Sunday, November 23, 2014

There and Back Again

It's great to be back home, even if it does mean getting used to some colder weather. But we're Canadians, eh? We can handle it, thank you very much. Or is that "Pardon me?" - I'm not sure.

But we're glad to report that in spite of battling a few stomach bugs, we were able to accomplish our goals for the trip. In the last post, I showed some photos of the work area that was built to facilitate our automotive training in the months ahead. It turned out very well, and the next step will be to put up a few walls and a roof to keep the sun off.
Rich watering down the fresh concrete so that it dries properly.
Even though the concrete was too green to work on, that didn't stop us from doing a little automotive training. Here are some photos of the work that was done and the students we'll be working with.
Isaias, the maintenance manger, changing spark plugs on the minivan.
Explaining how electricity flows through a signal light circuit.
Poli (left) and Ivan (far right) are our first two guys to take advantage of this automotive teaching opportunity. 
Annel is a local high school student who helps with the translation work.
Ivan is checking the tire pressures...
...while Poli changes a fuel filter.
Only a couple of days training this time, but a good start for our upcoming return trip in March, 2015.
Both these young men have good reasons for attending our training sessions. After 8 years, Poli is tired of picking strawberries in the fields for minimum wage; he wants a better future.

Ivan is hoping to get into a mechanical training course in Tijuana next year, and believes that the training we give him will help with that transition.
The Mercy Tech foundations are now laid in the Baja; from here on the only direction is forward. A big thanks to the family and friends who helped to make this trip possible.

Also a shout out to the folks at One Life One Chance, who are letting us partner with them on their mission base at San Quintin so that young people like Poli and Ivan can have a chance at a better future.
Baja 2015? Maybe we'll see you here!

Monday, November 17, 2014

New Training Location Underway

It's been a busy week here in the California Baja of Mexico, where volunteer Rich Howard and I have been getting a start on Mercy Tech's latest training venture. In cooperation with One Life One Chance, we are preparing to start an automotive training program that will bring hope to local young men who would otherwise not have access to skills training of this nature.

Our main objectives to this point have been to pour a concrete slab where we can repair vehicles, and to also begin bringing in the tools and equipment needed for the training sessions. What follows are photos of the progress we've been making here. Thanks for following along, and I'll give a more complete update when we wrap things up here at the end of the week.
Okay, that's a taste of what we've been up to. I start training our first two students tomorrow, and as we look ahead, we'll be needing more tools and shop equipment, along with some automotive instructors to add to our roster.

One last photo...just to show that the Baja isn't all about concrete, dust, and work!
Adios, amigos.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Next Chapter, New Location

If you've been following our blog, you'll know that most of the past 3 or 4 years have been spent teaching trades in Mozambique in Southern Africa. But I'm excited to announce that Mercy Tech Mission will be starting a second training location that's a lot closer to home, and therefore easier for some volunteers to get involved.

On November 9th, I and Rich Howard (volunteer from Summerland, BC) will be travelling to San Quintin, on the California Baja in Mexico. As you'll see on the map, San Quintin is the red dot about 7 hours driving time south of San Diego, California.
Rich and I will be there for two weeks setting up the training area for a mechanics program that will start in March, 2015. Our first job will be to oversee the building of a concrete pad (hopefully with some shade!) where we can begin teaching young guys how to repair and maintain vehicles. As you can see from my last trip down, the work area will be a big upgrade from fixing cars in the driveway dirt.
Our work is being done in partnership with One Life One Chance, a Canadian charity who owns this 17-acre mission base in Mexico. One of the main staff people that I'll be working with is Isaias Valsquez who manages the base and its maintenance. He is also a local pastor with a small church about 45 minutes north. Isaias and his wife Ana are a great couple with servant hearts and I look forward to meeting the future students with him and seeing what we can do to help young men get training, find better jobs, and begin taking care of their families in ways they never could before.

Proper training takes proper equipment, so we will also be purchasing some of the mechanics tools and shop equipment needed for the teaching program. So if anyone can help out with donations towards that end, it would be really appreciated. You can make your donations on our Mercy Tech Mission website.

One of the good things about starting a training site in Mexico is that it will be a lot easier to take along donated tools, whereas it was difficult in the past to transport heavy things to Africa. So any shops out there that are upgrading, but have some good used equipment to donate, be sure to let us know.
Thanks again for following the ongoing work of Mercy Tech Mission, where we believe in changing lives, one skill at a time. Until next time, adios, and I'll be sure to have a taco on your behalf!

