This Spring Break, St. Teresa's Academy was one of the schools that joined us to serve the poor in Central America. They spent their time working in Chiltiupán, Soyapango, and San Luis Talpa, a few of our projects in El Salvador. Sister Rose had identified 300 families in Chiltiupán without bathroom facilities, so the team spent a lot of their time building latrines for families in the mountains. They also did maintenance projects, like painting and spackling, and spent time making friends with the local schoolchildren.
Throughout the week, they kept journals of their experiences. Below, you will find their experiences in their own words.
This morning there was confusion about what time it was in El Salvador, so when hoping to get up at 7 we got up at 6 instead. A few of us headed to the beach and attempted to save the life of a fish. It was Anne's first time on the beach, so it was cool to share that with her. After a breakfast of pancakes and fruit we had a team meeting and started off on our journey to the Cathedral where Oscar Romero's tomb lies. Though we could hardly understand the words it was a pretty amazing experience to be at the burial site of such an inspiring and important man. Next we headed off to lunch where we all spent a whopping $3 on a delicious lunch of pupusas. We then took a long car ride up a volcano to walk a trail. The views were spectacular and we got plenty of pictures. We then headed to the artisan markets. We were bombarded with "Blanket?" "T-shirt?" "Hammock?" After spending most of our money, we headed back to our place exhausted after a jam packed day. A quick nap on the car ride, however, was all we needed before jumping in the ocean to ride some waves until dinner. Another group from New York arrived and we got to know them over a dinner of beans, rice, and meatballs. After dinner, some Brazilians staying in the house started a bonfire on the beach and sang some Bob Marley and Jack Johnson accompanied by a guitar and an accordion. It was the perfect ending to a perfect first day in El Salvador. We are looking forward to what the rest of the week will bring. Adios!
Hola! Today, March 17, was our first day at our work site (and St. Patty's Day!). We took our vans to the base of a mountain and climbed in the bed of a huge work truck (very common here) and braced our bottoms for the bouncy ride up the mountain. Traveling through miles and miles of abject poverty was definitely eye opening. Not to mention the tin roof houses and one room school houses. However, the smiles on the kids' faces in the school we visited showed no signs of disturbance or sadness. The majority of the day was spent working with the locals to mix concrete for latrines in houses that had no bathrooms. In thanks, an 87 year old woman invited us to her kitchen and taught us how to make handmade tortillas and her garden of bananas. The day was sweaty, but full of smiles, small children, cement, and Spanish.
Today we had awesome French toast for breakfast. Then at 7:30 we loaded up the vans and drove to the worksite. Again, we took a long ride in the truck until we made it to the "suburb." Once we were there, we split and started working on multiple latrines. We mixed cement, poured it, filled in the bricks, and much more! We also handed out toys and candy to the kids that were around. They loved it! Then we had a really good lunch. We had meat, rice, and tortillas. Also we each got a drink with one piece of ice in it which was one of the most exciting things for us! It was very refreshing.
After lunch we finished the work on the latrines and then went to the school. We taught them some English and showed them pictures of America. They had so much fun learning the English words. After that we played a game of soccer which was so much fun. A lot of the kids enjoy soccer, so a lot of them joined in and we had a really great time! We got really dirty but didn't care. Then it was time to go and we headed back to the house. When we got home, we took a swim in the ocean, showered, and had dinner. We had incredible chicken with a really yummy melon-type thing, and bread. We played cards and then hit the beds.
Another incredible day! The best part was that the kids remembered us from yesterday! Can't wait for the rest of the week.
Reflections After the Trip
"It makes your appreciation for everything you have so much bigger. We often don't think about or try to help those living in poverty, we just put it off because we do not want to confront it- but in El Salvador we lived it. It has to be the most humbling experience ever to come back from a third world country to the wealth we live in every day."
"There's something about the way that the people of El Salvador light up, even when you're just talking to them, that makes the work incredibly rewarding. Those interactions are something I will carry with me forever. I was so incredibly blessed to have gone on the trip: both in the light of our service and in the culture I was able to experience."
"My time in El Salvador was incredible. I was able to meet some of the most inspiring people, while learning about their culture in a hands-on way. Although the work was tough and tiring, I could not believe the feeling when I saw the impact we made on the El Salvadorans. Their smiles and "Holas" as we passed down the streets was a sight I will never forget."
"Going to El Salvador was an eye-opening experience that made me realize how fortunate we really are, but even more, it showed me that our main purpose in this life is to spread God's love."