Days 8 and 9 of the SSP Service Trip in El Salvador
By Aidan Reilly
On Tuesday, we had a relaxing day together at the Costa del Sol on the coast of El Salvador. The black sand beach was the nicest I’ve been to. Despite all of us being sunburnt by the end of the day, we were recharged for our final day in El Salvador.
On Wednesday, we had a typical morning and went to work on the houses. After we finished up, we talked with one of the masons, Don Miguel, and he shared his life experience in El Salvador. He talked about his life in the seminary, his experiences with St. Oscar Romero as his teacher. He also shared his point of view on the Civil War in El Salvador and why he left the priesthood for his own safety. We all shared a goodbye with him and Don Jose, the other mason who worked with us.
We made our way to the children’s center in Las Delicias. We were able to hang out with the kids and adults there for a little while before we had a talent show. A few of the grade school kids performed their break dance routine and we danced a little bit for them as well.
We all had to say goodbye to the people at the center. It was very hard for me because I’ve made relationships with some of the people and it is hard to communicate with them outside of El Salvador. And it was also difficult to say goodbye to the kids because it is like Christmas morning for them every time we show up.
We then made our way over to the University of Central America, where six Jesuit brothers, a housekeeper, and her daughter were killed during the Civil War back in 1989. The rose garden located there stood out to me because of the two white and six red rose bushes were planted to represent the people killed there during the Civil War.
We then went back to the volunteer house and had our last reflection together. Over the past week and a half, I am unable to comprehend how good it has been for me. This is a one a kind experience that you cannot get in the United States. I saw some things I wish I could erase from my memory, but through those ugly things is where I found myself in solidarity with the poorest of the poor. I have fallen in love with the people and the country of El Salvador.
Day 7 of the SSP Service Trip in El Salvador
By Will Dapron ’20
Today was the first day of our second week in El Salvador. After a few days away from Las Delicias, we made a return to the village. We continued to help with the construction of houses by sifting through sand, evening the floor of the eventual house, and mixing mortar. Putting in the hard labor is really rewarding for both sides, as it gives the workers a good appreciation for the hard work put in and the finished product that comes out. It also is great for the community, as it will serve as a shelter for someone in great need.
After finishing up with the houses for the day, we went to the community center in Las Delicias. It was awesome to see the kids once again, as it had been a few days since we were last there. We served many people from the village lunch, and then we ate lunch ourselves. After lunchtime, we all went right into playing with the kids. I played soccer and spent a lot of time coloring with the kids. They showed great artistic ability, and one girl asked me if I wanted a picture. I said, “puedes dibujar una tortuga?” or “can you draw a turtle?” She said yes and she went on to draw me and two other guys from the group awesome pictures. Afterwards, it was sadly time to go. We packed up and headed for home.
After dinner, we had reflection and prayer time like we always do. Carla and Hiromi, who are from the village of Las Delcias and are currently studying at the nearby university, joined us. They have been staying at the volunteer house for years because travel to the University every day was very difficult for them. Carla is studying to become a doctor and Hiromi is studying to become a special education teacher. They joined us to share their stories and talk about their life journeys. It was very cool to hear first-hand stories of what it is like growing up in El Salvador. Afterwards, we had a game night while eating key-lime pie. Carla and Hiromi taught us a card game called ‘Cinco Coronas’ and we had a lot of fun together. That concluded another great day in El Salvador.
Day 6 of the SSP Service Trip in El Salvador
By Spencer Shively ’20
The day started with Mass at Don Rua Catholic Church. The church was beautiful as song echoed through the rafters. I felt lost during the Mass — not because of not knowing Spanish, but by getting lost in the beauty of the church. The way light shone in through the stained glass and reflected off of the marble floor. After Mass, we were able to go to the cathedral where St. Romero is buried. After seeing the magnificent gold and white interior, we went to the crypt below to see where St. Romero is buried.
