Charity group does work in former murder capital of world

Casas por Cristo builds home for needy in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico

CIDUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico - Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, has been plagued by horrific violence since warring drug cartels began battling in 2008. 

The violence has eased a bit in the last year, but at its worst in 2010, nearly 10 people were dying per day city-wide.

The violence didn't stop Casas por Cristo from continuing its mission, however: building homes for the needy in one of the poorest cities in the world. 

They organize church groups from around the U.S. to come spend a week building a house.

"We thought about shutting it down for a little while in 2008," said Jason Laffan, marketing director for the nonprofit. "But we decided we needed to figure out a way to continue because people relied on us too much."

So the group developed a safety plan, and rather than hide from the cartels, they made their presence known. 

The bad guys knew who they were and didn't touch them, Laffan said, because of their work in the community.

Laffan said of the dozen or so charities doing similar work before the violence started, his is the only still operating.

"That will help us moving forward, because people here realize we stayed through the tough times and that's given us credibility," said Laffan.

It's been difficult for the group to recruit volunteers since 2008, however, with many unwilling to take the risk to cross the border.

The group plans to build just shy of 200 homes this year, down from over 400 in 2007.

The group has built over 4,000 homes since it started in Ciudad Juarez. It has since expanded its operations to other Mexican cities like Acuna, and even to Guatemala.


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