What is Project Mercy?
Project Mercy is a 501(c)(3) non-profit agency based in San Diego, California. The goal of Project Mercy is the improvement of basic living standards and quality of life for impoverished families who live in conditions precarious to their health in the shantytowns of the colonias east of Tijuana, Mexico.
What do they do?
Project Mercy builds basic but sturdy houses for the poorest families in the outlying neighborhoods, or “colonias” of Tijuana, Mexico. When sufficient funds are available, they provide materials and plans for sanitary latrines. Although they are not currently working on latrines, they hope to do so in the near future.
Why are they doing this work?
The inadequate housing of the neighborhoods in which the corporation is working leads to health hazards year round. Rats, mice, tarantulas, and scorpions invade shacks built directly on top of the dirt. Leaking roofs and patched walls cannot keep the dusty winds of summer and the icy winds and rain of winter from entering the living quarters. Every year make-shift lean-tos collapse in high winds. Respiratory and bronchial ailments abound every winter; babies have frozen to death and fire claims lives every year as a result of poor heating attempts in flimsy shacks. Many residents do not have a latrine and empty human waste on the land.
The resulting health and environmental hazards are enormous and multiply every month as more people arrive in the region, There is limited electric power and no sewage system. The terrain is barren and hilly. The area is ripe for disease and disaster from flooding. There are no homeless or temporary shelters and no soup kitchens for the hungry. Residents especially fear for their children with each approaching winter.
How are the recipients of the houses chosen?
The program is based on three criteria: Need, length of time in the program, and amount of “sweat equity” assistance given. They ask the residents to work on at least four houses for their neighbors prior to receiving their own. This draws people together and promotes a sense of community. There are exceptions to the rule where single mothers or disabled persons are involved.
Who makes the decisions?
Project Mercy has a seven member Board of Directors. The corporation was founded in 1991 by Paula Claussen who is President and CEO. An Operations Manager and Technical Adviser make and carry out the construction plans.