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Serving Orphans in Mexico: Cornerstone CG Giving Back

From February 10-23rd (Northshore SD mid-winter break) Cornerstone partner Matt Hesselgrave traveled with a team of 6 adults and 6 teens to Guadalajara Mexico to work with an orphanage called Fundacion Emanuel.  Matt and the men spent most of the time doing construction and maintenance projects, while the teens spent time doing crafts, games and science lessons with the children.  "It was a fantastic trip and we went away knowing we'd made a difference."

 Guadalajara Team 2014

Guadalajara Team 2014

 The surrounding area where the team worked, taken from the roof of the orphanage compound

The surrounding area where the team worked, taken from the roof of the orphanage compound

At Cornerstone we believe that businesses need to give back both globally and locally.  We understand that the good we do will come back to us.  We want the legacy of our company to be one not only known for exceptional projects and client relationships but of giving and compassion as well. Partner Matt Hesselgrave is passionate about serving widows and orphans and the poor and needy.  Matt and his group have done work in Mexico, Africa and Siberia in the past 3 years along with a host of local organizations.  But Guadalajara is particularly close to Matt's heart as he and his family have been there a total of 5 times during mid-winter and spring break. This year Matt was accompanied by his daughters Katie (15) and Maddy (14), both veterans.

So what did the team do?  Matt shares, "we did many projects, each has a funny story. One of the projects was to rebuild a stage in the 'Bread of Life' children's soup kitchen located across the street from the orphanage compound.  We started with tearing out the old stage which was rotten.  We discovered quite a few surprises under it, HUGE cockroaches, poisonous spiders (a sister to the black widow called the red back and a big harry tarantula), and even a bunch of tiny toads."

 Demolition of the stage.

Demolition of the stage.

 An unwelcome resident of the old stage a poisonous red back spider.

An unwelcome resident of the old stage a poisonous red back spider.

 Another resident...

Another resident...

 Demolition almost complete.  This is Ben one of our hard working teen team members.

Demolition almost complete.  This is Ben one of our hard working teen team members.

 We even found a bunch of toads living under the stage.

We even found a bunch of toads living under the stage.

Matt goes on, "just like at home we got most our supplies from Home Depot but unlike home there wasn't the selection we're used to.  That meant work arounds and creativity, along with multiple trips to HD.  There is no such thing as a quick trip to HD in Mexico getting through the check out lines was painful as price checks took 5 minutes each and there was at least one or two at every check out.  By the end of the trip we referred to it as "Casa Diablo."  Another thing we had to get used to was how expensive lumber is ($14 for a 12' 2x6) and what poor quality it was.  Nothing was straight, everything was twisted. But in the end we got the project done!"

 Team member Bill Kelly and Dan Sander try to straighten out woefully twisted lumber.

Team member Bill Kelly and Dan Sander try to straighten out woefully twisted lumber.

 The construction team poses on the finished stage.

The construction team poses on the finished stage.

Matt tells of another project, "we spent a couple days working on the orphanage kitchen, installing a commercial grade faucet, replacing the worn and leaky sink drain, deep cleaning, repairing the hood vent and making a new filter for it, and repairing the stove top and pot boiler which were running at 50% because of blocked jets and repairing the orphanages 4 door refrigerator.  Because of our pre-trip fundraising and generous donors we were able to purchase and install a brand new commercial 4 door refrigerator for the children's soup kitchen and 2 chest deep freezers.  Bill Kelly (owner of Kelly-Mincks a restaurant supplier) was uniquely qualified an lead this effort." 

 The old faucet and drain comes out.

The old faucet and drain comes out.

 And the new faucet goes back in.

And the new faucet goes back in.

 Before.

Before.

 After.  Notice the plumbing standards are a little different...

After.  Notice the plumbing standards are a little different...

 Faucet before.

Faucet before.

 Faucet after.

Faucet after.

 Mark deep cleaning the hood vent.

Mark deep cleaning the hood vent.

According to Matt the most rewarding parts of the trip were the interactions with the kids and staff at the orphanage and the many hours of relationship building, fun and games, "we even got to take the kids to a water park!"

The team also served daily at the 'Bread of Life' children's soup kitchen which feeds hungry kids in the surrounding community nutritious meals once a day.  "It was really cool to get to know the kids who came everyday and it is a reality check to be confronted with the poverty in which the majority of the world lives," says Matt.  "It certainly make you thankful for what we have in this country.  Its hard to imagine that for many of these kids the meal they get at the soup kitchen is the only meal they will eat in a day."

 Local kids wait in line for meal at Bread of Life children's soup kitchen.

Local kids wait in line for meal at Bread of Life children's soup kitchen.

 The team serves daily meals to the local kids.

The team serves daily meals to the local kids.

 Cornerstone partner, Matt Hesselgrave passes out the plates of food.

Cornerstone partner, Matt Hesselgrave passes out the plates of food.

All in all we were proud to be a part of the work of Fundacion Emanuel and really look forward to our next trip.  If you would like to join us in supporting this great organization just send an email to Matt@CornerstoneCG.org.  We would like to thank our partners Eric Gedney and Randy Munson who generously donated their time and funds to support the team.  We believe we can make a difference in the world by getting involved and giving our time and hope other businesses are doing the same.