Interactors, Rotary build Tijuana home


Editor’s note: Roger Li, a La Jolla High junior who is an intern at the Light, was one of the students on this trip.



On May 1, La Jolla High School’s Interact Club took part in Project Mercy, a daylong trip to an outlying suburb of Tijuana to build a home for an impoverished Mexican family.

This was business as usual for the young Interactors, who have previously built 11 houses with help from members of the La Jolla Rotary Club. As the day drew to an end, a single mother with her three children moved into their modest new home.

Project Mercy houses are by no means ostentatious. With a single bedroom and an attic, they are meant to provide basic security and shelter for the families who receive them. The $3,750 that is needed to fund each construction is raised by various local organizations, including LJHS Interact.

Paula Claussen, a San Diego travel agent, saw the need for Project Mercy while distributing toys and clothing in Tijuana. Alarmed by the atrocious conditions that residents faced, Claussen decided that she wanted to give the most sustainable gift that she could — a home. Fifteen years later, Project Mercy has built more than 1,000 houses.

Alan d’Escragnolle, LJHS Class of 2006, brought the project to the attention of the La Jolla Rotary Club by speaking at one of its meetings. At that meeting, Rotary members pledged enough money to build the first joint Interact-Rotary Project Mercy house.

“The most poignant (build) for me,” said Cal Mann, member of La Jolla Rotary and adviser for LJHS Interact, “involved a family of nine that was living under a tarp with wooden pallets. They had four piles of them stacked up on a dirt floor and were thrilled to be moving into a tiny house. One of the kids told me that (the house) was the size of his mom’s walk-in closet.”

Mann later mentioned that this revelation was typical of many of the students who participate in a build. He believes that the most valuable aspect of Project Mercy for Interactors is the opportunity to be exposed to “the perspective of seeing life outside of La Jolla and the relative wealth that exists in the United States compared to most Third World countries.”

When asked about merits of Project Mercy for high school students, Mann responded that “the satisfaction of devoting an entire day completely to someone else really speaks to the kids. It gives them an appreciation for what they have at home.”

In the fall, Interact hopes to build two more homes using environmentally friendly materials. For more information, visit