This post is written by guest writer and MEPN student, Melissa Dempsey.
During our spring break this past March, I had the opportunity of visiting the town La Morita with a few other MEPN students and Dr. Hutchins. During this particular trip, the San Eugenio clinic was closed. Instead of our usual activities (health fairs, clinic visits, and first aid courses), we volunteered with a non-profit called Build A Miracle, and learned about all of the great work they do in the community.
Katie North, a second year MEPN student, has a pretty special connection with the town of La Morita. When she started at USD, the MEPN mentorship team paired her with second year Brittani Deriemer. Brittani happened to be one of the team leaders of the Mexico trips at the time. As Katie recalled, “we were driving to the clinic in La Morita on the first day, and it just randomly happened to be right by our community center.” This community center is a place that Katie has been visiting her entire life.
Katie’s parents started Build A Miracle in 1999, after graduating from Loyola Marymount University. In the beginning, their dream was to build one home a year. Today, the organization averages 25-30 homes per year, and is currently working on home #310. Each home is funded by donations, and families who receive homes are asked to volunteer 500 hours of service at the community center or other home building sites. This community center has become a beacon for the surrounding community. It offers after-school programs for kids, tutoring, vocational courses, and a place for members of the community to gather. As Katie detailed, “families get involved with the community center because it gives them confidence, builds a stronger community, and changes lives.”
I asked Katie to talk to me about how her work with Build A Miracle has evolved since starting nursing school at USD. “It’s been really cool for me. We’ve always focused on homes and education with Build a Miracle, nobody in my family is in the medical field. It’s been amazing to see the health initiatives brought to the community by USD,” said Katie. “We’ve been able to channel USD’s philosophies into the community center programs, we even started teaching dental hygiene, Zumba, and nutrition recently.”
During our time in La Morita over spring break, we visited multiple Build A Miracle homes. We helped lay concrete at a home site, taught classes at the community center, and most importantly, saw the massive impact that the organization has had on this small community. I think that we all left La Morita in complete awe of our classmate and her family. As Natalie Mata expressed, “to me, Katie’s parents were like little sparks that slowly started a large and strong flame that has grown stronger and brighter with time. It made me realize that everyone has the potential to make this type of a difference in the world. It also showed me how constant compassion, as well as the collective compassion of others can truly change lives.”
Katie mentioned that one of the things that recipients of new homes consistently mention to the Build A Miracle team is a newfound appreciation for rain. One of the women in the community said to Katie, “rain used to be this evil thing. It was scary, and after it rained, the kids would always get sick. I remember standing in my house and looking outside my window the first time that it rained after we moved into our new house and thinking, ‘wow, rain is beautiful.’”