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Wow today was an emotional day! Today we had the interviews and meetings with 3 of our build families. One from yesterday and then the two final families today. 2 Of these stories are some of the hardest yet!
Marta (26), Adenide (10), Gustavo (9) – Marta is a single mom of 2 boys. She had her first son when she was 16 and has basically raised them on her own since. 8 Years ago Marta’s husband left to go work in the states, again a common story in El Salvador. Marta has heard from her husband a few times but is no longer supporting her family and she says their relationship has ended. You can tell when she is telling us her story that she is really bothered and misses her husband greatly, even after 8 years it seems she is lost and lonely. Unfortunately Martas husband has moved to the states and has remarried and has had more children with his new wife. Marta says she knows that he is never coming back, but you can tell that she is still holding out hope, it was soooo sad! I think the hardest part for me was the loss that the boys have not having their father in their lives, and sitting there at 9 & 10 hearing this story about their father, they must understand and it must be hard for them as well. I hope this house can give Marta some new hope for a better future for herself so she can move on for herself and the 2 boys.
Guillermo, Luois, & Ingrid Beatrice – this story has touched every single one of our hearts. There is no real way to sugarcoat this tragic story. Six years ago, The father of this family shot his wife and then killed himself when he thought she was being unfaithful. This left Guillermo who is now 17, Louis who is 14, & Ingrid whos around 10 years old, with their grandparents. The grandfather has since passed away leaving the children with their Grandmother. The house that we built today was built for the children on the families land. Anyone who meets Guillermo can see the weight on his shoulders and the sadness in his eyes. While in our interview with the boys and their grandmother we asked Guillermo what this house means to him and his response was “I am the oldest so i need to do what i need to, to take care of my brother and sister” to see the weight that he holds is devastating!!!! I found it hard to even find a photo of him that he is smiling in, 6 years later. Our friend and translator, Carlos, was explaining to us that he is a great kid, still going through school, and he has had to grow up really fast and he really needs counselling, unfortunately here there are no counsellers other than pastors which wouldnt give him the type of help he needs. You feel so helpless not being able to help him!!!!!!
Sonya (30), Roberto (33), Kevin (12), Merilee (5) - I thought i would end on a possitive note after that heavy story. This family lives on the line in the midst of many of the houses that we had built last year, so we were surrounded by many of our friends which was nice! This was our last house and it seemed to go up flawlessly. This family was a very nice family with the 2 kids both in school, Merilee is in Kindergarten & Kevin will be repeating grade 5 this year. School has just started after what we would call “summer break” their school year starts in January rather than September so a lot of the kids are excited to be done school. The children only go to school in the mornings, starting at 7am – so early, and going to about noon, no matter which grade. This means we are always surrounded with kids in the afternoons which is so nice to hear the laughter and see the smiles. Roberto is a farmer & was a huge help on his house. Sonja was working as a waitress in a restaurant but had to take off work when her mother fell ill to be in the hospital with her, when she went to go back to work they had fired her for not being there. When we asked Merilee what she wanted to be when she grew up she responded by saying she wanted to be a doctor so she could take care of her grandmother. Kids have such large hearts!
After our morning of building we went back to town to the sewing center to pack food which we will deliver tomorrow after the key ceremony. For those of us who were here last year we all know how rewarding this can be, I cant wait to see the faces of our 6 first timers when they hand the people the food and see the gratefulness that the people & Families have.
Our night cap was back at the hotel and the Carries brought by some of the artisan goods that they have found in San Salvador. The scarves, purses, Pottery, & Got Goat T-shirts were snatched up, it was so neat to see things made by El Salvadorians that you cannot find at the market. The Got Goat T-shirts are an inititive to raise money for a goat project that the Berstads and McAllisters are offering in San Antonio, so far they have raised enough money for 3 goat farms around El Salvador which is amazing.
Big Day Ahead Tomorrow – Market, Key Ceremony, Food Deliveries, & Our sad Goodbyes to our friends once again!
Posted January 20th, 2012. 3 comments
Todays schedule was filled with many events, of course we had the two houses to build, but we also had a lot of fun too!
We arrived to see the holes already dug from yesterday afternoon which was a nice relief and gave us a bit of time to sort out the kinks that we hit first thing in the morning, we have always been told to expect the unexpected and roll with it, so this morning when we had no material, tools, or help, we rolled with it. Soon part of our materials arrived so we jumped on whatever we could. the tools started to trickle in and then the workers showed up! A lot of them! Unfortunately our other groups site did not get the holes dug, so they had some kinks too! We seemed to have made it through just fine as 2 more families have found happiness and hope in a new home!!!! Unfortunately we were unable to sit down with one of the families as we ran out of time, but we definitely will go back tomorrow.
