|Notre Dame and El Sauce, working in solidarity to fill sand bags to protect the community's water tanks, in danger of being carried away since the river changed course in Hurricane Ida Nov. 09|
Thank You Indianapolis! You raised over 5k to support CEIBA and VMM (the Volunteer Missionary Movement , who supports Beth's position financially and spiritually for the next 2 years).
The money raised directly for CEIBA will support completion of projects until Novemeber, our registration as an official NGO (coming Jan/Feb 2011!!), and the formation of our newest endeavor, Disaster Prevention for Children ages 6-12 as a follow up to trauma therapy. We still need to raise another $2,000 to pull this off! We are in conversations with UNICEF for funding, and have already raised half the money ($2,000) from CIPJES El Salvador. Since the project costs $4,000, we need YOU to match what the Salvadorans have already raised!
|Ming at Santa Maria's Organic Farm|
During my homestay in a rural community called Joya Grande, I asked Andrea, a girl from my family, what she plans to do in the future. Blanketing her true emotions with the most positive smile she could muster for the foreigners, she replied, “Yo no tengo una futura” .
Andrea is eighteen years old and has a five year old son. And when I realized that I wouldn’t be meeting the father, I couldn’t help but let those silent words sink deep into my mind. Hope. Is there any left in this community? How can they think of a bright future when their minds are engrained with a past full of destruction? Whether it was the Civil War, a natural disaster, or even the machismo culture, the histories of these people is tainted with both physical and mental damage. And so, for Andrea and many others of Joya Grande and Santiago Texacuangos communities, her words are not that far from reality. A university education is attainable for some, but the majority will end up working jobs that only fulfill the basic necessities. They do not have enough money to move out of the community. They are stuck. And living in an area that is considered uninhabitable by the Salvadoran government, the people of Joya Grande are sitting ducks in a land full of natural disasters.
Hurricane Ida occurred in November 2009. But for the people of Santiago Texacuangos, the destruction left in its wake is a constant reminder of the past. Ask any local, and they can show you the ruins of houses that were destroyed by landslides and flooding. Then they’ll put a concerned look on their face and tell you, “Dos personas se murieron aquí”2. But if it’s one trait that has kept these communities running, it’s solidarity. Through the unity of the people, a hope has emerged. Colectivo Ceiba is a non-governmental organization that emerged through the collaboration of local community leaders, such as Mercedes Monges, and Fulbright Scholar Beth Tellman. My ten days volunteering for Colectivo Ceiba with students from Notre Dame and Santa Clara University has been a life-changing experience.
|Ming Painting a mural with the Art Therapy Class|
Beth, the coordinator for Colectivo Ceiba, jokingly told us that after coming to El Salvador, we will be “ruined for life” because we will always want to return. Now I see that she really meant “blessed for life” because it is truly a blessing to be able to live with and serve these Salvadoran people.
Nevertheless, even if other plans get the better of us and we don’t return, those wonderful people are always in our minds and hearts, and the bonds we made with them are always with us. And it is those connections, those human interactions, which really impact me. To get a glimpse of their lives, their situations, their mentality, makes me realize even more that we, Americans, are not the only ones living on this earth. It has made me loathe my world of mundane concerns. We worry about getting wet in the rain, while they worry about dying in the rain. It should not be an option, but a moral responsibility, to help.
This trip has also reassured me of my definition of success. Success should never be measured by how much we can help ourselves, but by how much we can help others. I remember asking both of my homestay families if they would want to live in the United States. And both families replied as if it were the most obvious answer. Of course they wanted to. Whether or not this is a result of Americanization is questionable. But if I could serve people to make them love and have hope in their country and be happy with the lives they are living, then I will truly be successful.
|Ming with his host brothers in Joya Grande, Brandon and Marvin|