There are certain people you meet in life who you immediately just have this feeling of "yeah...they're living life right."
Bree Cota is one of them. She's extremely humble and would never think of herself in this way, but if you met her, you'd know what I mean. Despite struggles with chronic illness, her and her husband Eric are changing the world through relationships. I've learned so much from them.
I could never do justice telling their story so I'll keep it simple: they love Jesus, they lived here in Puerto Peñasco doing mission work, they continue to strengthen their relationships with the people even after returning to the states, and oh - Bree is a crazy talented photographer (check her out here!)
They are specifically involved with an incredible organization called i6eight. The thing is, many well meaning people who hope to volunteer abroad can end up doing more harm than good. Short mission trips, painting projects, playing with "orphans" who aren't actually orphans (I'll save my ranting for another time, but just remember to do your research before participating in a volunteer program!) are some of the ways we hurt communities when traveling. Specifically in Mexico, there are countless programs that build homes for needy families. Obviously this is an amazing, wonderful idea! However, spending huge amounts of money to send unskilled teenagers across the world (instead of hiring locals) to build a house without any relational follow up is a poor use of time and resources.
This is where i6eight comes in: an organization that is based on relationships, the needs of the local community, and continual follow up service. Yes, they build houses, but they do it differently. I had the opportunity to learn about the incredible things that are happening in a place where the poverty and social issues contrast deeply with the vacation lifestyle of those who visit. Bree and Eric were kind enough to let me document some of the great things that are happening with i6eight and the families of Puerto Peñasco! Plus, I got to practice my Spanish! ;)
Let's be real - the best part about traveling is always the people. Bree and Eric took me to the homes of some of the families they had originally built houses for. These people aren't just good deeds to them: these are their friends. Their best friends - friends they specifically had their wedding in Mexico for. Their relationships ran deep with pure love. They give and their friends give back. It inspires me, and I feel myself wishing that someday Bryant and I would find a place with people we would fall so in love with that we'd return again and again.
Let me tell you yet another reason i6eight is freaking rad: a good portion of their leadership are actually members of the community and those who aren't from Rocky Point originally tend to end up there anyways. They are face-to-face with the work that needs to be done and they know what's up.
I'll admit that two of my favorite people I met were Toni and Orpha, the Mexican counterparts for the organization. They are basically Mom & Dad. Oh, and they are HILARIOUS. Leave it to Toni to make everyone laugh. At the heart of it all though, they have huge passion for making lives better. They are the cute lil abuelos I never had.
Ughh. BABIES!! I'm a sucker for all of them. Especially ones with adorable chocolate-colored eyes running around yelling "mi dulce!!" despite the fact that it's actually dentist day, and it's probably not the best idea to be eating a bag of candy.
Dentist day. One of those things I will forever take for granted because it's been a part of my life like clockwork and I pretty much hate it. Nothing like getting your teeth stabbed and having "bubblegum" flavored glue shoved down your throat!
An extension of i6eight is their involvement with the local orphanage. Basically, this incredible woman whom everyone calls "Mamá" runs a beautiful home for over 35 children who were abandoned or orphaned. She is a true super mom. Bree and Eric translated for the amazing dentists who come visit biannually to take care of the kids' teeth. They spent hours doing this as well as comforting the children who were scared (I feel ya kid). It was a good reminder that there are still tons of people out there making a difference. They are often quiet about it, which can make it seem like it's not happening, but it is. Don't lose hope.
Meanwhile I got to play with dozens of children in the dirt. I love kids because they're not afraid to correct your Spanish and I'm pretty sure that children are born with the same sense of humor everywhere. Despite the language barrier I ended the day exhausted and covered in dusty hugs and kisses. I couldn't have asked for a more perfect day.
Between seeing lots of new faces, eatings the best freaking tacos on this planet, late night talks about God and life and love, spotting tiny stingrays at the beach, practicing Spanish, and being inspired at Bree and Eric's love for others, it was a good week spent in Mexico. I'm so grateful for i6eight and all the amazing work they are doing. I grew up in Arizona, and yet there is so much I didn't know about our neighbors to the south. I have visited Rocky Point before but only with the mindset that many of us have: to take, not to give. I hope my perspective has changed.
If you feel inspired, I hope that you take the time to donate to i6eight. Whether that's with time (they are looking for English teachers!), money (every penny is used for a good cause, I promise), resources (if you reach out to them I'm sure they have ideas!), or even simply prayers (they can send you specific things to pray for) there are so many ways to help. If you are an Arizona resident then volunteering with i6eight might be a worthwhile cause in your future!
Thanks for letting me share this little nugget of love in the world. Can't wait to discover even more!
Gracias México, hasta pronto xo
Luke 10:27 And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.