By Bob Freeze
Managing Director of PR & Communications
After months of preparation, 35 Advancing Life Foundation volunteers boarded planes in early January and headed to central Mexico for ASEA’s Advancing Life Foundation’s inaugural humanitarian expedition, alongside our partner, CHOICE Humanitarian.
The party mirrored the cooperation we have with our field associates on the business side of our company: 23 field associates and 12 corporate representatives worked together for a week to make a difference in the Acambay region of central Mexico. True to the ASEA ethos, our mission was led by ASEA Founder Tyler Norton and ASEA executives, CEO Charles Funke and President Jarom Webb, along with Diamond Executives Rosemary Skinner, Paul Taira, Ed and Rebekah Wiens, LoriAnn Garner, and Torsten Sedlmeier and a group of other dedicated field leaders who worked shoulder to shoulder, representing the best that ASEA has to offer.
The tone was set for the week upon our arrival in La Concepcion, a small rural village of 400. We were greeted warmly by villagers, including leaders, families, and children who presented a program of music, dancing, and laughter—just the thing to unite everyone before the work began.
As we started our work on Monday, we were joined by representatives of CHOICE Humanitarian to labor alongside the villagers to provide some basic necessities to their community. In some ways we were unprepared for the enormity of the work we undertook, but felt satisfied by week’s end when collectively as a group, we had built 10 water cisterns, 8 indoor stoves, 8 outdoor ovens, and 5 chicken coops—a feat that CHOICE representatives say would have taken the villagers at least 8 – 9 months to accomplish on their own manpower.
It was backbreaking work, something the people who live there do every day just to survive. Our crew was amazed at how hardworking the locals are, especially the women, even with small children in tow or strapped onto their backs. (One mother of twins worked with one on her back and one on her front.) The children were, of course, the best part of the experience—loving, playful, and authentic.
Unlike our volunteers, La Concepcion’s villagers worked without work gloves or sunscreen, using their bare hands to bend wire and mix concrete, washing everything in bitter-cold water and conserving resources—reusing nails, wood, and wire that would be discarded as scraps elsewhere.
All of us from ASEA were exhausted to the bone but happy. The long hours, heavy lifting, unfamiliar food, uncomfortable sleeping arrangements, chilly temperatures, and absence of showers were no cause for complaint. Instead, these were avenues to gratitude and windows into the fact that kindness, respect, and friendship are universal, that love transcends language, and that we are happiest when we are outside ourselves, serving and lifting others.
The missions ended with a heartfelt and moving farewell, during which a group of village leaders—all women—thanked us through tears for leaving home and family and coming to their village to help improve the quality of lives. They all said that that the ASEA/CHOICE team will stay in their hearts forever and that we will always be a part of them. The feelings were mutual.
I can’t express enough thanks to everyone who joined with us to make this first Advancing Life Foundation mission possible. It was a life-changing experience for everyone who participated. In the end—just as in life—we learned that people are all rich and poor in some ways. While the people of La Concepcion were very poor materially, they were rich in community, resourcefulness, work ethic, and contentment. The mission also reinforced that in a world that seems at times increasingly troubled, there is still good to be found wherever we go.
Check out the photos from our unforgettable trip.
Use the arrows on the slide show to scroll through the photographs.
Can’t see the slide show? Click here to view these photos on Flickr.