By Marlena Chavira-Medford
Noa Eaton is in many ways your typical seventh-grader. She stays busy with homework, horseback riding and the occasional soccer game. But for the past several months, this Del Mar resident and Earl Warren student has been doing something not-so-typical of kids her age. Eaton has been raising money to build a home for a family in Tijuana through Casas de Luz, something she took the initiative to do in celebration of her upcoming bat mitzvah.
“A house can be more than a place to live; it can be a new start for a family,” Eaton said, and that’s especially true in Tijuana, where many families live in makeshift shacks. “We live here and we have so much, and you go down there [to Tijuana] and they have so little.”
It’s a reality Eaton first encountered in fifth-grade when she helped build a home in Tijuana through Casas de Luz for a Girl Scouts project. Building that house only took a weekend, but its benefits are still being reaped today.
“We built a house for a pastor and his family, and now they use it to host Bible study, and they are very proud of their home. You really can change someone’s life in one weekend.”
Eaton is now hoping to change another family’s life over a weekend in May. She will be returning to Tijuana with a group of volunteers to celebrate Mother’s Day by building a home for a mother and her family.
“I am very excited to meet the family I will be building the home for — that is one of the best parts of this. Even though you don’t speak the same language, you bond with them very much over that weekend. When you finally get to hand them the keys to their new house, it’s a good feeling. There is usually a lot of crying and hugging.”
The payoff of finally being able to hand over those keys to a family in need is something Eaton has been working toward since August. In order to raise the $4,000 required for the new home, the 12-year-old wrote letters to friends and neighbors asking for help, and organized fundraising dinners at the homes of relatives and friends.
“What has been so impressive to me is how she has taken full responsibility for this project,” said Solana Beach resident Kathy Faller, who has been a volunteer with Casas de Luz for many years. “Watching her in action at the fundraisers, she speaks up and can clearly articulate her reasons for wanting to do this and why it’s so significant for the family that receives the home.”
In fact, Eaton did such a good job at one of her fundraisers that she was encouraged to apply for a grant through The Patricia and Christopher Weil Family Foundation. Her letter was so impressive that not only did she get the grant, but the foundation has also offered to build a second home for a family in Tijuana in October.
“I want to say thank you very much to all the people who helped me do this,” said Eaton, who belongs to Congregation Beth Israel of San Diego and will celebrate her bat mitzvah this summer. “None of this would have been possible without all the people in this neighborhood who helped me.”
For more information about Casas de Luz, please email Kathy Faller at email@example.com.