testimonials and stories
I am not actually sure who gifted who on this outing
My experience with Finding Sophia will reside joyfully and gratefully in my soul for all of time. I feel so blessed to have gone.
Heidi, Trish, and Marisol have a pure connection with the recipient family and a genuine humanitarianism that allows for an amazing experience during the house build. The time spent during construction is so fluid and efficient that at every moment I was able to feel connected with the family, the group, and our combined efforts of our giving. From painting, to hammering, to planting, to lunch breaks, and even to children’s entertainment all held great value equally.
The time together away from the build site fills the soul with human connection, safety, and acceptance. Life needs of food, safe water, safe sleep, (and coffee) are met. And our evening meals; as we gathered as a group of woman, was filled with joy, delicious food, companionship, and acknowledgment of each other.
What an amazing opportunity to be fully supported and set up for success ~ to have the opportunity to step away from the busy world and freely give of ones own self to another fellow human in need of an extra hand or two. Beautiful.
Honestly, I am not actually sure who gifted who on this outing. For I received an intangible gift I can take with me everywhere and Kimberly received not just a house but a home for her family.
If I could go very 6 months I would, in a heart beat :) For now, I cherish my experience and look forward to returning with my daughter some day down the road. Or maybe even a co-ed trip with sons and daughter. ;)
Peace and joy to all you Finding Sophia ladies. You are truly a gift to the world. Thank You.
My heart is so full
This was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life! Not only did I help a family in need, I strengthened my bond with some very dear old friends as well as made new friends too. The camaraderie with women is like nothing else. What we can achieve together as a team is just amazing! My heart is so full and the memories will be with me for a long time to come. Thanks Finding Sophia for giving me the opportunity to make a difference.
With love and respect,
All of us became friends from the first nail hammered
By Janet Wagner
I was happy to read your email and am proud to write a testimonial about my experiences on our Finding Sophia weekend. Thanks to you, Trish and Marisol and also to Hector, David, John, Alisa, Don and Donna for your dedication to helping families in Tecate find safe homes.
I learned about Finding Sophia a year ago from my friend Joan who had just returned from a house building trip to Tecate. She was so enthusiastic and shared pictures and stories with me. I knew right away I wanted to sign up asap for the next trip. I wanted to help build a home for a family who needed and deserved a safe and comfortable place to live. With the help of Heidi, Trish and Marisol, our group of 12 women did just that - and more! We worked with a small team of volunteers with building expertise and years of experience. All of us became friends from the first nail hammered. We worked hard and enjoyed every minute, especially meeting and working with the family, including the children, who spent all of both days with us.
The weekend was about more than just building a house. Heidi, Trish and Marisol gave each of us opportunities to challenge ourselves, learn and achieve success in many ways - on the building project and by thinking and sharing our weekend experiences with the group. I headed home feeling a little tired, also stronger, grateful and proud to be surrounded by so many wonderful women!
Thanks Finding Sophia for a special weekend!
Just Do It! Its ALL Good!
Finding Sophia felt like a good fit from the very first conversation I had with another woman who had already signed up. Giving, working, sharing, community, and being a part of making a huge, positive difference for a young family...wow!
Heidi, Trish and Marisol have every detail covered. No need to worry about things like drinking water, healthy foods, border crossings, or construction skills. Camaraderie, inspiration and encouragement flowed freely on and off the job site. Working and playing alongside the family for whom we built was priceless.
What an amazing experience to serve this loving mother and her three children.
Building the house from hearts built for love is definitely a forever win-win.
Building homes and changing lives
By Laura B.
There are many things that I don't understand about the culture and the people for which we build in Tecate. I don't understand how children are kept clean and healthy when there is no running water. I don't understand how people manage to feed themselves when they have nothing. I don't understand why there is garbage everywhere, or how joy manages to maintain a foothold, or why people don't change things! But I do understand the difference between living in the dirt with cardboard walls, and having a house with floors and a roof. And that is why I will go and build with Finding Sophia whenever I am able to.
By Christine H.
I went on the "Finding Sophia" trip looking for something, although I didn't know what it was. I wanted to find another slice in life... wanted to help because I knew I was capable of helping... The experience was much more than that. I met and worked with women who are where I am in life, but who were all there for different reasons. I met Trish and Heidi, who are such incredibly wonderful and beautiful women, they gave me inspiration by just being themselves. I met many other beautiful, wonderful women who were ALL there for different reasons, but all lovely people. Being able to give... the gift of a stable, secure home for families that didn't have that... was the best gift of all. I came home with much more than I left with. Those two families got a home, but I came home with the satisfaction and comfort of knowing that I was part of them receiving it. And there was no better way to learn that I should be so grateful for what I have.
I have always wanted to go to another country and volunteer. So when the opportunity was presented to me it was a "no brainer". I just jumped in with both feet. The only question I had was how was I going to raise money. Well let me tell you, money is not a problem. People are generous when you are doing something that is so good for someone else. Its a pay it forward. Things just seem to work out the way they are suppose to. The end results are magnificent. You will get so much more out of this experience than what you put into it. You will work your tail off, just hit one more nail, paint one more board, throw some more mud onto that wall, knowing that in the end a family will have a roof over their head, walls to keep out the rain and wind and a lock on the door for safety. At the end of the day with the sun setting you will look at that house and realize how great life is....for everyone. The gratitude of the family is overwelming. You will realize how great your life really is. How much you have to be thankful for.