The second home that we completed today was for a large family, it was very hard to get straight as to who exactly was living in the house. We can start with the Grandfather, who was not there unfortunately, as i think there were a lot of us who would like to have met this man. Coppertino is the head of this homestead for sure, he owns the current home that is on the land, and I should mention he is 90 & he has lived on the land for 90 years!!! As Gina had said last week some of the structures that were hit badly by earthquakes over the years have become unstable & the El Salvadorians are fine to cook in them & hangout as long as they can escape & run out when needed. Sleeping in a house that they are worried will collapse is not an option. Coppertino was away at work when we visited as was his son in law that will be living in the new Galvanissa home. Coppertino’s day starts at 5:00am to eat breakfast, clean the house, and head off to the farming fields. He will return at 10am when he leaves again to do some “government work” in San Vicente. This is definitely a man who works very hard. Hanging out at the house & helping build today was the rest of his family, his daughter Filomina (52), her 3 boys, Jesus (23), Joswa (10), & William (29), Jesus & Williams spouses, and then their children. This is when it gets a little confusing as to who lives there and who does not. We were finally able to clear up that Filomina, her husband & her youngest boy will be living in the house. Copperton will likely stay in the current house as he will not let them tear it down.
Also on site today we had balloon animals for all of the kids, swords & flowers were definitely popular & many of the ladies painted nails for all of the village girls, complete with flowers of course.
De-Ann was off on a special mission today, she was working down “the line” taking family photos and individual portraits. De-Ann has brought a photo printer from home this year to print photos off everynight of the children, she arrives the next day to eager faces waiting for the photos she promised. It is truly special for these kids & their families to have a photo as they dont have many. Most commonly families will have one album with all the photos of their children as babies, Baptisms, or christenings, & I have even seen soldier photos. They are so proud to show what they have so i am sure the photos De-Ann took of the families will be cherished for a lifetime!
Our day was rushed as we had to make it to the pool in time to enjoy some splashing around before closing at 4:00. When we arrived you could hear the laughter, and shrieks of joy coming from behind the hedges from all of the children of San Antonio, all 150 of them!!!!! Us Canadians made about 180 people at the pool! The children really do love the pool, i guess as most kids do, but these kids REALLY love the pool! You can just see pure joy and exhaustion on their faces at the end, after an hour or so splashing around in the pool!
Early start tomorrow ~ Buenos Noches, Asta Manana! (Good Night, See you Tomorrow)
Posted January 19th, 2012. 4 comments
Wowzas it was HOT today! Neener Neener Neener! Hope you all are enjoying the Lovely Calgary weather!
Tonight i think we will all sleep like babies from a day in 37 degree sunshine. We drank through all of the jugs of our water, had plans for 3 houses and voted to stop at 2. Many of us had been beaten by the heat and needed a break. So that was exactly what we did……..took a break! We travelled up the road to a lookout point of the volcano, the valley, and a little restaurant/cafe/bar/paradise up the road for sodas, lemonade, and Agua (water).
Alright back to the rest of our day. Another build day with hopes of 3 houses. Our first family today was a family of 5 – three boys and Mom & Dad. Dad was off at work at the sugarcane factory, he works from 2 until 10pm at the factory. Their 3 boys are Freddy (15), Jose Steven (14), Santos Ismael (11). Mom & Dad are Catalina & Freddy. This couple has a little bit of a funny beginning, when asked how they had met the whole family started to chuckle, Catalina & Freddy met at a Funeral. I guess you had to be there, cause we all thought it was pretty humerous!
Catalina’s youngest son goes to school but the oldest have chosen not to go to school because they would rather work. We had asked Ismael what he would like to do for work when he grows up and he responded that he would like to be a teacher. There are a lot of children in the community that answer the same way, hopefully someday there will be a larger need for many teachers!
When we showed up to our second site it was a sad scene. Large black tarps draped on large poles covered as a roof over their beds, a stove, kitchen table set, and hutch were also hudled under this plastic sheet, totally exposed, no protection from elements, strangers, animals & BUGS!!! This is why we are here to put roofs over these peoples head so they can sleep at night. This is another family with 3 boys, Miguel is the father of the youngest boy Oscar Mondo (3), but also raises the older 2 boys with his wife Maria. The Eldest boy, Miguel(15), and the middle boy Alex (12) both attend school during the day, when asked what they would like to do when they grow up Miguel responded that he would like to be a secretary, but Alex didnt know what he wanted to be. Both Parents in this family work, Maria works making Papoosas in a restaurant in San Vicente called “Papoosaria” & Miguel (father) repairs shoes.
