San Juan, TXMar 3rd, 2018 to Mar 10th, 2018
Trip Logistics and Participant Requirements:
We’ll be driving as a group from C’ville to NOVA and staying at Megan’s house on March 3rd. We’ll fly out of DC early the next day to an airport near San Juan, TX. On March 10th, we’ll return to the DC area and drive back to UVA together (most likely stopping for ice cream on the way). In San Juan, we’ll be staying at the Azteca Community Loan Fund Volunteer Lodging which is a short walk from the organization we will be working with, Proyecto Azteca. The volunteer lodging comes furnished with bunk beds, bathrooms with showers, a kitchen, and also a common room.
We hope our participants come ready to work, but also have a ton of fun. The temperatures in McAllen, Texas are usually in the lower 90s in March, so make sure you bring some sunscreen and water! It’s not necessary to know Spanish to join us on this trip, but some knowledge of Spanish is recommended because many of the people we will encounter will speak little English and mostly Spanish.
We want to give our participants a better understanding of the full spectrum of issues that San Juan faces. We will be working with refugees and immigrants, and building houses through Proyecto Azteca. This organization provides housing for low-income families in the local community.
San Juan, self-entitled “The Friendly City,” is located in the south of Texas in Hidalgo County, which borders Mexico. The median annual household income is $33,888, and 35.1% of the population lives below the poverty line (an increase from recent years.) Ultimately, the city earned a D+ rating on employment rate according to recent census data.
Our service learning experience will encompass a holistic view of the complex issues that the San Juan community faces. Each night we plan to conduct reflections on the work completed that day, as well as prepare our peers for the following day. We will prepare daily questions and hope to facilitate meaningful discussions about the area we will be immersing ourselves in; this is an integral part of understanding the impact we are having in the area and how we can continue impacting the communities that surround us, well past Spring Break.
Our service partner Proyecto Azteca created a self-help housing program in 1991 with the goal of training community members to take part in the construction of affordable housing. Since then, over 400 families have received training in the construction and ownership of their new homes. Proyecto Azteca aids in the construction of 35-60 houses per year in the community, in addition to offering financial services and microloans to residents.
San Juan is packed with a ton of activities and sites to see. After each hard day of work, we’ll be exploring the area and adventuring. This includes (but is not limited to): visiting Saint Peter’s Basilica, trekking through the Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge, learning how to salsa at a local club, competitively competing in a mini-golf tournament (the loser has to walk back to Cville), learning about the area at the Museum of South Texas History, and viewing some art galleries.
About the Site Leaders:
Ashwanth (as7cs) is a 3rd year from Olathe, KS double majoring in Statistics and History. He takes pride in being from a flyover state that not only serves the world’s best bbq, but also produces the most mediocre football team in the league. While Ashwanth isn’t as painfully awkward as Megan, he thinks it’s important to note that only 4/10 social interactions go his way. Last year, he went on an ASB trip to Austin, TX and while he was disappointed he never had any tacos, he greatly enjoyed volunteering with the different non-profits and organizations on the trip. His secret favorite part of the trip was doubling over with laughter while his two site-leaders (one of them being Megan,) led their group on wild-goose chases around the city. In his free time, Ashwanth loves to do math problems, bother his roommate early in the morning, and take classes that are way too difficult for his small brain.
Megan (men9sc) is a fourth year nursing student from Leesburg, VA (located in a small town called NOVA – ever heard of it?). As a nursing student, she is fully qualified to perform open-heart surgery and looks forward to practicing on each participant. Some of her hobbies include: quoting The Office, taking excessively long naps, getting sucked into this black hole we call YouTube, trying to hold back tears when the hoos lose a basketball game, and procrastinating at a professional level. Megan co-led the Austin ASB trip last year and managed to get the entire group lost only 20 times! New record!! She can’t wait to return to the Lone Star State and explore the Big Apple! She would like to point out that Ashwanth’s brain is indeed very small (exhibit A: we enjoyed many tacos at the famous Torchy’s Tacos in Austin last year.)
Ashwanth: One of my favorite parts about working with ASB last year was forming relationships with people I otherwise would have never met. There’s a certain magic that’s created when 10 people who hardly know each other fly halfway across the country to help a struggling community. It’s important to remember that organized volunteer trips must primarily seek to assist by listening and learning first, and I know from first-hand experience, that ASB does a tremendous job of doing just that.
Megan: I thoroughly enjoyed working at all of the different sites in Austin, but the food bank was the most eye-opening experience. It was incredible to see the amount of work that gets done each day, between receiving donations and getting the food out into the community. The food bank workers were all so passionate about serving their clients and meeting the needs of their community. I was shocked to learn that some of the workers were on food stamps, but were still so grateful for all that they have and ready to serve others as best they could. Working with them inspired me to take a step back and reevaluate how I can best serve my community back home.