You will come away having met such amazing women. You will look at life differently. You will be changed from this experience. You will laugh, cry, dance and sing. Be content with yourself that you did a job well done. You will be sore, bring motrin. You might get constipated, bring Reader's Digest. No one believed me until they read it! Actually Heidi and Trish do such an amazing job at providing the "little things" for us. They have everything planned out, what we're going to do, where we'll eat....everything. It was quite an easy trip. You absolutely don't have to make any decisions. When do we ever have that opportunity to not make a decision. Bring candy, small toys, hair ribbons, barbies, blow up beach balls, crayons and coloring books for the kids. polaroid pictures to give out. small things that carry well in your suitcase. Jackets and sweatshirts to give away. Blankets that you can use while you are there and then leave to be donated. Lara and I packed an extra suitcase, paid and extra 20 bucks and it was filled with stuff that we gave away.
If you have any reservations about your safety, put it aside. Not once did I ever feel like I was in harms way. Never saw anything that was of concern. When we went out to the restaurants we were always made to feel welcome. Always a smile.
Now go and sign up. It is something that I plan on doing again and again. You will change other peoples lives for the better. Its a wonderful adventure. Life is a journey not a destination so enjoy your journey!
What an opportunity this trip was on so many levels. It is hard to put it in words, but I will try. If you are considering going on this trip I would say stop thinking about it and just sign up....everything else will fall into place. Raising the funds is much easier than you think and is a minor concern to what this trip will do for the people you are going to bless and for you. I think we are designed to serve others and when doing so, we get so much more back that it is almost guilt producing! Things you will experience on this trip include:
Sisterly bonding with all the amazing women on the trip
Joy to the highest degree when you see the faces of the families you have helped
Smiles, like no others, from the kids you are there to love
Laughter at yourself and with others as you struggle to do things you have never done before
Tears when you work your hardest all day long and wish you could do even more
Self discovery when you see how your desire to serve changes you
Sore muscles when you work all day doing something you normally don't do (no matter how fit you are!)
Peace when you know you have done all you can and all you have been called to do
Perspective when you look at your life and focus on what is most important
....so sign up, send out support letters, and pack your bags (don't forget to throw in some toys for the kids!) and get ready for a vacation from your daily routine, challenge yourself to a new experience, and know you have made a difference.
By Lara W.
Some highlights from my experience:
As I was mudding seams in sheetrock, a young Mexican boy offered me another size spreader. It took me a moment to realize that what he really wanted was to join in on the work with me...and so he did (and I must humbly admit that he took more naturally to the task.) I spoke no Spanish and he no English, but we mudded sheetrock side by side.
From the roof, watching little Veronica assist Gretchen and April as they measured and cut sheetrock. It is my hope that one day Veronica will be inspired by this group of women who showed up to build a house in her neighborhood. What I learned from Veronica’s smile and her joyful willingness to join in on the work with us is so much more than what I hope for her future.
Taking digital pictures with the kids, reviewing them and laughing about our silly faces until our sides hurt. I don’t think they’d seen digital pictures before, and the immediacy of it was consuming. Again, no English/no Spanish, but no problem!
Watching my friend Monica install the electrical wiring in the house! I’ve always known she was multi-talented, but ELECTRICAL???!!! WOW!!!
I’ll never forget Gretchen in her contractor’s jacket the morning of the build.
Handing out candy to the local kids from an apron. Helpful note: be sure not to leave any tampons in the apron pockets. They look like giant Pixie Sticks and are highly prized, as I discovered.
Playing peek a boo with the kids through the BRAND NEW WINDOW!
I watched Kathy build alongside Lupe, who will live in the house. Though neither spoke each other's language, their seamless communication and shared commitment was deeply embedded within my soul.
Spontaneously dancing with the joyful grandma at one of those houses. What JOY! What beauty! What LOVE!
Knowing that Christi had come even though she got a call from her son’s school (just as she got to the airport) informing her he was throwing up repeatedly.
The fact that we did pause to play and ride the local 3-wheeler…even if it happened spontaneously because we couldn’t get the van door to unlock.
Laughing hysterically, under the influence of at least a couple of margaritas, with my “new best friend,” Monica. PUH-LEEZE!!
Handing out Hot Wheels cars, tube socks, bouncy balls and candy to the children. You would think we were offering gold coins.
April inspired me by coming on this trip even though she was out of a job. She said she figured that it was a good time seeing as she had time off. She also figured it would help offer perspective by building a home for people who don’t have one while she didn’t have a job. Karma kicked in and she got a job about a month after the trip!
Watching Lilia’s eye as she photo-journaled….
Experiencing depth and becoming friends with Jenny, who I was sure didn’t “get me” at first. RIGHT.
