Vail Valley teen puts his money where his heart is
VAIL, Colorado – Lorenzo Harris has done a lot of living for a 13-year-old.Harris traveled to Paraguay with his mother, Leanna, and six other local Habitat for Humanity supporters to build a house – because someone there needed one.The trip to Paraguay was supposed to be educational and a lesson in service. It was. But it was a lesson he’d already learned.Not only did Harris help build one home, he’s paying for another.For his Bar Mitzvah celebration last summer, Lorenzo asked his friends and family to donate money to a Habitat home in Paraguay instead of giving him gifts. They came through, and the money they donated in his honor will build another home in Benjamin Aceval, a small area outside Asuncin.The local Habitat affiliate, Habitat for Humanity of Eagle & Lake Counties led its first Global Village trip to build a home in Paraguay. Their goal is to send at least one group per year on an international build. Harris was part of that first group.
Most kids want dirt bikes. Harris wanted to help lift a family up out of the dirt.”The family we are building the house with is very poor,” he said.They have three kids: Juan, 9, Camila, 5, and a 3-year-old boy. You don’t have to talk to make a connection, Harris said.”Juan and Camila are very shy but I felt that I really connected with both of them,” Harris said. “With Juan, I played soccer right before lunch. It was a beat-up ball either from the trash or about 10 years old. This really showed me that there is no spare money for things like soccer balls. Money is spent on food and clothes.”
All over the world, partner families all participate in the construction process. With the sweat equity model, volunteers get to know the family whose lives they are helping change. After the partner families help build the home, they buy it with a 0 percent mortgage.”When you look at the little town or neighborhood we were building in, it really jumped out at you,” Harris said. “At first you think, ‘Wow, this is obviously a poor town – there are cows in yards, broken stuff everywhere and the houses are very small for the amount of people.’ But once you really got into it, it became really sad and you started to think, ‘What if I were one of those people and I had a very small amount of money to feed my family, pay rent and buy clothes and kitchen materials? What would I do? How would I survive?'”The home he helped build is near the home he bought. Along with a few words in English, the children in both houses have learned a few valuable lessons, as has Harris – that the best things in life are not things, and being able to walk on shovels like stilts is a cool thing to know.”We are so used to having enough money to eat and a little extra to spend, but then you look at the other side and think, ‘How can people live like this?'” Harris said. “I am so glad we went down there and helped to build a house and to provide a better future for this great family.”