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Andrew Boden (centre) in Mexico with recipients of donated books.

SFU staffer builds houses and literacy in Mexico

September 24, 2009

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Poolside margaritas at a five-star beach resort usually come to mind when discussing vacations in Mexico.

But SFU Advancement staffer Andrew Boden’s Mexican summer vacation involved bunking in an old bus and drinking bottled water while he helped to build houses for poor local families.

Boden’s adventure grew out of his volunteer work raising funds for the Institute for Cross-Cultural Exchange (ICCE), a literacy charity that donates multicultural books to needy Canadian children. Recently, the charity began sending books to Mexico through a Christian missionary charity called One Life One Chance, which invited Boden to visit Mexico to see its operations.

So he went, joining 40 volunteers charged with building three 200- to 300-square-foot houses in four days. "The houses included a kitchen and sleeping area, but no indoor plumbing," says Boden. "There was some electricity, but it was unreliable—we could only run one skill saw at a time without losing power."

Boden’s building efforts were on behalf of a family of five that had outgrown its previous dwelling. He also visited a migrant tarp village, where he and the other volunteers cooked food to feed itinerant migrant workers and their children.

"It was utterly fascinating to see how the people live with so little and then compare it to how much we think we need to live," says Boden, who donated books from his charity to the children after the houses were completed. "The trick now
is trying to remember that lesson when you feel deprived because your bathroom’s tile floor doesn’t heat up."

For more information on ICCE visit www.iceeducation.org.

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