Summer 2009: SSP in Tijuana, Mexico

19 02 2009

SSP will host a project in Tijuana, Mexico this summer and spots for church youth groups recently opened up for weeks 4, 5 and 6 (July 19-25, July 26-August 1 and August 2-8.)

SSP completed its first successful pilot in Tijuana last summer. The program has a strong focus on the issues of immigration and California-Mexico border region, with an emphasis on youth and young people.

A week at SSP Mexico will look a little like this:

Meet 15 minutes north of the border in Chula Vista, California early Sunday afternoon and travel with staff to Tijuana. You’ll be staying at Templo Bethel of the Iglesia Metodista de Mexico… a small Methodist church just outside of downtown Tijuana at the top of a small hill. It has a small kitchen where you will eat, outdoor showers and bathrooms and a fellowship hall waiting for your sleeping bags!

Campers and counselors will do repair work off-and-on during the week, with breaks for fun activities and cultural learning. Construction will include roofing, construction of awnings, ramps, and stairs, pouring concrete floors, drywall, and more. Don’t worry, just like every SSP site, you will have lots of supervision and a construction coordinator to guide you along.

The learning objectives of the week in Tijuana are as follows:

1. Equip volunteers with a basic overall understanding of the facts of immigration: number of people crossing the border, causes for immigration, enforcement activities, and the processes of detention and deportation.
2. Provide participants with a basic understanding of the city of Tijuana: its size and demographics, its low-wage manufacturing economy, the role of tourism, and its history as a playground for North Americans and a jumping-off point for Mexicans going north.
3. Expose volunteers at a person-to-person level to the human face of migration by spending time with agencies serving migrants and spending time with those being served.
4. Learn about the many ways that people have devoted their lives to serving the poor of Tijuana.

SSP Mexico has a larger focus on immigration than any other site because of its close proximity to the Mexico-California border. The work is largely the same… but there are perks:

  • Your staff (which includes yours truly!) speaks Spanish… a huge benefit for communicating with the homeowner whose house you’ll be repairing and other people in the community.
  • The cultural experience is different. Residents of the reservations where SSP works are often older and less mobile… in Tijuana much of the population is younger and looking to come to the U.S. You’ll get to learn a lot about migration and immigration — a hugely controversial issue in the U.S.
  • There’s no traditional SSP food… while PB&J is delicious, you’ll be diving into Tijuana and eating only freshly-prepared Mexican food this week!

Special note: All campers enrolling in SSP Mexico must have a passport. Apply early!

Groups cannot be larger than 40 people because of limited space at the church.

Also, counselors do not have to drive in Mexico or purchase Mexican insurance. SSP pays professional drivers to use buses and vans to take campers from Chula Vista to Tijuana and around the city during the week, to and from the work site, etc. Emergency transportation is always on hand given an emergency.

If you’re interested in bringing your youth group… check the current availability and contact Meghan at the SSP office at (916) 488-6441

Campers construct an awning at a home in downtown Tijuana. July 2008.

Campers construct an awning at a home in downtown Tijuana. July 2008.

The community in Tijuana where most construction will take place in summer 2009.

The community in Tijuana where most construction will take place in summer 2009.





Volunteer with SSP

12 02 2009

On Saturday, March 14 SSP is hosting the first ever community work day in South Los Angeles.

SSP launched the urban project in South LA in the summer of 2004. The site is hosted by Vermont Square United Methodist Church, a large church that hosts several different congregations from the surrounding community, including a service spoken in Korean and one in Spanish.

The church is a little bit of a museum in itself… it’s several stories tall, has a basement, multiple sanctuaries and a couple of kitchens. It has been the perfect host to SSP for five summers already so it’s time to give back.

If you’re interested in doing some repair work on the building — clean-up, painting, etc — then sign up for the day. It will go from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and lunch is provided! Church youth groups, teenagers, young adults and former staffers are invited! Most of the work will be outside, so don’t forget gloves and close-toed shoes!

If you want to join in the fun and give back to South LA, e-mail Mallory (she works in the SSP office in Sacramento) at mallory@sierraserviceproject.org or call 916-488-6441 to let SSP know you’re coming.

Vermont Square isn’t just part of SSP during the summers… it also hosts young adults and college students who want to do community service during spring break. It’s one of the only sites that SSP works with all year long — let’s make it beautiful!

Vermont Square United Methodist Church in South Central Los Angeles.

Vermont Square United Methodist Church in South Central Los Angeles.





Want to Work for SSP?

5 02 2009

Sierra Service Project employs more than 40 young people each summer. Applications are due Feb. 15 if you are interested.