Monday, September 22, 2014

All the little pieces

It takes a lot of little pieces to make something big work well.

Just drop your cell phone off the second story deck and you'll discover a whole bunch of little pieces that are suddenly very important. They always were; you just didn't know they were there.
A new starter in place...but where do the wires go?

Over the past couple of weeks, I've been corresponding with Prosper, our maintenance shop manager in Mozambique. He has an electrical problem that he needs help with. Somebody (not Prosper) dropped a steel wrench across some hot contacts in a 24-volt starter system, and now we've got a major meltdown.
New and old starters...not exactly the same.
As Prosper works his way through the system, tracing wires and testing components, I give him advice on where to look and what to look for. Sometimes he sends me photos of things I've never seen before, and together we try to figure out where to go next. And no, we do not have a wiring diagram to work from.
Okay...what exactly is this?
But aside from the electrical problem (and don't worry, we will fix it eventually), I'm suddenly reminded that this whole process is really the result of a lot of little things that are now all coming together.

1. Prosper is able to intelligently work on an electrical system halfway around the world because 3 1/2 years ago some Mercy Tech volunteers began to train him as a mechanic. 

2. He's working in a shop paid for by donations from MTM supporters, and built by MTM volunteers working with local workers at a location run by partners from another mission organization.

3. He is corresponding with me via a laptop computer donated by someone in Alberta, using a camera bought with donated funds from someone in BC, and bought by mission friends on their way through South Africa.

4. He's using tools and testers provided by both individuals and companies from Canada and the US. 

Pretty amazing stuff.
Prosper welding the safety rails around the mezzanine deck

Rick Cogbill & Prosper Fernando
These are just a few of the little pieces that are functioning together to make the whole process happen. Thanks to all who are supporting this work; your "little" part is larger than you know.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

South of the border

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit the San Quintin area of the California Baja in Mexico. My hosts were Rob and Brenda Wall, founders of One Life One Chance, a group that works with the poor and forgotten indigenous people of Mexico.
Brenda and Rob Wall, One Life One Chance Ministries
Through the efforts of their amazing staff at their mission base, Los Olivos, they host multiple volunteer teams each year who come to build a home for those in need.
The first two days of my visit were spent working on such a house. It was a fun (but hot!) time working alongside the group from Pacific Community Church in Cloverdale, BC. It was also very humbling to see how our relatively small efforts were making such a huge impact in this Mexican family's life.
Lunch break: me, Rob Wall, Pastor John, Tyler
Day 3 for me began the task of checking out the potential training opportunities - the real reason I had come to Mexico. I worked alongside Isaias Vasquez, who is not only the caretaker and manager of the Los Olivos base, but a local pastor as well.
Pastor Isaias' car, like so many others in this dusty place, needed a lot of repairs. We spent 3 days either working on vehicles or looking for parts. It was quite a challenge!
The bottom line is that there's a real good opportunity for Mercy Tech to work alongside One Life One Chance in this needy area. The Los Olivos base will provide a solid location for us to start a skills training program, and the folks here already have a list of young men that would like to be trained. 
So stayed tuned - and start practicing your Spanish! We might be going "south of the border" in the very near future.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Sitting Down to Move Forward

Action is awesome. It feels great to be doing something instead of just talking about it. 

On the other hand, if there's no analyzing of the past or planning for the future, then the present can easily fill up with frenetic activity - we look busy, but are we really accomplishing anything?

Sometimes you just need to be still for a while.

I like this quote from Warren Buffet: "Someone's sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago."

Recently, the Mercy Tech Mission board of trustees and their spouses took some time out to 'plant a few trees'. We looked at what's happened over the past three years of mission trips to Africa, and through reconfirming what Mercy Tech is all about, we began planning for what might come in the years ahead.

Our thanks to Bob and Connie Denesiuk for sharing their amazing cabin at Paradise Lake with us, and to Maged Said for facilitating our discussions. Because of this important time of planning, we are confident that even more lives will be changed, one skill at a time.

NEXT MOVES: Mercy Tech is currently looking at some volunteer opportunities in the Mexican state of Baja California. I will be checking out the location in early August, and if plans go well, we could soon be "planting a few shade trees" for those who could really use our help in this new location.