There seemed to be no hope for Erik Ochoa and his family, or so he thought. The family from Tijuana, Mexico lived in a small windowless shack with a dirt floor. Erik, his wife and two children slept on a mattress on the floor and used a hole in the ground as their bathroom.
“I worried that our living conditions would hinder our children’s chances of being successful at school,” says Erik. Everything changed for the Ochoa’s when a group of 18 students, part of the Youth With a Mission San Diego/Baja program, descended on the family’s land and begun construction for their new home. After two days, Erik was handed the keys to the new home.
Their new house had a bathroom, three rooms, beds, windows and an oven. It was a modest structure. “This was the first time my family and I felt secure,” recalls Erik. “I cried tears of joy.”
Bringing hope to thousands
The Ochoas are only one of the thousands of families that have received a new home through Homes of Hope. Founded by Sean Lambert and his wife Janet in 1990, Homes of Hope has built more than 5,300 homes in 21 countries. The couple managed this with the help of over 100,000 volunteers.
Homes of Hope provides families with small homes that meet their needs. Many of the homes they build range from 16 by 20 to 20 by 20. “Though they may seem small, they make an enormous impact on the lives of the recipients,” says Sean, 56.
Homes of Hope’s priority is providing homes for families with young children. “Ensuring children have sufficient homes helps to improve their academic and health outcomes,” says Sean. “When children have a home to come to, they are more likely to stay in school. When you get families off the dirt floor and give them concrete floors instead, they are less likely to develop respiratory problems. You get healthier families.”
According to Sean, even parenting improves when families are provided with a home.
Far reaching impact
It’s not only the recipients of the homes whose lives are changed. Volunteers with Homes for Hope return changed. “My wife refers to our organization as a gateway drug to a lifelong service,” jokes Sean and many volunteers would agree with him.
Many of the volunteers return for special celebrations as well as to give more of their time. Even house recipients end up volunteering, such as is the case of the Ochoas. The family helps with construction as well as with selecting recipient families.