University of Cincinnati
Students from the University of Cincinnati once again visited El Salvador for an Alternative Spring Break. Between March 20 – 27, ten students chose to spend their break from school building homes and getting dirty while having many adventures along the way. The students were representatives of the UC service group Serve Beyond Cincinnati which has been sending groups to El Salvador through the Fuller Center since December 2007.
One student, Lane Hart, managed to leave Cincinnati early in order to spend a few extra days exploring El Salvador on his own. He took the opportunity to check out the sites in San Salvador, go on a zip-line canopy tour, and taste lots of local treats. Check out his travel blog here for ideas about your next visit to El Salvador.
After Lane was joined by the rest of the team, the group set out on a few adventures before getting to work on Monday. The first step was a day at the beach which culminated in group surfing lessons in the beach town of El Zonte. After a Sunday church service the team visited a local market before hiking at La Puerta del Diablo (The Door of the Devil).
The small group did a ton of work in 5 days. Their first task was to finish a Greater Blessings project in Chiltiupan by pouring a floor for a family in an existing home. Back at Villa Fuller, they spent the next day pouring the walls for a new home alongside a small group of local workers. For the same house, the team spent time in the remaining part of the week stripping forms from the newly poured house, preparing the floor, and pouring a new concrete floor. On other homes around the project team members helped prepare the steel wire mesh for a new duplex and apply the exterior decobloc surface to nearly finished homes.
Lance Durbin, a former Fuller Center El Salvador trip participant and trip leader from the University of Cincinnati, also joined the group by the end of the weekend. Lance will be living and working with the Fuller Center in El Salvador as a business and finance coop student until the end of May. Among many things, Lance will be working to create sustainable business plans that could fit within several of our project communities. The businesses will aim to create skills, provide jobs, and promote economic viability within El Salvador.
2 Baptist Churches + 2
Between April 2 – 10, we were visited by a small group representing the First Baptist Churches of Dayton and Springfield, Ohio. The team was led by Rev. Dr. Kenneth C. Whitt, of Springfield, Ohio, who is also the father of Fuller Center El Salvador staff Micah Whitt. Adding to the family reunion was Micah’s sister Lauren and brother-in-law Jeff Akers from Columbus, Ohio who joined the group for the workweek after an adventurous 3-day weekend. We battled the holiday beach traffic, hiked around the Devil’s Door, surfed the waves, explored the caves, and sampled all the local flavors we could handle.
Work started Tuesday morning and continued through Friday. The 7-person team fought some extreme temperatures while moving and compacting lots of dirt, making concrete and pouring a sidewalk, patching walls, and applying decobloc.
Beyond moving dirt and pouring concrete, most people in the group took a lot of initiative in getting to know the local people. They took the time to learn the stories of the local Fuller Center staff and of the volunteers working toward their new home. Rev. Whitt (as well as a few other volunteers) felt blessed with a level of Spanish speaking skills that allowed them to also take time to speak with and learn from the families currently living in Villa Fuller. Whitt says he spoke to each family about their hopes and their dreams for their lives and their children’s lives. He spoke with the families about education and about setting up their lives for success.
While at the work site, several members of the volunteer team, local Fuller Center staff, and community members also managed to squeeze in a daily game of soccer after lunch and before returning to work. While playing in work boots and already being tired may have made the games more challenging, and probably delayed the start of afternoon productivity, the experiences were more than valuable to everyone. Sports can be one of those universal languages that brings everyone together, crosses boundaries, and strengthens bonds.
The 5 person group from the Dayton-Springfield area spent a second week around El Salvador visiting the ministry sites of the American Baptist International Ministries Association in El Salvador. ABC Missionary Kim Kushner coordinated the second part of the groups trip in order for their home churches to be able to learn more about what Baptists are doing in and how the church families can become involved in El Salvador over a long term basis.