In life, it is important that everyone can smile and laugh. Today, we had the opportunity to bring joy to a group of children in an orphanage. At the orphanage, we were put out of our comfort zones. I do not speak any Spanish and it can be difficult when children are telling you something and you can’t understand them. I was able to reach out to a child with a tennis ball and we ended up playing catch for an hour. Then, when it started to rain, I went inside and played UNO with a child and a nun. During both of the games, we would laugh when the ball would go flying over my head as he threw it back or as “plus fours” would be handed out in UNO.
El Salvador holds a beauty that is far greater than anyone would normally be able to see. There is a beauty every time we head out for the day in the friendly faces of our volunteer house helpers: Carla, Hiromi and Edgar. The encouraging voice of our Project FIAT coordinator, Lynette. This country continues to hold a beauty that is revealed through the culture and the people that reside here.
Days 4 and 5 of the SSP Service Trip in El Salvador
By Aidan Reilly ’20
On Friday, we started off the day by visiting the town where Father Rutilio Grande, a major church figure here in El Salvador, and two others were assassinated during the civil war in El Salvador.
When we arrived, we went to the place where he is buried, San Jose Church. The church was not very big, but it was beautiful and had multiple murals painted on the walls. The artist who painted the murals was fixing one of the murals. The wall depicted St. Oscar Romero, Father Rutilio Grande, Jesus, and people of many races sharing a meal together.
We then made the short drive over to the town of Suchitoto. The town was simply stunning. It was built by the Conquistadors and the town’s Spanish heritage is shown. The streets were made of cobblestone and had many small tents selling souvenirs. The center of the town had a huge church that was painted a bright white color. Several mannequins of saints and a large tabernacle were among the things that stood out inside the church.
We all split off into small groups and went out and explored the town. We all bought souvenirs to support the people of the town. I personally bought a traditional Salvadoran shirt and a ceramic mask. Lynette also brought us to her favorite café and shop in the town. The café made a fantastic strawberry smoothie. The shop was run by a family of Mayan descent who created all of their products by hand. All of the items followed an authentic Mayan style of art in which few people can replicate.
From there, we drove to a nearby lake in which we took a boat ride to an island where a hermit lived for over 20 years. There is a shrine dedicated to him in the cave he lived in and the island also include debris from a plane wreck, which was neat.
We made the long drive back to our volunteer house and closed out the night with a good meal and we watched the band Cierra Madre play for us. We all had so much fun.
Saturday was a relaxing day for all of us, and due to a minor car accident, we were not able to work in Las Delicias today. This trip is allowing me to see life from a different perspective. I speak a little bit of Spanish, therefore it is a little easier for me to talk directly to the locals and really get to know who they are.
The entire country is beautiful from the mountains to the city of San Salvador and the village of Las Delicias, and most importantly, to the people of this wonderful country. The Salvadoran people make the experience so much better for our group. I am looking forward to what the rest of the trip has in store for us.
Day 3 of the SSP Service Trip in El Salvador
By Will Dapron ’20
The third day in El Salvador was very eventful, and didn’t totally go as planned. After breakfast, we got in the van, like we always do, to go to Las Delicias and work on the houses.
During the drive, Lynette, the woman who runs our service organization, Project FIAT, decided to take advantage of the beautiful weather that we were having. In doing so, we all visited a magnificent volcano. It was a wonderful sight to see. We were lucky to have been able to see it because during the current rainy season in El Salvador, clouds are usually covering the view.
After our short visit at the volcano, we got right back to work. We mixed mortar and also leveled the floor of the house by filling in dirt where needed. After a few hard hours of work, the group began to clean up supplies and prepare to leave.
There was only one issue… the car wouldn’t start. We all pushed the car backwards while the driver was attempting to jump start it. Stubbornly, the car still would not start.
The whole group, following the Marianist characteristic of ‘adaption and change,’ began to walk to the community center in Las Delicias. During the walk, Lynette made a phone call, and instantaneously there was multiple people trying to help fix our car. This instance really showed a great sense of community with one another in the village of Las Delicias.
