kartchner
Families Helping Families group in Mexico. Courtesy photos
Jared and Marsha Parker and their friends Ralph and Janene Pew first went to Puerto Peñasco, Mexico in 2002 just for fun. They kept going back. Then in 2005, they said to each other, “We’ve got to do more than just sit on the beach.”
That is when Families Helping Families was born. The couples formed the organization where families go to Mexico and build homes for less-fortunate people. “We took five families from our neighborhood,” said Jared Parker. “We took every penny we would have spent on Christmas and bought building material with it, and the five families built a house for a nice little lady who had lost her husband in a work -related accident.”
They had a great experience and decided to do it the next year. “Families kept calling and asking us if they could come,” he said. “In 2019, we had about 380 volunteers that worked the week between Christmas and New Year’s. We are a true nonprofit because no one is taking a salary or getting paid. Every penny that we raise, 99% of it goes straight to the cause that we support. We all do it because we want to.”
Usually, they have everybody who goes down donate money for the cost of materials. “A family of five usually donates around $3,700 to $4,000. Houses cost about $40,000 to build,” Jared said. “They are really good homes. They are tiled. They have cabinets. They have three bedrooms, one bath, a good operating kitchen.”
Marsha Parker talked about a partnership they have with the San Raphael Community Center down there, including a thrift store that has clothing, bedding and other items. In partnership with the Rotary Clubs in Utah, FHF has also built a preschool, a dental clinic and a prosthetic clinic at the community center. The clinics are operated by locals and assisted by volunteers from the States. With Rotary, they have also built a library and a playground.
In conjunction with the Rotary Clubs of Utah, “On Christmas Day each year, with the help of volunteers who have come with us, we usually do a big Christmas Day dinner and feed about 600 local people,” Marsha said.
In June they have a joint project with the Utah High School Rotary “Interact” clubs. “We take the high schoolers down there and it’s really fun,” she said. “They get to build two or three homes.”
Also in the area, there is a special-needs program. “A group of mothers got together,” said Marsha. “All these special needs kids needed something to do, so the mothers started making piñatas with the kids, then selling the piñatas. This pays for the school.We call it the Piñatas School. They have continued opportunities for learning.”
FHF Mexico remodeled the Piñatas School in conjunction with the Rotary Clubs of Utah when they came down to do their convention one year.
They learned early on that they have to sustain their efforts. “Poverty is a systemic problem,” said Jared. “You need to create a system to overcome it. That is why partnerships are so important. Through partnerships we can give them a hand up.”
The organization hires locals, giving them a good income. “They develop skills as craftsmen,” he said. “Then they use them in their community and to help each other.”
When they build a house for someone, they don’t just give it to them. “We rent to own, so we can have partnerships buy into the program,” Jared said.
It’s a really big deal to own property down there. “So, once they own property, it just puts them in a different place to be self-reliant and help other people,” he said.
The Parker family said they are blessed through this service. “We don’t spend Christmas at home,” they said. “And we usually don’t buy each other gifts. This is Christmas. Every single moment we love it. It has changed our lives.”
FHF is always in need of donations. To donate, go to their website at fhfmexico.org.