The Presbytery of Long Island Delegation left the Pastoral House in the wee hours of the morning of the 14th. The WEE hours!! I went back to sleep after they left.
This was a fabulous week shared with a group of kind-hearted folk! They partner with the community of Santa Cruz; a village of 45 families.
They have been in partnership with Santa Crúz for 5 years. They support the community in many ways. They provide an annual gift of 2 sacks of fertilizer. They have repaired the roof of the old school which serves as the only place they are able to hold general assembly meetings as an association. They provide scholarships to the middle and high school students which mostly helps with transportation to the school which is several kilometers away. One year, they gave each family a 750 liter water collection tank. We thought it was big at the time. It was helpful to have a place to capture rain water when it fell or the once a month running of the piped in water. Last year, they brought and installed water filters in every home (google: Filters of Hope Long Island Presbytery and pure water!) for their consumption. Each family got two 5-gallon buckets with the filter. One to put in the dirty water to be filtered, the other to store the clean water after it has been filtered. This way, families can pour as much water as they can use in a day and always have a back up supply. If properly maintained, the filter could last easily 10 years. This year, they began a new project!
One of our ‘requirements’ is that we North Americans need to respect the Directiva (the elected village leaders) of any community. We listen first. Then if a project is feasible and within the means of the partner church, we all put our heads together to try to make it so. Last year, Santa Crúz made a solicitude for humble in ground concrete water collection reservoirs to be able to capture more water. They would have cost about $125 each. The delegation leaders wondered about larger Rotoplas water collection tanks. They would last longer, survive an earthquake, hold more water than the ‘blueprints’ showed for the in ground system. The water would be better protected from the elements (bugs, dirt, debris, etc.). Children couldn’t accidentally fall into them … There was lots of conversation. The problem is, a larger tank is very expensive. The community would not be that pushy as to ask for such a pricey gift. But Long Island folks wanted to provide for the same need, but in a safer manner. So this year, the first wave of tanks were delivered! 18 families received a 5,000-liter water collection tank. They are HUGE. People are so happy. It might take 2 more years for everyone to receive their tank, but they know they will eventually come. This was a huge financial commitment on the part of the Presbytery of Long Island. We are so grateful for their efforts.
The delegation was hoping to help out with building some of the concrete platforms needed for the tanks. Sadly, if we wanted to see the tanks delivered and set up – to take photos which will encourage donors for the next phase of tanks – the concrete platforms needed to be done ahead of time because they need about a week to dry and set. We did come up with a plan B for some actual work though; we arranged for materials for 3 platforms to be delivered to the community and those who wanted to work were able to help out in the construction of the bases for the next wave of tanks. They can be built ahead of time without fear of degrading in a year.
So while some of the delegation lead and enjoyed some activities up at the little school in the village, the other members schlepped big rock, shovel mixed cement, poured concrete, helped level, etc. They got to see the process – all done by hand – of building a concrete platform. There were 3 young men aged 15, a young man and a young woman aged 22, one of the delegation leaders and me (mostly translating) helping with the platform. We all have a greater appreciation for the abilities, strength and stamina for hard work that our Salvadoran partners have. It was very humbling for us to see them in action!
On this trip, we spent a day doing historical itineration in San Salvador, we spent a full day going to El Mozote (where there was a horrible massacre of over 1000 people – including 467 children), we visited the Perquin Museum of the Revolution and the Guerrilla encampment. We spent 4 days in Santa Crúz walking door to door to visit every family and deliver gift bags of food and laundry soaps, spent two mornings at their little school doing some very cool activities (even painting a lovely picture like they do at Pinot’s Palette places), we helped build a water tank base, had a meeting with the scholarship students, 2 meetings with the Directiva and had a big party at the end of our time with 4 pinatas filled with candy, ice cream, sandwiches, juice and music from the local group (a base, a guitar, bongo type drums, 2 violins and singing!)
At the door to door visits, we presented the gifts but we also asked questions so we could learn more about their struggles. Everyone there are subsistence farmers. We asked how much land they have to plant. Do they rent or own that land? How have their crops fared with the lack of rain (basically, everyone’s crops have dried up and are lost. Not good for people who rely on their crops to feed themselves all year long!)
We asked if their children are in school, in what grade and then we would ask the children what their favorite subject was and if they thought school was hard. Oh – the delegation also brought little back packs for all the children under the age of 16. They were filled with dental care items, a towel, a little stuffed animal, colored pencils, a sharpener, etc. Boy, did the children love that!
We asked if they had any issues with their water tanks; if they were cleaning them every week and if they saw a difference in their overall health. The resounding answer was yes to that! One lady said she had the beginnings of kidney problems and now she has no symptoms. Fewer parasites, diarrhea, headaches, stomach pain, etc. What a joy to hear!
At our meeting with the Directiva, it was agreed that the church and the community would joyfully sign a new covenant of partnership for two years. (Renewable indefinitely!)
It was a full week.
On the last day, we took the Pastoral Team to the beach. It was an hour and a half ride to El Espino. There weren’t too many shelter areas – some looked pretty sketch. But we landed in a place that set up tables and chairs for us and strung 6 or 7 hammocks. We were able to swim a bit, walk the beach and look for shells and sand dollars. That is, until the tide came up like a wild beast! We literally lost any beach space. And were getting soaked even at the higher level we were sitting by some “angry” waves! We kept having to move the tables back. It was kind of funny, till Clark’s phone got drenched by a wave. Luckily it ended up ok. We stuck it in a baggie of uncooked rice as soon as we got back. Whew.
I cannot thank this group enough for their love, generosity, time, hard work, sweat, jokes, friendship, affection, service … son mis palabras.
Enjoy the photos!