Expedition Baja

A new culture experience makes the author think twice about what Americans could be like

By Bailey Welshans
Flying over Californian mountains on our way to San Diego. The picture doesn’t do the justice.

On July 30, 2017, I embarked on a week-long adventure to the poorest part of Baja California, Mexico. After a 4 a.m. wakeup call, six hours of flying, two hours of waiting in the airport, and more than four hours of driving, my team and I arrived in Vicente Guerrero – the place where we would stay that week.

Our host then proceeded to tell us that we couldn’t drink the water, and we could only take two-minute showers. Although we were surprised, we were troopers and followed that two-minute shower rule. That night, we tried the best, and most authentic, tacos I’ve ever had. Our hosts helped us translate, and the locals were giggling. I have no doubt it was probably because a group of 30 foreigners were terrible at speaking Spanish.

Though being a tourist was fun, our goal that week was to build a village of homes for single mothers who have been abused and neglected. These are women have also been victims of human trafficking from a young, young age. The program we partnered with was called Student Reach – an organization striving to give women and their children brighter futures that include education and well-paying jobs.

Construction in Hope Village is underway. These will be the homes of single women and their families who have been neglected and abused in the near future.

A majority of the population in Vicente Guerrero are impoverished, living below the poverty line. I clearly remember one boy wore a green polo shirt with red athletic shorts everyday, while a 12- year old girl named Gloria wore a pink Aeropostale zip-up sweatshirt and dark blue jeans the entire week. It was very typical for most kids to wear the same clothing every day. Most families could only afford beans and rice for their meals.

The highlight of my week was playing with this little boy named Juan. I tickled him, and was able to capture this photo.

The water was turned on twice a week, and most didn’t even get to take a shower. Everyday, when

our team arrived at the worksite, we would be flooded with children trying to sell bracelets to us. We learned quickly how to say “no dinero,” meaning no money. Like many of my team members, I caved and bought a few bracelets for my family. I mean, how can you say no to cute kids!?

As the week continued, our project was coming to a close. The final touches were being added to the outside of the houses and electrical was being installed. Our wish for this village, which we named Hope Village, is that the women and children that enter will find a new hope for a brighter future where poverty doesn’t exist.

On the last night that we were in Mexico, we orchestrated a community event at the bottom of the hill near where Hope Village is located.  We invited the neighborhood kids to attend, and when our vans pulled up that nigh

t, around 50 kids start running from their small huts or houses. We proceeded to feed them, play soccer with them, share stories, and dance.

Leaving them was the hardest part. I will never forget the time in Mexico, and one day, I plan to return.

The culmination of the trip was a soccer game near Hope Village. Kids from Vicente Guerrero played with the volunteers and ate dinner afterwards.

My wish is that, in America, we can learn how to live like that. In reality, there are needs and schedules to be fulfilled, but what if we started living in the moment? Getting to interact with those hurting women and children made me realize how lucky we truly are to have everything we do in America. Let’s learn from those who truly have nothing.

Photographer: Bailey Welshans