When I created a work plan for myself to turn into Compañeros as part of my application to volunteer in El Salvador I included that I would write a monthly report to Compañeros about what I did throughout the month. Not only would it be beneficial to Compañeros so they’d know what I was doing but it would also benefit me. A monthly report would be a time I could reflect back on what I’d accomplished throughout the month and what I’d like to do differently next month. It also works as a nice summary for my blog since I’m sure it’s difficult to get through the pages and pages of writing I do. I’ve finished writing my first report for February. A couple paragraphs I took from an earlier blog but the rest is different. Here it is:
February 7 – 13
Left Iowa for El Salvador on Feb. 7th. Trinity arrived the next day. Visited Door of the Devil, Parque Cuscatlán, Divinia Providencia, the UCA, and artisan shops with them then headed to Berlín. Next we went to El Mozote and the museum and encampment in Perquin. Visited Ankeny’s partner community, El Corozal, to see the new church that’s being built. It’s beautiful! Got to meet a couple families in the area and spent time talking with them. Walked all the way around the lagoon at Alegría. Trinity met with the Directiva in Casa de Zinc. Everyone introduced themselves and Blanca talked to the leaders about their responsibilities as part of the community. Walked door to door in Casa de Zinc passing out guacals full of food and medication. Meeting with Directiva of Casa de Zacate which is the caserío that the South Central Partnership might partner with. Went door to door in Casa de Zacate with Pastors Linda O’Connell and Betty Sandy to hand out hats and aprons. Worked on decorations for the upcoming celebration in Alejandría. Went to the market and church with Trinity.
February 14 – 20
Visited two marginalized schools in Berlín with Trinity. They handed out some school supplies to each school and sang to the children. Visited Finca Los Ángeles (still ticked off about what happened). Went to Fonda de Alegría with Trinity and said goodbye to them the next day. Betty & Maurice stayed behind. Blanca informed us of an important meeting and then told us we were going to the beach. We grudgingly followed her orders and went to Playa El Espino for the day. Went to Santiago de Maria to buy flowers for the celebration in Alejandría. Saw something called cholesterol cream but did not buy it. Spent time in Alejandría decorating for the celebration which is in honor of the electricity and water they now have. Had the celebration which was a huge event with lots of “big wigs” there. Watched a performance done by the youth group in El Recreo celebrating their native heritage. Very cool!! Greeted the Newton delegation on Friday. Went to Usulután to get tools for door to door in Muñoces and to pick out tile for Corozal church. Visited Corozal to see the progress of the church and saw David & Wilma again. Took a break on Sunday while Newton went to El Mozote & Perquin because I had run into a wall the night before as a result of vertigo. Bruised the back of my arm. Felt better after resting.
February 21 – 28
Met with the Directiva of Muñoces with Newton delegation. Made visit to physical therapy clinic here in town. I’ll be volunteering there on Friday afternoons once I start school. Spent two days going door to door in Muñoces handing out piochas (pickaxes) and rakes and asking for information about school, literacy, jobs, and water filter use. Final meeting with Directiva about projects with other organizations they’re working on, future projects, and the poor harvest of last year. As with Casa de Zinc & Casa de Zacate, Blanca took time to talk to the leaders about their responsibilities as part of the community. Helped to shop for items for Newton Christmas Bazaar. Had fiesta in Muñoces complete with food and 4 piñatas. Went 10 hours without electricity in Berlin. Had dinner in Alegría to say goodbye to Newton delegation. I got some work done on lesson plans for teaching and finally bought a phone. Helped prepare for Heartland’s arrival.
Let me explain what I’m doing with my time right now. Because of the back to back delegations and Kathy’s emergency trip to the US shortly before my and Trinity’s arrival the Pastoral Team just didn’t have time to make arrangements for me at the school. Plus it makes things a whole lot easier if I wait to start teaching until after the three back-to-back delegations are gone. It’s unusual for delegations to be so close together and it makes things really tough for the Pastoral Team. Thus, it’s much easier to have me accompany the delegations.
I’ve really enjoyed spending time with the delegations, visiting their sister communities, and seeing things through their eyes. I’ve learned a lot about the way other communities function and how different delegations work together. They’ve taught me a lot about love, compassion, friendship, and a great deal about myself. I’ve gained perspective on issues I’d never thought of before. Plus I have a whole bunch of fresh ideas for when my church comes to visit again.
I think visiting other communities and spending time with the various delegations is especially applicable to being a part of Compañeros. When people talk about their sister communities and specific projects they’re working on I’ll have a much better idea of what they’re talking about. It gives me perspective of the mission as a whole. I also have a better understanding as to why it is so important that the Pastoral Team and Kathy have a week between delegations. Sometimes I wonder how they manage to get anything done.
Apart from spending time with the delegations I get to see the people who come to the house for medication and other health requests. The kids who benefit from educational scholarships often visit the Pastoral House. I get to see the people and communities who benefit from the money Compañeros helps to raise. Visiting fincas, learning more about coffee, and spending time here with Betty and Maurice has taught me even more about coffee and how the coffee project functions.
I’ve realized that each trip and each experience has revealed to me a whole new part of the Our Sister Parish Mission. I learned a little about the mission in El Salvador in 2007 when I traveled here with my church for the first time. My second trip to El Salvador in 2009 taught me more about my own church’s involvement in the mission, but I also wanted to learn more about the entire mission itself. So after I returned I joined Compañeros. There I’ve learned about how the mission began, all the various projects the mission supports, fundraising efforts, and the relationships other churches have with cantons here.
During my six weeks here last year I got to see more of the day to day life of the Pastoral Team and learn more about what the schools are like here. In the first three weeks of this trip I’ve been able to see delegations in action which is an awesome sight. I’ve learned so much in these 4 years and I feel very fortunate to be able to have these experiences. I’m excited to expand my knowledge of the mission and to see the fruits of what everyone works so hard for.
A lot of what I’m learning also relates very well to what I learned in my social work classes in my MSW program. It relates not only to the classes I truly enjoyed but also to the ones I wasn’t terribly fond of. There was one class in grad school that I really never liked called Organization and Community Practice. I came to dislike the class so much that I developed an involuntary eye twitch because I was so stressed out. Thus, I never thought I’d use anything in the class and had no real desire to do anything on a macro level. Since I was young I had always imagined myself working one on one with people in a clinical setting as a therapist.
To find myself less than 2 years after graduation in El Salvador learning about how communities organize themselves to better their lives comes as quite a shock. To become more educated about churches in the US and NGOs in El Salvador that help families in Berlín is amazing. To realize I’m a part of Compañeros and have worked on writing policies, helped to organize a fundraiser, and gained knowledge of how to write a contract is a big surprise. This is all extremely applicable to my degree and my future career. That makes me appreciate my time here even more.