When we did the final interview with this family many of us were exhausted, we were out of water, and couldnt wait to be getting back to shower and get out of the sun. It was a very nice surprise to feel so rewarded and honoured to give this family a house when Miguel asked us to come back on Friday after our key ceremony for some cake, he even asked what was our favorite kind! We were all so humbled by this & i think i speak for many of our group when i say we will not miss that opportunity for the world! Such an amazing gesture!!!!!
A nice change this year to last, is the amount of time we are getting to spend with the kids of the community. Today De-Ann became a human canvas, we danced and sang kids songs, apparently about a green frog that is very cold, complete with actions, and played a singing game about a cat and mouse that turns into a chase game. We were having a blast especially when De-Ann became the cat and had to use her Spanglish to repeat the phrases of the game – Laughter all around!
Our Newbies got another first experience today as many cattle drives strolled down the line where we were building – at least 10 times throughout the day we had to move our material for mutiple cows to pass on through. Always quite the sight!
We also got to make a stop at the corn grinders to see how they grind the corn they grow or purchase and grind it with a little bit of water to create the dough for their tortillas, this was quite a neat machine with many spinning belts that of course to us looked extrememly dangerous! It was cool to see that the whole community uses these machines daily to make the food that they are eating and that we have also eaten many times while visiting!
Well i have already told you about our fabulous winding down on a beautiful grass covered patio over looking the valley, so we will move on to Enchiladas, Boston Ice Cream Sundaes, and climbing the clock tower! A very busy day but full of many great adventures! Tomorrow is pool day & myself along with some others are really looking forward to it!
Posted January 18th, 2012. 5 comments
Our first build day has flown by just as quickly as the houses have gone up. 3 Houses in 1 Day! Yes, its’s true, a house in a few hours. Hard to believe until you experience it for yourself. I guess with a crew of over 100 you can get the job done & FAST!
Our day began with an early morning breakfast, mmmm Pancakes! We were then whisked off to the site to start building. Sites were prepped and ready for when we arrived and many people of the community had arrived to help. Our first family is a family of 6, husband & wife have been together for 32 years. Daniello Antonio wooed his wife, Rosa Lydia Sanchez Divielta, by coming to San Antonio everyday from a town an hour or so away, 3 years later they were married. They now have 2 kids, Juan Roberto(19), and Elisa Bialta (23). Elisa is a hairdresser in San Vicente, so Rosa watches her 2 children all day while she works. Gizelle Elisa is 2 1/2 and Matias Esial is 8 months. Rosa’s life has been particularily hard as her husband is in a wheelchair & does not have a lot of hope for his life most days. Antonio was walking through San Antonio one day when a group of men attacked him for his watch & pushed him off a bridge, he had broken many parts of his legs & back resulting in him being paralyzed & bound to a wheelchair. Rosa’s days are long & very hard taking care of her husband and 2 grandchildren. Her son, Juan has been working for months now to help build the other homes in the community earning his family their home. Juan also attends high school which is rather uncommon here for many children to contiune through to that level of schooling, his teachers say he is very very smart, & he will be graduating in 4 months. Finishing his high school will give him an accounting program, but his big dream is to be become a lawyer. Rosa holds a lot of hope for Juan and is very proud of her son!
The second home that we built for was a home for a mother Maria (33), her son Christian ( ), and Maria’syounger brother, Oscar(28). Their situation is quite common in El Salvador but very different from most we have come accross already. Maria’s husband of nine years, is in jail in California, he went to the states to work illegally and in turn ended up in jail. He is expected to return to El Salvador in a year at which time Maria hopes to live in her new home with her husband, Christian, and her brother. Oscar was also living in the states, in Los Angeles for 4 years but returned home to take car of his mother when his father became very ill. Maria and Oscar will now live only a couple minutes walk away from their parents. Currently Maria is not working and stays home to take care of her son, once Christian is in grade 1, Maria will start to work, when asked what she would like to do for work, she responded by saying “it doesnt matter, anything to be able to provide for my son”.
When we showed up to our third build site there was over 80 people to help!!!!!! With us Canadians we totalled over 100 workers, it was truly amazing! The community involvement is so great to see this year, Trent & Stuart, with their wives, are trying to build a sense of community for these people, you help your neighbour and they will help you, they hope that after the houses are c0mpleted these neighbours will be there for each other still. On a tight site, with 100 workers, things got going quickly & many of us didnt even know who we were building for! After all of the chaos had come to completion we all gathered to hear the story of this single mom Santos Pedrina (36) and her only son, Elmer(17). Elmer worked extremely hard on his house, digging out a large boulder from one of the post holes & working non stop! The land was donated to Santos by her aunt, who gave her the land saying that if it meant she could have a house she could absolutely squeeze it in on her land. No 4’0 minimum sideyards in this place! we will go with 2’0 sideyards on either side! To be able to support her family Santos cleans houses and does housework in the city, a very common job for many of the ladies around the villages. Elmer was asked if he had a girlfriend, he responded by holding up 2 fingers! Yes he has 2 girlfriends! They dont know about each other though, so i guess he thinks its ok, it gave us all a chuckle.