Though taking one trip doesn’t mean you’ll ever take another Finding Sophia trip, many of us are now return participants. Lulu, in fact, has been on all of the Finding Sophia trips so far. “If we were a bar, she’d be our regular,” Trish joked.
Taking the Leap
By Monica O
I’m not sure where to start, so I think a little background information is in order.
I met Heidi Boynton through the youth triathlon program in Santa Cruz back in 2002. Although, the years have passed so quickly that I could be off by a year! I immediately realized that she is a ball of energy – this is a woman who lets no moss grow anywhere, anytime. It wasn’t long before Heidi started asking my friend, Lara, and me if we would like to come along on a service trip to Mexico. And at that time Finding Sophia was only a twinkle in her eye. For whatever reason, I invariably found some way or another to skirt the issue, some excuse not to go. Already, Heidi was trying to push us out of our comfort zones and, although I guess I wouldn’t admit it at the time, I felt that discomfort to my bones.
A couple more years passed, it was 2005, and my husband and I had moved the family from Santa Cruz to the Denver area. We would return to Santa Cruz for triathlon races and the occasional unforgettable party and to keep in touch with the fantastic friends that we made there. All the while, whether from Heidi directly or other friends, I would hear the call to come on a service mission. But I still couldn’t find the courage to commit.
In the meantime, my husband and I were seeing the efforts of all our hard work begin to return to us in the form of tremendous blessings. And we were able, and more than willing, to share those blessings by making considerable charitable donations to our church and various other groups of our choosing. It was never a hard decision; both of us knew that it was our turn to give back to our communities. But in the back of my mind I would think of the story of the widow’s offering, in the Gospel of Mark (12:41-44):
He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”
Relatively speaking, I am one of those “rich” people. And still not out of my comfort zone. Now, for those who know me, I think they would describe me as a doer, someone not afraid to tackle virtually anything – whether it’s a triathlon, installing wood flooring, tiling the bathroom on my own, or travelling anywhere. So I found it really difficult to explain my hesitation to join Heidi down in Mexico. Then, this past January, Lara called me to tell me that she was doing it. She was going to sign up for the March Finding Sophia trip. She had been struggling since her move from Santa Cruz back east to Connecticut. This time I didn’t hesitate one second. Okay, I’m going, too! That got the ball rolling. Pretty soon Lara had worked her magic and convinced three more of our friends from Santa Cruz to sign up, as well as an old grade school buddy. I even found still one more friend, and SHE got another friend! Within days the March trip was full. In hindsight, I realize that the hardest part of the trip was already over – just making the decision to go!!
From then on it was smooth sailing and before I knew it I was on my way to San Diego and then to Tecate, Mexico. I was so looking forward to sharing this experience with my old friends, as well as with the other women in the group who would become our new friends.
Truly, the easiest part of the weekend was building those two houses! The other women in the group who know me have heard various stories about my home improvement projects. I’ve tackled painting, tiling, laying flooring, installing light fixtures. I’ve used a drill, table saw, compound miter saw, hammer, level, plumb bob, sander, router, you name it! My husband even gave me a tool belt for a birthday present one year! So I was prepared. The hard part was letting go of my fears of giving of myself. I am not a very ebullient person. I don’t wear my emotions on my sleeve. And my faith is a very personal, private affair. But I do believe that we have a duty, a covenant if you will, to give. More importantly, I think the purest kind of giving is that in which we have entirely no expectation of receiving anything in return. And by giving in that way we ultimately do receive so, so, so much more in return.
This was it, this was where I left my comfort zone. I had to get past my fear of GETTING INVOLVED. It’s pretty easy to write a check and then go back to the comfort of my familiar surroundings. But how trivial are my fears of vulnerability compared to the fears of those families who had no homes? Or live in places that don’t come anywhere near to resembling what we consider a home? Honestly, it’s quite humbling to come face to face with the reality that these parents live daily. They struggle with the most basic, very real fears of how they are going to protect their children - clothe them, shelter them, feed them – everyday. In hindsight, all I could ask myself was why did I hesitate, why did I wait so long to do something that was so right? In the end it only matters that I finally did go. I think what I feared most was that I would feel so completely that my heart would burst from the sadness and futility of it all. But instead I found that my heart was filled with joy – from the pure innocence on the faces of the kids that surrounded us the entire day of the build, to the looks of appreciation from their parents when they realized that a burden was lifted from their shoulders, to the sense of accomplishment that we did it – we built not one but two houses in a day!
Okay, so that’s the heavy stuff. On a lighter note, we had an absolute blast the entire weekend. Whether we were giggling over all the pink attire, having less than ladylike belching “contests”(at least in our room), having a pee-your-pants, ROTFLMAO time over a “candy” misunderstanding with the neighborhood kids, or having a few margaritas too many at our last night out, we had a great time! Heidi and Trish would just shake their heads in a very wise way, as if they were dealing with a bunch of very silly teenagers – if they weren’t misbehaving right along with us.
I highly recommend a trip with Finding Sophia! I had such a fantastic time that I immediately signed up for the next trip in September! And I’m taking a new friend that I’ve made here in Arvada, CO with me!