Today was the day. We were supposed to go to San Isidro yesterday with the delegation but it had been pouring down rain all night and when we woke up. The president of the Directiva called and told us not to come; it wasn’t safe and we probably wouldn’t make it on the roads. This morning it was not raining and I actually woke up singing “Here Comes the Sun” which I think is a good sign. The sun was actually out and I could see blue sky. I knew it was going to be a good day.
After breakfast we loaded up lots of things in the pickup and climbed in, heading for San Isidro. We could tell that yesterdays’ rains had brought with them more landslides. There was significantly more debris in the road than when we went the same route to San Isidro and then Río de los Bueyes on Tuesday. At one point during our trip we had to get out of the truck while Kathy maneuvered around a big pile of dirt in a narrow part of the road. But she made it around that part of the road just fine.
Landslide on the way to San Isidro
Mud, branches, and rocks
Idalia standing by the road after we had to get
out of the truck so Kathy could drive by a tough part
I have conquered the landslide
Cecilia walking by the landslide
Teri and Lisa trying to hitchhike
More dirt in the road
Pedro getting Weldon's pedometer that fell off
Fields in Casa de Zinc
We arrived around in San Isidro a little before 10am. There were lots of people from the community waiting when we arrived. We unloaded things and then settled in for some meetings. The first meeting we had was with several different groups and people from the community. Ivan, the president of the Directiva, started by greeting everyone and thanking them for attending. He first thanked God for giving everyone the chance to be together. He thanked the Pastoral Team and the delegation for being there with the community. Then Blanca stood up and thanked God, the community, and the delegation. This is a pretty typical way of starting a meeting.
Ivan continued by saying that even though they had lost some of the crops in the recent rain and landslides, no one in the community had died and no one had lost their home. He told the community that the storms were not a punishment from God, but that it is the fault of humanity that these storms came. The destruction of forests, building dams, and pollution have created the climate change that affects the weather here in El Salvador.
Then Ivan introduced the members of the Directiva that were present. Each stood, told us their name, and a little about themselves. The members of the women’s group and coordinator then introduced themselves. We have a meeting with them tomorrow. Then the youth group and coordinator introduced themselves. We had a meeting scheduled with them in the afternoon. Then we met the people from the community health committee, the water committee, and the civil protection committee. At that point we were running behind schedule but Ivan told us about the other committees: the rain water committee, the school board, the seed bank group, the religious committee, the agricultural committee, and the sports committee. Wow! They have a lot of groups.
We ended the meeting at 11:15am. The Directiva told us that they had a snack for us before we began walking door to door for the census. They’d made us hot chocolate and ayote. The ayote, which is a hard squash, was cooked with panela, which is a kind of raw sugar. It was pretty tasty even though I’m not a huge fan of squash. And, of course, the hot chocolate was delicious. I had two cups of that.
Ivan talking, Pedro translating
Blanca speaking to the community
Some people had arrived
There's a great smile
Not sure about the camera yet
The ayote with panela
One of the three pieces I got
When we’d finished our snack we hopped in the truck to do a little bit of the door to door census. For each house the delegation had made a packet with acetaminophen, ibuprofen, aspirin, band-aids, toothbrush, and toothpaste. They also had a card for each specific family from families in the US that would be thinking about and praying for them. At each house they would verify the people in the household, what grade their children were in, if they owned their home, if they owned their milpa (farm), if they had running water, if they had a water filter, if they had electricity, what kinds of animals they had, and if they had any fruit trees.
We were only about to get through 5 houses before lunch. We spent a lot of time at each house talking to the families. The poverty of the people always strikes me and is very hard to witness. The first house we went to was very small. The woman had a ton of laundry sitting outside where she was trying to get some washing (and drying) done. She washes all the clothes for her family on a wooden board propped up on branches. It felt like an oven inside her house even though it wasn’t that hot outside. I can’t imagine what it must feel like in the full heat of the sun.
The next house we visited was a little bigger, though it was only occupied by two people, an older man and woman. They were both extremely nice and as Blanca was admiring their aloe vera plant the woman insisted on pulling up part of it to give to the Pastoral House. We went inside to talk to them. I felt like crying when I saw the inside of their home. Like many, it was one big open area. There wasn’t even a curtain to corner off a little bedroom. Their bed was small, with a paper thin mattress and little rope and wood used as a frame. I imagined them huddled on the bed together trying keep warm and dry during these past weeks of rain.
