On the Scene Reports
The 2002 St. Andrew El Salvador Mission
Day 6: October 12th


The construction work continued and the pace was intense as we teamed with villagers of all ages working inside and outside to complete elements of the building system.  Lisa and Dave Irvine installed end panel braces needed to hold the roofing in place.

Mike Collier worked with one of the village volunteers installing wooden window casings into spaces cut into the siding.  Villagers worked everywhere and were quick studies.  A team of four installed door handle/lock sets on a dozen doors during the morning.  Not bad when you realize that this is a village which presently has no locking doors.  All the instructions were delivered in gestures and rudimentary Spanish.  Their work was perfect.The heat and humidity are constant and this is actually a cooler part of the year in El Salvador.  Our Springtime is when it gets hottest.  We and the villagers were consuming large volumes of liquid each day including two large jugs of water like the one Cam is using to pour drinks for village volunteers…and lots of Gatorade.

Michael Irvine, the youngest member of our group, has been a tremendous worker…seemingly all over the building at once.  But when it comes to cute little babies, who can resist?  Mike’s wearing earplugs because tasks today included cutting holes in siding for windows and doors, and trimming siding at the top of the final end panel…both VERY noisy jobs.  We handed out earplugs to villager workers too and the kids held their ears.Just before lunch we had a very interesting walking tour of part of the village.  We quickly learned that the building site is one of the few flat surfaces in the community.  It was down one steep dirt path and up another to reach one of the fields cleared on a steep hill in the tropical jungle to grow corn and beans.  The two crops mingle perfectly…the corn drying on the stalk, protecting the kernels within, and the beans using the stalks as poles to climb and spread.

The farmers of Buenos Aires are increasingly sophisticated.  They are exploring new cash crops like tomatoes, bananas, pineapple, papayas, and fast growing woods.  Farmers are pooling resources to market their crops at better prices and they are utilizing good environmental practices.  The ditch between Kitty and Mike traps water running down hill to prevent erosion and slowly filters it into the local aquifer, feeding a well and pump system which delivers good clean water to village homes.  Their environmental stewardship has won them foundation cash awards which they have used to purchase the additional land needed for the new building.

The young girls of the village have really bonded with Leslie, Lisa, Cathy and Kitty.  Today, Leslie opened a beauty parlor, doing hair braids for several of the girls. When she was done, we took a group picture of the girls whose hair she had braided AND a few other kids who joined the party.

Ah the joys of digital photography… which has created something of a monster for team member and webmaster, Doug Webster.  Kids learned quickly that once a picture is taken with the digital, if they surround him and call out “Quiero ver” (I want to see!), he will show them the photo on the screen on the back of the camera.   Of course, every time the camera is spotted, crowds of kids beg to be photographed and then swarm the cameraman begging to see the results.  The cameraman frantically covers the front lens to keep kids from trying to press their noses to THAT end of the device thinking they can see the shot THERE, and when LOTS of kids are in the photo, the stampede is on as soon as the shutter is snapped.  Given the fact that the children of Buenos Aires are both persistent and just plain adorable, you can understand why our arsenal of several hundred photos is heavily weighted to kids.

You don’t see many photos of Doug because he is mostly behind the camera, but Leslie took this one and Doug, of course, was quickly joined by another batch of his friends….and you can guess what they asked next!

We were honored today to be visited by the mayor (r) of the town of Armenia (of which Buenos Aires is a part) and by a regional representative of the Salvadoran Department of Education.  Guillermo and Cam translated as both gentlemen expressed their thanks to the mission team and the village for their joint efforts to improve the quality of life of the village and the opportunities for education.  In January, when the next term starts, the town’s one teacher will be joined by two more, and classes will be offered through sixth grade.  For many students in Buenos Aires, that will enable them to go to school in the village, instead of making a long walk round trip to and from Armenia, over primitive dirt roads and across a stream and railroad bed…both of which present their own hazards.

Cam and Mike Collier have to head home tomorrow (Sunday).  The rest of the team remains to finish our work Monday and Tuesday before we also head north next Wednesday.  Late in the afternoon, before we headed back to our hotel in Sonsonate, the team and many of the villagers gathered in the building for a group photo.  There wasn’t quite room to get everyone in the shot, but the emotions we all felt and shared will be something we will always treasure.  The fact that one of the mothers handed her baby (in the pink dress) to Whitney to hold underscores the bonding we have all taken part in.

The head of the village council said the villagers were moved by the fact that the mission team had come a long distance, at their own expense, taken time off from work and left families to come and help them create something better for their families and especially their children.

And yet the team will tell you that we have received so much more than we have given or sacrificed.  The building is a testament to God’s power for good when people work together.

Cam and Mike depart Sunday evening from San Salvador airport and will be departing Sonsonate in the morning.  The rest of the group plans to attend a 9 AM mass at Father Mucci’s Agape cathedral just around the corner from our hotel, and then visit a couple of villages noted for native crafts, and accept an invitation to visit a beach club in the afternoon.  On Monday we’ll be back at the village for the next-to-last day of our mission.