Courtesy Dick Oakes

Including the kitchen sink

Local REALTOR® helps Mexican families find a home

For most Canadians, packing up and heading to Mexico means relaxing on the beach with a cold beverage in hand. For Calgary REALTOR® Dick Oakes, it means something else entirely.

Having travelled to Mexico for the last 33 years, Oakes had become a mainstay in the small beach community in northern Mexico near his parents’ condo.

In 2009, which saw hurricanes Rick and Jimena hit the area, Oakes encountered three young families that had been deeply impacted by the storms.

“It just wiped out the whole area through there – flooded them something awful,” said Oakes of the conditions the families were living in at the time. “They had nothing … so I left, and the next year I came back and brought down a bicycle for them.”

From there, Oakes’s aid efforts snowballed.

“We were going around delivering mattresses and stoves and fridges and food, mostly under the rotary club,” said Oakes.

Deciding a “tar paper shack” built on a floodplain wasn’t the best place for the burgeoning families to call home, Oakes enlisted the help of some friends to find more suitable lodgings for the group.

“We looked around, and after a week or so, we found some land,” he said. “Over a bunch of beers, we decided we were going to really help these people out. So we bought three lots for them, and a lot was equivalent to CAD$700.”

It’s giving back. It’s helping somebody who can’t help themselves. – Dick Oakes, REALTOR®

With the Mexican government giving out bricks and mortar for those people that were washed out, the families had the beginnings of their new home. However, they still lacked anything more than the most basic of structures.

Oakes, again, took it upon himself to improve the families’ situation.

“The next year I went and they had these little casitas built – not very straight walls and kind of small, but they were all right. Nothing lasts very long down there. It’s a harsh climate,” he said. “We were sitting in the shade … and I said, ‘you know, I got some metal left over from doing the roof at my cabin. I will bring it down next year.’ So that was the start of it.”

In the following four years, Oakes has further supplemented the families’ living quarters by making the four-day drive in the Oakes family Honda Odyssey (their 10th), which is stuffed full of all manner of household items – a list that recently included sinks for the families’ newly constructed kitchens.

Along with supplying most of the building supplies, with the help of several Calgary businesses, Oakes has helped install electrical and plumbing in the homes, and recently added an additional bedroom to provide more space for one family’s three children.

When asked what he gets out the interaction, Oakes says it’s a matter of what we have that others go without.

“We take so much for granted here,” he said. “We have all the education we want for our kids or ourselves. People stop at red lights – we have red lights. The sewers are underground. We don’t have to worry about someone coming to steal things from us in the night. We don’t have to sleep with a gun in our bed.

“It’s giving back. It’s helping somebody who can’t help themselves.”

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