Rebuilding Juarez

Apr 19, 2012


(EL PASO) -- Home building across the border has slowed in recent years, but the violence isn't stopping volunteers from continuing to give back.

Jorge Alvarez is looking at things differently.

"When I have a problem, well if I think well I'm not driving the car I always wanted, I think, I have a car. When I complain that you know something a pipe burst in my house, I have a house that has plumbing inside of it," he said.

Alvarez gives his time to Casas Por Cristo, an organization building homes for those in need across the border in Cuidad Juarez.

"There's murders everywhere, evil and hate is going to be found everywhere but the need is there despite it whether we're going to have a peaceful border or not, whether we're going to have good trade policies or not, whether the drug demand goes up or down, the need is there," he said.

Since 1993, Casas Por Cristo has been partnering with different church groups in Mexico and now in Guatemala. It's volunteers have helped build close to 4,000 homes.

"There's a benefit for our families we're building for, obviously. But also the benefit for our teams that are coming down to be in empowered, to gain a larger world view or a bigger perspective," said David Robertson, executive director of the Casas Por Cristo.

However, the number of homes constructed every year has gone down, from 405 homes in 2007 to 150 homes last year. Leaders with the organization blame the on-going violence that began roughly six years ago.

"Anything with MX at the end of it, people are afraid to go to right now. The violence has affected our teams coming down to build, but our teams that come since the violence has started, we have crossed over 12,000 volunteers and have not had a single incident. We've had no issues with any violence at all," said Robertson.

Leaders with the group have changed some things to help keep volunteers safe for example, workers are not allowed to visit the downtown area or leave the site after dark.

"There have been times where they come in and say you know what it's not safe to build in my colonia and for like two years we didn't build in the Philip Angel, that area right across from UTEP," he said.

The group stopped accepting applications two years ago in order to fulfill its mission and build homes to those still on its waiting list and despite all the dangers, volunteers are still willing to cross over in order to make a difference in someone's life.