Chris Chavez '10 is Extreme interpreter and volunteer
Extreme Makeover: Home Edition during winter break, he expected to work for one day building a house for a deserving family. That one-day volunteer shift turned into five days of working as an interpreter as well as a glimpse into the production of the popular reality show.When Chris Chavez '10 volunteered to help out on the set of
Extreme Makeover: Home Edition selects a family from a pool of applicants, many of whom have suffered recent hardships or are working to improve their communities, and rebuilds their house over seven days. The episode with which Chavez was involved will air on Sun., March 15 at 8 p.m. EDT on ABC. The Extreme Makeover team worked on the house of the Ruiz family, who live in El Paso and run a donation and community center in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico.
Chavez, a Spanish major from El Paso, Tex., learned about the opportunity from the newspaper. The show wanted to choose a family from El Paso, and a call was sent out for volunteers. Chavez, his mother Irma, and his sister Barbara decided to apply.
"We had seen the show, and we had seen that the families chosen for the show were all very deserving," he says. "El Paso is a big city with a sort of small town feel, so you feel a very tight bond with the community, and that is just another reason to go and help out."
When Chavez and his family showed up to volunteer, Chris was part of a group sent to unload a semi truck full of food donated by the show to the donation center run by the family. While there, he introduced himself to the head director for the program.
"I told him that I was a native El Pasoan, I was majoring in Spanish, and that I could assist with any translation or interpreting needed," he says. "And that was pretty much my work for the next four days."
Although El Paso is located on the Mexican border and about three-quarters of the population is bilingual, there was only one person on the Extreme Makeover crew who was fluent in both English and Spanish. Chavez ended up doing a great deal of the on-set translation for the show and stayed with the crew until the house was unveiled to the family.
In addition to translating between the film crew and the volunteers and teaching the crew about the culture of El Paso, Chavez participated in the production of the show as well. He helped translate for subtitles, and worked as an interpreter for an interview between an English-speaking host and a Spanish-speaking boy from Ciudad Juárez.
Helping with the production process was eye opening, and Chavez was struck by how much work goes into putting the show together.
"The show is only 45 minutes long, and there must have been over 40 hours of film taken," he says. "It was really interesting to see how the slightest thing, like Ty Pennington running out and saying welcome to the family, can take two hours."
In addition to learning about TV production, Chavez also learned more about how he could put his major and background to good use.
"It was neat to see all the different roles where being bilingual can help," he said. "That's kind of been my main career focus, using my bicultural background to help people."