On the Scene Reports
The 2002 St. Andrew El Salvador Mission
Day 2: October 8th

The Beams go up!

Our first day at Buenos Aires — hard work, long day, tropical heat and incredible teamwork.  Long Day…..we gathered for breakfast at 6 AM with plans to depart at 6:30

But first…those pesky locks on the big toolbox — keys for which are back at SFO — Mike Collier solved the problem after breakfast with a little power tool brute force…drilling out the cylinders.  Nothing like safecracking skills.

We then loaded the tool box in the back of a pickup truck and the team, in two pickups and Guillermo’s borrowed SUV, headed for Armenia about 30 minutes away.  In Armenia we turned down a side road which quickly deteriorated to become a heavily rutted dirt path, scarred by erosion.  No wonder they didn’t try to move that 40-foot container filled with building pieces up to Buenos Aires, and instead unloaded it in Sonsonate and transported the pieces in several trips in smaller trucks.

While we were preparing, workers had been busy at Buenos Aires, pouring the huge slab of concrete for the building foundation.  We arrived to find building beams and panels and pieces laid out on the concrete….Our first task…sort it all out so we could find needed parts at each stage of construction.

Something big happening in the village and we discovered that the current structure used for school….a tin roofed shed….was just yards from the new site.  Curious school kids on their way to classes stopped to see what was happening.  We had company.

Despite the poverty in Buenos Aires, children come to school neatly dressed in their uniforms.

After a couple of hours of initial work, we had bolted together the first of three major structural frame sections which form the core of the building.  Because we had so much “people power” between our team and willing village volunteers, we were able to pull the sections upright in two stages and then brace them in place.  The first one proved the technique worked…to the great relief of Mike, John, Gary and Cam — and all of us.

It wasn’t just adults who pitched in.  Two young boys helped their neighbors by moving heavy wheelbarrows full of dirt from an area near the slab to a dump site down the road.  The work helped level the ground at one end of the slab site and they kept at it all day in the hot sun.

Michael Irvine was busy much of the day using a roto hammer to drill holes in the concrete slab  bolts used to attach the frame columns to the slab itself.  Late in the afternoon, he attracted a few sidewalk supervisors.

That’s Leslie up front, with a crowd of village volunteers behind her.  Leslie’s look of temporary panic was occasioned by the sudden tilting of the section in front of her.

Fortunately helping hands caught the segment before it got out of hand and restored it to its upright position.  We took care to brace things solidly before departing for the night.

By late afternoon we had exceeded our initial hopes.  The three main frame sections were up as was a pre-assembled end section.  The other end section is assembled and will go up first thing tomorrow and then we hope to start adding frame-to-frame segments and then attach roof panels.  We are hoping we can get much of the roofing done before the mid-day sun takes its toll.

We were fortunate today…the team worked well together with good spirits…locating missing building pieces and finding the right tools at the right time.  We all found the tropical sun and heat a big challenge and consumed well over 30 liters of water and other liquids during our work.  But, no thundershowers to interrupt our work.  The villagers gathered in increasing crowds to watch the work and often pitched in when extra manpower was needed.  They are obviously excited to see this new structure taking shape in their village and we are excited to be working together with each other and for them.  Much work remains to be done, but we are well on the way.  Tomorrow another early start and a long day.  The people at Agape have been wonderful to us and the food has been great.  It may be cold water only for showers, but believe me, that cold water never felt so good as it did when we got back home tonight and washed off the dirt and grime.

Thanks to those of you who have sent notes of encouragement and support.  It means a great deal to us.