This year we meet with each family when the job is done, sit down with them as a whole group to ask them some questions, and get to know their situation. Many of us are really enjoying this as we get to know all of the families regardless if we built with them or not. The families also get to meet all of the group and see what we are all about. Dave will usually start out by thanking them for having us to their home, asking what this home means to them, and what their story is. All three of the families we built for today were very very thankful, grateful that we are there for them, and thank Jesus for giving them this blessing. I can only imagine what it would mean to be able to provide for your family and put a roof over their heads, the level of security that it offers, and have a concrete floor to have a place to at least get your feet out of the dirt. We are so lucky to represent the many people that have donated from our trades, friends, & families, and made it possible, we really are the ones receiving a gift, to experience this is truly a gift of a lifetime to see the childrens smiling faces, the laughter of happier people, and the love from someone who doesnt even know you, but hugs you anyways – so thankful!
Posted January 18th, 2012. 6 comments
Day 1 down for the second group of Stepper travellers & we are full of memories or wide eyed from new experiences. The newbies were well informed before the trip so not a lot of unexpected events, just the unknown of what it is REALLY like… … … … …
Our day of travel from Calgary to El Salvador yesterday, was long but went well, uneventful flights & a very warm welcome from our colleagues & friends when we finally showed up at the hotel in El Salvador around 10:30pm. Everyone from the first group, painted a beautiful picture in our minds of the amazing black sand beach & resort they spent the day surfing, sunbathing, shopping, & relaxing at. We had a few quick minutes to ask questions as to how the week went, what the building was really like, how our old El Salvadorian friends have been, and what their favorite part of the week was. Then it was back on the bus to make the trip to San Vicente, swerving to miss a drunk sleeping in the road, & barely missing a ratlike animal the size of my cat! And it has begun! Happy to be in the heat & eager to get the journey underway. Today I (Christa) take over writing the blog from Georgina & Vanessa, they did a fabulous job, & I will do my best to keep it up!
Our day began with a familiar Breakfast of Beans and rice, avocados, & Plantains. Followed by loading up the cattle truck and heading to San Antonio to visit our old friends at the build sites from last year and to see some of the new sites we would be building at starting tomorrow. First a pitstop to pick up Trent, Stuart, and their young gang of translators, their kids, and off to the sewing centre. Within minutes De-Ann had purchased the first quilt they had shown us, we heard about all of the great things they have set up for the single woman of the community to be able to provide for their families & where they hope the project will go in the future. This was also when we started to see a new more feminine side of Randy that we would find to continue throughout our day.
At this point our day had already seemed rather eventful but there was so much more in store for us. It was off to San Antonio to see the families we built for last year. Myself, Darrin, Murray, & Brenda all went to catch up with Walter (Dad) & Franklin (10Years old)! It was so nice to see their smiling friendly faces when we drove through on the cattle truck! We shared photos & had Kade, one of Stuarts young boys, translate for us while we caught up with Franklin & Walter & shared in a cool glass of Cola from their store. They shared stories of additions they have done on the house, took us on the tour of their home & showed us Franklins room, he said his favorite part of his room was his bed! Walter then went on to tell us that his wife, Sandra, and their 1 year old daughter, Alison, shared the other room. When we asked where Walter slept he pointed to the Hammock! We all had a good chuckle, some things are very much the same so far away! I am sure the rest of the group also enjoyed this time catching up with the rest of the people on “the line” where we built last year. Too bad we all couldnt have shared in these heart warming conversations.
We then moved on for some lunch, went to view the sites we are to build at tomorrow, & loaded up the truck for the very emotional trip down to the river where so many people had lost their lives during the hurricane a couple years back. Overall the day was very familiar for most but was very new for the 6 newbies who were able to have joined us this year. I had asked Jennifer what she was most surprised about this trip so far, she took a minute to respond but then said with tears starting to fill her eyes that she could never have expected the level of poverty that these people lived in, a similar response came from Darrin when i asked him the same thing; he couldnt believe that the people had no running water, no place to wash their dishes and lived in dirt. Brenda was amazed with the amount of Garbage! ” There is just sooooo much of it, they just throw everything on the ground” There was a broken plate in the dirt at one of our build sites, this family has a baby, and she just couldnt get over the fact that they dont pick up and dispose of such things with the baby around.
It is quite interesting to get the points of view of these first timers, it is all so familiar to what we had experieced that first day last year. I cant wait to build tomorrow and see how the process has changed, and continue to see the emotions, shock, & levels of surprise in the new 6′s eyes.
Posted January 16th, 2012. 7 comments