Another Trip for the Books!

Hey everyone!

Well, March has been a crazy month packed with trips and still has more to come! A couple of weeks ago my friend and I drove down to Chicago where she dropped me off at the airport and sent me on my way to Juarez, Mexico. I met up with my friend Sam at the airport in El Paso, TX, and from there we crossed the border into Mexico. I always love visiting Mexico. I have been traveling there since I was 8 years old. The people there are like family to me, and it definitely feels like my second home.

The summer after my freshman year at Hope I did a program called HEI (Hope Entrepreneurship Initiative). I spent time that summer helping to start gardens in Juarez, Mexico, at some community centers and orphanages. It was great to be back there this past week and not only see the gardens in full bloom, but to see two more start as well. The people have really taken ownership of the gardens and use the produce to feed the children that attend the after school programs.

This past May I was in Juarez with two other Hope students where we helped start a small business to generate profit for the ministry there. This was an update I wrote about our trip from May…

This trip has been such a blessing, and all praise goes to our loving Father, who has been working in the lives of the people here. Our group (3 Hope College students) came to Juarez with the hopes of starting a Mexican candy-making business to help Amigos en Cristo be more self sustainable. The profits of this business would go back into the ministry to help pay for children’s education.

The idea originally came from Doris as her family has been long involved in the Mexican candy business. Jamoncillo is a popular candy in Mexico that is basically made from milk and sugar, similar to American fudge. The candy has a high markup price and is a popular delicacy here in Juarez.

When we first arrived here at the beginning of May, Doris and her family had already prepared Jamoncillo samples for us to try. We began looking into this by conducting market research by visiting different candy stores both downtown Juarez and in Anapra. When we brought samples to the stores in Anapra, we found that the store owners were very excited about the possibility of selling the product.

While we are here we are working on assembling a budget and timeline to help start the business. We met with the Amigos en Cristo staff for their ideas and to conduct a branding workshop. We are still in the process of determining a name but currently the staff has come up with the name “Amistosas Deliciosas” (Friendly Delights-translates better in Spanish) and the slogan to accompany it is “Diseñado para compartir” (designed to share).

While we have been here we have gathered data of the supplies and materials needed and are currently working on assembling Excel sheets. We are so excited to see where God leads this project. Please join us in praying for God’s blessing on the ministry as well as this start up business.”

When I was in Mexico this past trip it was amazing to see the transformation taking place in the lives of people who worked at Amistosas Delicias. There are 3 young men (ages 17-20) who work there and used to be on the streets dealing drugs and involved with gangs but now they have a job and are living at the community center together. The kids love these guys and they have put a lot of work into the business. They had a pivot in their business where they changed from making jamoncillo to cookies now. They have a great process worked out now and are continuing to improve the business. The best part about continuously taking trips there is seeing the transformation in people’s lives. I also learn so much from the people there, and they continue to challenge and teach me. I’m excited to head back to Mexico in 3 days :]
I love her!
I love her!
New garden
New garden

IMG_7006 IMG_6879

Making the cookies
Making the cookies

Juarez, Mexico Round 2

Hello! I returned from Mexico late Saturday night. My friend Amelia picked me up from the Grand Rapids airport at 11:55 PM. On the way home, we had a fun midnight IHOP run. I missed pancakes while down there!

This past trip truly was a blessing. A group of 10 other people from my church came to Juarez. During the week a couple of the men from the group helped me set up another garden at a different orphanage. A jackhammer was supposed to be delivered at our work site. However, when we arrived at the site, a sledge hammer and pick ax were at the site instead of a jackhammer. Thus, we were in for a very labor intensive project. The foundation of the garden consisted of granite so we needed to break up all of the rock and level the ground.

Once we finally leveled the ground we needed to build a four-foot wall. However, we worked up on a hill so this meant we needed to carry all of the cement, water and other materials from the bottom of the hill in buckets to build the wall. Once the wall was complete, it was time for the garden to be filled with sand and soil. The boys from the orphanage filled up their pillow cases with soil and sand and then carried them up the hill and placed it in the garden plot. After about two and a half hours of going up and down the hill, the plot was ready to receive plants. 

We came back the next day and the children helped plant their first plants for their garden. Their faces lit up as they dug through the soil and watered the plants. Watching them help with the garden was my favorite part of the trip. 

I have been able to help start these gardens because of my internship with HEI (Hope Entrepreneurship Initiative). I really enjoyed this past week of watching the garden come to life. I still need to continue raising funds for the program Hope Grows. Hope College has been very supportive with helping me build networks and learn how to start my own program. I am very excited to continue to work on this program the rest of the summer and even further down the road. God has been blessing Hope Grows immensely. 

Hope you all have a good week. 


The garden before the soil.

Joel bringing soil up to the garden

Hope Grows is now growing in Mexico!

Hola a todos!

I hope everyone is enjoying summer. Can you believe July has arrived? Crazy how fast time flies in the summer. I just returned from Juarez, Mexico where I was working on my project for HEI (Hope Entrepreneur Initiative). While in Mexico, I helped start a garden at an orphanage. We planted tomatoes, chilies, celery, and cilantro. My project idea is called Hope Grows, which helps the indigent children living in orphanages in Juarez, Mexico create their own sustainable food while teaching valuable life skills. So I am basically working with non-profit organizations and creating a garden program for them in Juarez, Mexico.

I have been going to Juarez, Mexico since I was eight years old with my family. My dad led groups from our church to Juarez about four times a year. I really enjoy helping the people there and am so thankful for the opportunity to work at Hope this summer to extend the work being done in Juarez.

Next spring break, I am hoping to take some friends from Hope with me to Juarez. My friends tease me about talking about Mexico all the time during the school year.

Hopefully we will be able to gather a group from Hope to visit Juarez in the near future. While I was in Juarez the weather consisted of full sunshine, and the temperature ranged around 114° everyday. So incredibly hot! I am looking forward to enjoying some nice 80-degree weather in Holland this week.

Well I need to unpack and get organized, and I need to go to the grocery store and stock up on some food. I hope you all have a wonderful fourth of July!

Until next time,


Before Garden

After garden

Juarez Spring Break Mission Trip!

Hola a todos!

Spring break 2011, where to begin?

I traveled with a group of 10 people to Juarez, Mexico for a mission trip. I normally visit Juarez about four times a year because my dad started a not-for-profit organization called Amigos en Cristo in Juarez. I absolutely love participating in mission trips there. This trip we worked a lot on maintenance.

We painted some buildings, fixed railings, set up a new playground, and did some other construction work. I really enjoy spending time in Juarez. I have been going there since I was eight years old. The people there are so sweet. One of the things Amigos en Cristo does is run two community centers. These centers offer after-school programs, life skills classes, GED, parenting classes, Bible studies, and so much more. The organization has only been running since 2008, and so many lives are already changing. The people we work with are so caring and grateful. I love spending time with the people.

The kids are a blast to play with and all of their energy. I am also glad I’m able to practice my Spanish. Every night after dinner we would play games with the kids outside. I had so much fun with them. After every trip I go on, I come back feeling so appreciative for what God has blessed me with. It is important to not forget all of the things we have to be thankful for. God is working in powerful ways in Juarez. People tell me I’m crazy for going to the murder capital of the world, but the people there still have a lot of needs. I’m blessed with the opportunity to serve with them. I always hate coming back from the trips, but I have a lot to look forward to at school. I’m excited to see all of my friends again. I’m also glad I’ll be coming back a little more tan 🙂

I hope you all enjoy your weeks and appreciate all of your blessings!



Some of the kids at the community center

Juarez Scenery