On the Scene Reports
The 2002 St. Andrew El Salvador Mission
Day 5: October 11th

Closing In…

We’re nearing the finish line.  Friday was a busy day with work teams installing siding, and the start of installation of the roof and interior partitions, plus windows and doors.  Gary Stein began trimming the siding along the top of the end roof beams using a powerful Sawzall to slice through metal.  For workers inside, it was akin to being inside an oil drum while the top is being cut off.

Mike Collier oversaw the assembly of gutter sections which were fitted atop the walls and under the roofing.  It took a big team of mission volunteers and village workers to move 40 feet of gutter into location for installation… something like a Chinese Dragon.

Ladders were put into place along the side walls and the gutter sections were raised into place and screwed to the top beams.

At the school, youngsters were busy coloring using new sets of colored pencils and pens donated by the project.

The girls in the class then put on a show for their visitors, dancing the macarena amid lots of giggling.

We had visitors today.  Guillermo’s mother and father and his brother (l) came to see the project and its progress.  Mr. Gonzalez has been very helpful in coordinating site preparations including construction of the concrete slab.

Other visitors included relatives of Mike Collier’s mother, a native of El Salvador.  As word spreads within the family, more relatives keep showing up at Agape.  We are beginning to wonder if everyone in El Salvador is related to Mike or Guillermo.

Lunchtime was approaching and again the women of the village prepared our meal, this time setting up a portable grill to make papusas…a favorite dish in El Salvador.  It’s a tortilla filled with meat, beans or cheese and cooked on the grill.  We ate LOTS of papusas…..

…along with a special treat…fresh cocoanuts brought by Mike Collier’s cousin, who deftly sliced them open with a machete.  After drinking the cocoanut milk, we returned the husks and he cut them open to extract fresh cocoanut meat….delicious.

After lunch, Guillermo, Whitney Evans and Doug Webster drove back to Acajutla, the El Salvadoran port city, for a special event, a meeting of members of El Salvador New Horizons (ESNH) and citizens of the barrio of Acajutla.  Our representatives are all on the board of USA New Horizons, a private non-profit charitable organization formed to aid our El Salvador efforts.  El Salvador New Horizons has a similar purpose and its board members were on hand as we all met in the brand new community building constructed with funds from ESNH, and the federal and city governments.  ESNH managed the project in a new public/private partnership.  The meeting was held to begin setting policies and procedures for use of the building as a community center and educational resource.

As beautiful as the center was, it contrasted sharply with the deep poverty of the barrio.  Children play next to a ditch in the street which carries raw sewage and garbage from the primitive homes built of concrete, tin and wood.

A pig feeds on the street.  ESNH wants to take on additional projects to help Acajutla.  On the agenda are improvements to the local soccer field to give kids a place to play safely.

We returned to Buenos Aires late in the afternoon to find that the rest of our team had made great progress.  Doors and windows had been cut into the sidewalls, nearly all of the roofing and siding was in place and gutters were installed.

It’s beginning to look like a real building (and getting harder to take photographs which show the full scale of the structure.)  Tomorrow, more interior walls go in, windows and doors are installed, roofing and siding are completed.  We also meet with community leaders before the first of our team begins heading home Sunday evening…..Mike and Cam have to be back to work, and we’ll miss their expertise (and Cam’s Spanish translation skills) as the rest of us stay to finish work on Monday and Tuesday.

When the new school term starts in January, Buenos Aires will have three teachers instead of one and more of the village’s students will be able to go to school near home instead of walking long distances.  And more kids will be able to go to school instead of standing outside and looking in.

We are inspired in our work by the recognition that one of the universal desires of mankind is for a better life for our children, and the knowledge that education is a critical element in achieving that desire.  We also were pleased to learn this morning that former President Carter had been awarded this year’s Nobel Peace Prize for his long-standing efforts at promoting democracy and grass roots development in countries around the world.   We can’t solve all of the challenges of world poverty by ourselves, but if more of us contributed, time, money and resources to reaching out to just one place in need elsewhere in the world, we can have an impact…and a better understanding of the terrible impact of deep poverty.

Tonight, an evening of fun as we celebrated Kitty’s birthday at dinner.  We also invited our two Agape drivers, both of whom also had birthdays today.  Cam helped with translation as we all shared information about ourselves and our families and life in our two countries.

They treat us well at the Agape hotel.  Kitty found a happy birthday banner in Spanish when she got home tonight.