All of the houses had laundry drying outside. Most people in the cantons haven’t had clean or dry clothes for over a week. I hoped the sun would stay out long enough to dry the clothes out. The last house we visited that morning was owned by one of people who was accompanying us. He lives there with his daughter, grandson, and his niece. His grandson was born unable to move his legs so he has a wheelchair. His 14-year old niece only finished 6th grade and now stays at home to help with domestic duties. Today his daughter, who is 24, was off in Berlín doing some shopping since it’s market day. So we chatted with them for a while until we needed to head back to the church for lunch.
Inside the first house
A bike against the wall
Place to grind corn
Outside their home
Marie and Pedro getting information
A little shy
Jeans hanging out to dry
Another beautiful family
Inside their home
We had a quick lunch of hamburgers, rice, and salad that Idalia had prepared for us. Someone in the community brought tortillas and lemonade for us to have as well. It was delicious and everything went down fast. We needed to hurry because around 1pm the delegation had scheduled some time with the kids in the community. There was going to be a party with bracelet making, piñatas, and snacks.
As soon as we’d finished eating the delegation went out to meet the children and their families. They briefly told the group what we were going to be doing and then we broke into groups. I sat down with several parents and kids around me. I explained and showed them how to make their bracelets. They picked up on it fast and before I knew it all the moms were helping their kids make bracelets. The kids each had one and I’m pretty sure the moms also made one for themselves. Then everyone made one bracelets to send back to the US for the kids at the delegation’s church, Covenant Presbyterian.
When we’d finished making bracelets it was time for the piñatas. The kids had seen us bringing them into the church in the morning so they were excited. First it was the girl’s turn with the Dora the Explorer piñata. After that piñata burst and the girls collected the candy it was the boy’s turn with the Barney piñata. They also had a great time whacking the piñata until it split open and candy flew everyone. Though the piñatas could potentially be dangerous they were a ton of fun and no one got hurt.
Then all the kids got in line to receive cookies and juice as a snack. Following them were the woman and then the men. Everyone sat down and talked for a while as they enjoyed their food. There were several adorable children including two twin girls, one of whom looked like she was guarding her food. Soon people from the community began to leave since we had two more meetings that afternoon. We waved goodbye and said we’d see them again tomorrow.
This little guy is cute
Picking out beads
Helping her kids
Showing her son
Lots of people
Blanca working with the kids
Getting more beads
Bracelets for the kids in the States
Showing me his bracelet
Helping the girls
I love her dress
The moms had fun too
Hanging the rope for the pinata
He got Dora's leg
Now Barney's leg fell off
And down comes the candy
Lining up for snacks
Enjoying the food
Guarding her food
Next the delegation and Pastoral Team spent time talking to the youth group. The group started a year ago as a spiritual group but has developed to become a social group as well. Right now their dream is to learn skills that they’ll be able to use at a future job. They’d sent a solicitude to the church in the US to start a sewing group. They want to make bags, scarves, shirts, pants, etc. They might even be able to make the school uniforms if they learn the skills.
The delegation thoroughly discussed all their ideas with them including if they wanted to sell things, if they needed a teacher, a location they could sew, start up costs, if there’s a market for these goods, etc. The idea of making other artisan goods was also bounced around in the group. We specifically discussed jewelry making and other small things. Tomorrow we’re going to bring some artisan goods and jewelry to show the group to give them ideas of other things they could make. All in all it was a good meeting with a great group of kids.
Our final meeting of the day was with the Directiva. When asked what the biggest need of the community was, the group responded that it was education. Right now it’s a matter of economics and transportation. The school in San Isidro only goes through 6th grade. So if the kids want to continue on then they have to go to either Río de los Bueyes or San Francisco. It takes an hour or more to walk to Río de los Bueyes and there is no transportation. To get to San Francisco they’d have to walk to the main road by Casa de Zinc. From there they could catch a truck which would cost $1 each way, something that most families can’t afford.
However, even if the families can afford it, the girls usually don’t go because it is too dangerous for them to be walking or riding. So most girls in the community don’t go past the 6th grade, if they even make it that far. And unfortunately the community isn’t able to get a third cycle (7th – 9th grade) teacher at the school because the school doesn’t support that and there aren’t enough students for another teacher to be approved by the Ministry of Education (MINED). So that’s something for the delegation to think about.
The other things the Directiva wanted to talk to the delegation about before they left were the effects of the rain on the crops. Right now, people have lost an average of 25% of their corn crop and 50-75% of their bean crop. It’s very depressing, but they said thanks to the fertilizer and beans they received, they at least had something to harvest. To help prevent future problems, the community has a seed bank. Of course, they first need seeds to put in the bank in order for the bank to be helpful. Hopefully they’ll be able to start a little this year.
With that, the meeting was over. It had been a long day and was close to 5pm when we left. I’m sure tomorrow will be another great day in the community.