Working for SSP is about a 10-week commitment, beginning early in June and ending late in August. Each traditional staff (read: those on reservations and in Los Angeles) is made up of seven individuals.

Jobs include a site director, spiritual life coordinator, two cooks, and three construction workers.

Construction jobs vary based on your experience… they include supply coordinator, construction coordinator or home repair coordinator.

All SSP staff positions are paid. Trust me though, no one works for SSP for the money.

A summer at SSP also includes food and lodging. Living situations aren’t traditional… be prepared to sleep on the floor, likely without air conditioning.

Most sites house campers and staff in churches or schools, but sometimes they sleep outside or in other non-traditional locations like gymnasiums or abandoned grocery stores.

Working for SSP isn’t easy; you really have to be passionate about the cause. Staff(ers) should exhibit the following attributes:

  • Willingness and ability to minister to youth (middle and high school)
  • Mature and sound judgment
  • Desire to make a positive, life-long impact on another person.
  • Flexibility and a great sense of humor

Campers love coming to SSP because every staff is made up of passionate and fun individuals from a wide range of backgrounds. Though SSP is a lot of work, it’s also a lot of play.

For staffers, the summer starts in Sacramento at a church near SSP headquarters (you provide your own transportation from wherever you live to/from Sacramento). During this first week, all staff members go through an intensive training period. Cooks cook, spiritual life coordinators spiritual-ize, construction workers construct and site directors lead.

Site Directors Hannah and Sean compete together in a fancy dive contest during a training week pool party in Sacramento. June 2008.

Site Directors Hannah and Sean compete together in a fancy dive contest during a training week pool party in Sacramento. June 2008.

After training is finished, each staff drives to their site together in four rented vehicles they will have at their location all summer.

When staffs arrive on site they make it into a home. Grocery shop (usually far away as Native American reservations are often isolated), decorate, find homes to repair, connect with the community and plan fun programs and other activities.

A staff (celebrating Tie-dye Tuesday) practices an "energizer," silly dance moves put to fun songs (this one is Star Trekkin'.)

A staff (celebrating Tie-dye Tuesday) practices an "energizer," silly dance moves put to fun songs (this one is Star Trekkin'.)

After this “prep” week, campers arrive… for six weeks straight! They show up early Sunday afternoon and stay until Saturday morning. Each weekend is 24 hours of time to prep for the next group to arrive!

At the end of the summer staffs have a few days to finish up projects, clean up and drive back to Sacramento for a few days of “de-brief” with all the other staffs. After that, it’s back to your home town just in time for colleges/universities to go back for the fall.

It’s a whirlwind summer, but about the most fun anyone could ever have if you ask me. If you’re up for it, check out the Web site and application and think about spending a wild and crazy, meaningful summer making a difference in a low-income community and in the lives of youth.

I promise you won’t regret it.





The story of SSP

29 01 2009

Sierra Service Project is an non-profit organization based in Sacramento, California founded in 1975 by several young people inspired by the work of Appalachia Service Project. The organization focuses on serving communities through building and repairing homes on Native American reservations across the Southwest U.S., in urban Los Angeles, Mexico and Honduras.

Though SSP is an independent non-profit, it is closely affiliated with the United Methodist Church. Churches from any denomination are encouraged to bring their youth groups to work with SSP for one week during the summer and experience the profound power of serving people of a different culture than their own.

The project operates from June through August each year. More than 1,500 teenagers or pre-teens, 250 adult volunteers (counselors) and 40 staff(ers) live, work and worship together. At the end of the summer, more than 130 homes across three countries are safer, drier, warmer and more comfortable.

The environment is encouraging, playful and safe. All who participate, from staff to teenagers to adult volunteers, are welcomed into and enveloped within a community of love and service. In my experience, it is a life-altering opportunity to see a very different style of life.

In summer 2009, SSP will take groups to four Native American reservations in California, Arizona, and Nevada, south Los Angeles, Tijuana, Mexico and Talanga, La Cofradia and Subirana, Honduras.

Based on my experiences and those of the people I have worked with, I don’t believe the story, emotion or impact of SSP can be told through words. Throughout this blog — as SSP and its leaders continue to prepare for the summer of service ahead — I will post photographs I have taken throughout my five years working with the project that I believe embody SSP and its mission.

Junior high camper Lizzy slides across a homemade slip n' slide during a water day activity on the Walker River reservation in Schurz, NV. June 2008.

Junior high camper Lizzy slides across a homemade slip n' slide during a water day activity on the Walker River reservation in Schurz, NV. June 2008.








Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.