Sophomore builds houses over vacation for families in need


Alex Smith

Sophomore Alex Smith (left) with other volunteers building houses is Penitas, Texas.

Codi Farmer, Staff Reporter

The hot Texas sun was beaming down on his face, but neither he nor those he stood with would stop working. Not until they had finished what they traveled five hours away from home to do.

During spring break, sophomore Alex Smith traveled to Penitas, Texas with the Canyon Creek Church to build houses for the impoverished residents of the town. Along with building houses, he also worked closely with the Vacation Bible School, or VBS, which consisted of socializing and building relationships with the local children as well as educating them about Christianity.

“It was really cool,” Alex said. “I got to learn [how to build] with all the others first and I got to learn how to use my hands, connect with the little kids nearby, and grow my teamwork abilities.”

The volunteers were split into two groups. One worked only with the VBS to help the children. Alex, however, was  places the other group, which primarily focused on building. Alex said even though he spent most of his days building, after they were done for the day he would go with some of the others that were building to go visit the VBS.

“You can really see sometimes that [the children] don’t get enough attention from their parents when they have eight other siblings to take care of,” Alex said. “There was a lot of us there, so we each really had a great opportunity to build relationships with a couple of the kids and make a strong connection.”

Alex said his favorite part about volunteering was  building the connections with those he encountered. Though this was his first time traveling to Penitas, he plans to volunteer again next spring break, either by going back to Penitas or by going to the Czech Republic to teach English to children and do VBS full time.

“I really liked building the house, but the relationship [with the family and the community] was so much more,” Alex said. “I do love working with little kids. I help at Sunday School at my church a lot, too, so this wasn’t my first time [working with children].”

Alongside with his experience in working with children, Alex also has some experience in building. He said that his dad taught him how to build washer boards, so that’s an activity they often do together.

“I’ve always liked working with my hands and building things,” Alex said. “I felt like I could make an impact helping build the house and lead other people my age who were less experienced [with building].”

Though he had background with building smaller items, Alex was still fearful about getting in the way with the building process.

“I was nervous about whether or not I would actually end up being useful,” Alex said. “I was worried that I might end up getting in the way a little just because there are so many older people that actually knew what they were doing, there were some actual carpenters who came to help and so I wanted to help make progress and not hold anything back.”

Despite his initial worry, Alex said that everyone he worked with was very kind and helpful. They taught him what to do with his skills, helped show him the impact of what they were doing, and took him under their wing.

“It was really cool to see the finished results and the impact that was left on the family,” Alex said. “When you see this family that you built the house for, it’s kind of shocking. They don’t look like they’re struggling at all.”

Alex said that his biggest takeaway from his trip was that relationships are more important than materials and that even though some people around us may look completely fine, you never know what kind of struggle they might be facing.

“We built this house, which was a material thing, but I also got to make a connection with [the family]” Alex said “[I really focused on making sure I was] treating them like equals, how they deserve to be treated, regardless [of their income]. It was really about building a relationship with them instead of just building this house and leaving with no emotional impact.”