Alise: Well, our first email was kind of vague about a "life changing experience", so none of us really knew what to expect. Then when I found out that it was a house building project just across the border in Mexico, I actually got very excited. I've always wanted to do something like this for the less fortunate, and to get the opportunity to do it with the USA Cycling group was awesome.
Did you know you had certain qualities that would come in handy before you took off to Mexico to build a house?
Alise: Well, as athletes I figured we'd all get the hang of building pretty quick. People go on these trips with their families pretty regularly to build houses over the same two day period, and I knew that if that many other people could do it, we’d find a way to come together and be able to perform the tasks and handle the work load. As for me personally, I've always loved helping my dad build stuff and doing crafty things around the house, so I was excited to put my basic handyman skills to the test and learn new things for future use!
What was the vibe like in the van when you were heading to the building site?
Alise: Everyone was excited. It was strange loading up to go somewhere with hardly any luggage since we always travel for longer trips together with bikes. It was definitely a different vibe than when we're off to compete somewhere...much more relaxed I would say. No one knew what to expect.
Who was with you?
Alise: We met up with another group who built another home at the same time, but with the USA Cycling BMX crew we had included: Jamie Staff, Jeff Glynn, Myself, Brooke Crain, Dani George, Shealen Reno, Felicia Stancil, Nic Long, David Herman, Justin Posey, Jared Garcia, Sean Gaian, Jordan Miranda, Steven Cisar, Tanner Sebesta, Tommy Zula, and Ryan Pettigrew. A pretty good sized group!
When you arrived at the site, what did you find?
Alise: On our way to the site we drove through a lot of hills, up and down dirt roads, and through many unfinished and/or makeshift homes. It was the equivalent of a shantytown. When we arrived, our family’s home had two rooms: one for all 6 of them to live in, and the other a corner store that sold soda and candy to provide for the family. The store had taken the mother and two of her sons 6 months to build and earns the family roughly $60 USD per week to live on. Next door, on the rest of their land, the #DoMoreThanSport and #HomesOfHope crew had prepared the build site with a 20 foot x 20 foot concrete slab foundation and all of the supplies we’d need to build the home with.
Who was the construction leader giving tasks to do?
Alise: We had two local builders on the job overseeing us all. We all did bits of everything under their guidance. The lead builder, Fonzy, gave guesses at how many people would be needed at minimum for each task in the beginning, and then we all worked together to makes all of those tasks happen and interchanged roles.
With all the people there helping out, did you see a quick progression?
Alise: It was truly incredible to see how everything came together. When we got there, it seemed impossible to build this home in a matter of two 7 hour work days with a bunch of people who really didn’t know what they were doing. Once we all got our hands on some tools though, we split up the jobs and had some great teamwork flowing. The builders actually said we were one of the quickest builds they’d ever seen on the first day! We had the whole house foundation up and covered by the end of day one. On day two there were a lot more “finishing jobs” that took more time so it seemed like we were falling behind schedule… but, we got the job done thanks to having great guidance, being quick learners, and working together.
Did it feel like "extreme home makeover" at some point?
Alise: Definitely. Although the home we built is not what many of us think of when we think of a “home”, when we were able to see the before and after homes right next to each other, it was obvious that the home we built was a major upgrade and was going to provide a much safer and healthier place for this family of 6 to live.
Who in your crew impressed you the most with their building skills?
Alise: Nic Long was probably the handiest out of all of the riders. Although I already knew he was pretty good at constructing things, I know Jamie was impressed since he chose him as the Team Leader. Nic took part in pretty much every aspect of the build, and was able to think on his feet and have people help him get the job done without a ton of guidance. However, I was also surprised by Jamie Staff as well - who would’ve guessed that the long time athlete grew up around construction and knew a lot of tricks of the trade!
Who was out there building a pump track around the house?
Alise: Haha, unfortunately we were working so hard to get the house built on time there wasn’t any time to get that built yet! We did see some kids on bikes in the area though, and the kids in the family we built for thought BMX was pretty cool, so maybe sometime we’ll be able to get those kids some bikes to ride and a pump track built up for the neighborhood to play on!
Did anybody have blisters on your hands from all the hard work?
Alise: Luckily, we all have a good stash of race gloves and were able to keep our hands safe form the general wear and tear! However, there were definitely a few bruised fingers from some missed target hammer swings...
When you left after the weekend how did it make you feel?
Alise: I think the saying in our debrief was this experience made “our hearts dance”. We did something that significantly impacted others’ lives, and there’s nothing comparable to seeing the light in the eyes of a family who truly needed some help as we opened the door to their new home.
Would you do it again if you're asked?
Alise: Absolutely! I recommend it to anyone who gets the opportunity to do it as well.
Pics provided by Alise Post.