Lakehead University Alumni Magazine

Beyond Borders

Great Ambassadors in Guatemala

Tracey Skehan, Photos by Mike Snoddon
Published October 24, 2011

Above (left): Mike and Neva proudly display the plaque acknowledging LUSU's building of the Cruz Marino home |
Above (right): The Cruz Marino family


Mike Snoddon and Neva Bassingthwaite's trip to Guatemala last summer to build a home for a family in the village of San Miguel Duenas turned out to be an experience that changed both of them and one that they are determined will have a lasting effect. The Lakehead Student Union (LUSU) president and vice-president student issues won the trip to volunteer for the charitable organization From Houses to Homes in a draw at last year's Canadian Organization of Campus Activities conference.

Crew member installing window in a yellow painted wall
A crew member installs a window
Neva painting a wall blue
I love painting! Neva shows that she's not afraid of a challenge
Photo of a city street during a sunny day
San Miguel Duenas

"The trip gave me an awareness of how much NGOs can do and a lasting connection to the community. It was a simple way to give a helping hand."

– Neva Bassingthwaite

Poverty is widespread in Guatemala leaving many without proper housing or adequate food. From Houses to Homes tries to overcome this situation by "giving people sturdy, long-lasting houses," says Mike. The concrete 13' x 19' house with windows and a cement floor that Neva and Mike built is now the home of the Cruz Marino family which includes the grandparents, their three daughters and sons-in-law, and their grandchildren.

Mike and Neva were part of a crew of volunteers from Germany, France, and Belgium who, together with two skilled Guatemalan workers, built the home in five days. The LUSU duo stayed in the city of Antigua and journeyed to the job site on the back of a pickup truck. They threw themselves into the project with enthusiasm even though they were novices when it came to construction work.

Kid standing beside a football in a yard
Neighbourhood children added laughter and fun to construction crew's days
Neva and Mike preparing to dig the foundation
Mike and Neva hard at work preparing the house's foundation
a neighbourhood dog in a city street during a sunny day
One of the many dogs that roamed the streets

They were both happy with the process and the end result. "It really helped connect me to Guatemala and made me feel more like an international citizen," Neva observed. The two are considering going back for a longer period of four to six months and, says Mike, "We would also like Lakehead to do something similar on a yearly basis and give other students the chance to have this kind of experience."

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