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Nine San Clemente families this month traveled to Tijuana, Mexico, where they spent a few days helping one needy family to build a home.

Through Homes for Hope, a ministry of Youth with a Mission (YWAM), Ashley and Craig Cook—along with their two children: Chase, 10, and Kaitlyn, 12—organized the trip, gathering eight other local families who are all close friends and rallying them to spend three days helping another family in need.

On Oct. 1, the group caravanned across the border to a YWAM compound and began building the home for the Lopez family of Tijuana the following day. The Lopezes had purchased a small plot of land just outside the city, but could only afford construction of a 7-foot by 7-foot home.

The space, which had a dirt floor, a leaky roof and could only accommodate a twin bed, was supposed to house the family of five. Homes for Hope had interviewed and selected the Lopez family as the recipient of the new home.

According to a press release from the group of families, two of the younger Lopez daughters—one was 6 months old and the other 2 years old—had bites and welts all over their bodies from insects and spiders on the floor. The father, a construction worker, makes $63 a week.

Nine San Clemente families gathered in Tijuana earlier this month to build a home for the Lopez family, which had been living in a small, makeshift home. Photo: Courtesy of Jen Kramer

“I couldn’t believe the whole family slept in that one small bed, and that they get wet every time it rains,” said 9-year-old Donovan Kramer, one of the 20 children, accompanied by 18 adults, who traveled to Tijuana to help the Lopez family.

Most of the San Clemente kids, according to release, attend the dual immersion elementary school at Las Palmas, and were able to practice their Spanish-speaking skills with the Lopez family.

Within the first day of construction, the walls of the house were put up, while the roof was in progress. Using his construction skills and lending his expertise in building, Mr. Lopez worked alongside the other families to expedite the process.

“From the moment we met the Lopez family, we couldn’t help but love them,” Neeti Pancholy, a San Clemente mom, said in the release. “They have the most genuine smiles, and they radiate gratitude and love. It felt so good to be helping them.”

By the second day, the release explained, the families had finished waterproofing the roof and had begun assembling furniture, organizing all the clothes and household goods that had also been donated to the Lopez family.

The Lopez family was also gifted with a $300 shopping spree at Walmart—a trip accompanied by three of the San Clemente women—Melanie Hill, Lisa Wheeler, and Jen Kramer, along with Hill’s daughter, Emery.

“It was so moving to watch them fill their carts,” Wheeler said in the press release. “We had to keep urging them to get more. They’d grab one bag of rice, and we’d say, ‘No, you can get five.’ They couldn’t believe it.”

Following the shopping trip, the Lopez family returned to their finished home, where they were able to use their key to unlock the door for the first time, eliciting tears from families involved, according to the release.

The Lopez family home marks the second home the San Clemente crew has completed. The families are looking to make it an annual outing and have begun fundraising the $12,500 needed to cover the cost for the next home build.

Anyone interested in donating to the group can click on the link here.

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