Ladrillo Project

Week-1 Leslie Niebas Family

Ladrillo is the word for “brick” in Spanish. What we do is help build brick houses in Mexico for others who are surviving in structures made of pallets, cardboard and corrugated metal.


Starting in the year 2000, Sierra Evangelical Lutheran Church began assisting in building shelters in Agua Prieta, Mexico. After a couple of years’ hiatus, the church began to again partner with Agua Prieta Family Shelters, a 501(c)3 nonprofit charity in Tucson on building these shelters for families. More information about APFS is available at


The work consists of building these shelter homes in the poverty-stricken neighborhoods of Colonia Ladrillera and Territoria Movimiento in the southwest corner of Agua Prieta. The shelters are simple, with dirt floors and not wired or plumbed, but represent a considerable improvement for families living in makeshift structures in subfreezing winter temperatures.


Families who will live in the shelters provide “sweat equity,” assisting with construction and meals for volunteers. Utilities and public sanitation are almost nonexistent and economic prospects poor, with those who are employed making about $10 a day. Church/volunteer groups travel from as far as Michigan and North Dakota to participate in the Project.


If you have a talent for baking, making quilts, sharing you time with the local children, a willing attitude to learn how to use a trowel, hammer or shovel, we can use you help to build another house this year.


If you think you can help in any way, consider being a part of the team for this year and making a difference for at least one more family.





Teaming up with Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Douglas, the SELC crew assisted in the construction of a halfway house for men on their way back into society in Agua Prieta.


Taking the construction knowledge they gained in 2000, SELC agreed in 2001 to fund and construct a house on their own. The challenge for 2001 was that the existing dwelling the family was living in had to be moved due to the fact that their new house was going to be where the current structure was. After a weekend of disassembling the existing dwelling and rebuilding it, half the size it was, the new footing could be dug and poured the following week. Once the new home was completed, the family could move from a house made up of pallets and cardboard to a house constructed of bricks, wood and metal.


In 2002, another home was constructed in the same area, with more SELC members contributing their time and talents.


With good weather and the SELC crew gaining construction experience, two homes were completed in 2003, 2004 and again in 2007. The second house each year was only possible though generous donations of funds from SELC friends and members.


The second home in 2004 was finished just in time for the expecting mother to have a new home to move into after the birth of her child.


Homes were constructed for Veronica and Alonso in 2007, Gabriella in 2008, Imelda and Santo in 2009, the Mendoza family in 2010, the Mirandas family in 2011, the Burgos family in 2012 and the Nieblas family in 2013. Our intern pastor in 2016-2017 took on a revival of the church’s involvement for his seminary final-year project and led teams that joined APFS volunteers from Tucson in constructing homes for Carlos, his wife and children and Vicente, his wife and three children.


  • Do you like to: Teach others?
  • Do you like to: Make quilts and donate them to the future homeowners?
  • Do you like to: Work with your hands?

Then maybe becoming one of the many SELC members and friends of members that have assisted in the support and construction of our next house in Agua Prieta, Mexico is for you.

 Contacts: Christie Brown has headed many Ladrillo Project day trips in recent years. Her email address is


What do we need? Tools are provided by Agua Prieta Family Shelters. Comfortable, durable shoes to work in and appropriate clothing (Layers! Mornings are cool and it heats up throughout the day.) A pair of work gloves is necessary. Sunscreen and bottled water are highly recommended. Passports are required to cross the Mexican border.


If you do not have a passport, you will need to apply for one in-person. The nearest application acceptance agent is the Superior Court Clerk’s office, 100 Colonia De Salud, Suite 200, Sierra Vista, 85635. It is across from Canyon Vista Medical Center off Highway 90, open weekdays 8 a.m.-1 p.m. To apply, you need to fill out a DS-11 form available online at, submit an official copy of your birth certificate, show government-issued photo ID and bring a photocopy of it, and bring a photo that meets passport requirements (drug stores offer these for a charge usually less than $20, the post office can do them there, the clerk’s office does not). The passport fees are a $110 application fee ($80 for ages 15 and younger) and a $25 execution fee, both payable by check. A more affordable option is the passport card, $30 for ages 16+ ($15 for those 15 and under) plus the $25 execution fee. The card meets the needs of crossing to Mexico by land for Ladrillo but does not work for any future travel by air or outside Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda. More information is available at

If you had a passport but it has expired within the last five years, and you are 16 or older, you may renew by mail. Visit

If you are 15 or younger, you must be able to show parental consent to get a passport. It is simplest if you have both parents present when you apply. If this is not possible, alternate ways of showing consent and accompanying forms are detailed at


Anyone under 18 may cross the border with their passport and at least one parent present. If they are without either parent, they may cross with parental mission but must have a form (like the one that can be found at ) signed by a parent and notarized. This must be done for each crossing and the child must carry the letter, passport and photocopy of parent’s government-issued ID with them.

Is it safe? Agua Prieta has been largely spared the level of violence related to the drug cartel activity that has affected larger cities like Ciudad Juarez. APFS volunteers report feeling safe and experiencing/witnessing no violent incidents in almost 20 years of working in Agua Prieta. When cartel activity did flare up briefly in AP a couple years ago, Mexican federales entered the city and maintained a constant and vigilant presence. One group from Maricopa County which stayed away for a couple years out of an abundance of caution has begun to return and resume work with APFS. U.S. State Department travel warning as of Dec. 8, 2016, for the Mexican state of Sonora (which includes Agua Prieta) advises daytime travel only (we will arrive after sunrise and depart before sunset) and avoidance of the Sonora-Chihuahua border area, which is a few hours’ drive east of Agua Prieta. The full travel warning, including information pertinent broadly to Mexico as a whole, is at


What to expect? The work is not highly technical but physically challenging. Families who will be living in the homes along with friends and neighbors are likely to work alongside, share meals and to visit, speaking Spanish and knowing little or no English in many cases. We may work alongside an ELCA church group from North Dakota as well as volunteers from other denominations (including partner churches in Sierra Vista, Bisbee & Douglas) and those not connected with a church. Witnessing high levels of poverty, especially for the first time, can be striking and emotional. Pastoral care is available in processing this spiritually and emotionally, as needed.









October 23, 2017



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