After making the walk, we were greeted by multiple little boys and girls yelling “gringos! gringos!” They immediately wanted to play with us but we said “necesitamos comer primero” or “we need to eat first.”
After eating, we went right into a soccer game with a few Salvadorans. There were captains picked who then picked their teams. My first pick was a girl named Clara. Right when I picked her, a huge smile shot up and she seemed so grateful that I picked her. She almost seemed surprised, as if she was thinking, “Why would he pick me, he could have picked anyone.” We went on to win the whole tournament. She was so happy the whole time, and soon began to try to practice her English with me.
After our soccer games, we had a long dance-off. We taught them a few American dances and they taught us a few Salvadoran dances. After that, it was time to go. We said “hasta luego” or “see you later.”
We had to rush back home because we were meeting a group of dancers from the university in San Salvador. They put on a show for us with their native dances, and then they taught us a dance that we all did together. There was also a group of English students that came to dance and talk to us, as an opportunity to converse with a native speaker is a pretty rare occurrence. The gifted us all locally grown pears and San Salvador keychains. Afterwards, we had pasta for dinner. The dancers came over to the volunteer house and ate with us.
To finish out the day, freelance writer Gene Palumbo came and talked to us. He was a reporter during the time of the Salvadoran war, and moved here shortly after the assassination of Archbishop Romero. He had a few interactions with Romero himself and gave us stories about him and the war.
Afterwards, the group went into a time of reflecting on the day. It was a long and eventful day, so there was plenty to reflect on. It was the best day in my opinion so far on the trip, and I can’t wait for tomorrow.
Day 2 of the SSP Service Trip in El Salvador
By Raymond Bulte IV ’20
Today was Day 2 of our service trip in El Salvador. We have already started to form bonds with the people in El Salvador, specifically with the people in the village of Las Delicias.
After eating breakfast, we got into the van and drove up to Walmart to pick up some supplies. After Walmart, we went to the village and got to work.
We started off by mixing six buckets full of sifted sand and then added a bag of concrete with a gallon of water. After that, we mixed it all together to make mortar. It was a very fast paced job, but it was also very fun. After that, we put some mortar inside the cinder blocks around the rebar.
Then, it started to rain so we took shelter in one of the houses with two young girls. We built Legos and played Jenga with them until it started to clear up. After that, I stayed with the kids a little longer and showed off some petty magic tricks and played UNO with them. It was some great fun.
Eventually, junior Will Dapron came and took my place and played with the kids. I went back to putting mortar in the cinder blocks. After we had finished up our job at the work site, we headed to the community center and ate lunch. When we got to the community center, we saw the women working on bracelets, and specifically, they were making them for my home parish of St. Cletus in St. Charles, MO! (Each year, St. Cletus sends a group to participate in this same mission here in El Salvador.)
We played tag with some of the kids at the community center. We ate lunch and then served lunch to the people. Afterwards, we played tag with the kids some more and I also built Legos with a little girl. We stopped at the bottom of a volcano and collected lava rocks.
Then, we headed back to the volunteer house. We ate dinner and watched a movie called “Roses in December.” The movie was a documentary about an American missionary who worked in El Salvador during the Civil War. After that, we had our reflection and Mr. Becvar told us the devastating news about the Blues losing in overtime!
It has been a truly amazing experience so far because the people I have met in Las Delicias have been so welcoming and loving. I have also formed new friendships with the other junior students here from Vianney. I can’t wait for tomorrow!
Day 1 of the SSP Service Trip in El Salvador
By Jack Atchley ’20
Today was the first day of the SSP Service Trip to El Salvador and it was very insightful into what the whole layout would be for the trip.
Today started off for all of us waking up at seven and getting ready for the great day ahead of us. At around eight, we departed for the village known as Las Delicias, where we began to build the final houses for single mothers who live in poverty. Before we arrived, we visited the school and met all of the kids and also sang along with the kindergarten kids in the school.
At the local school in the village of Las Delicias, the kindergarten students reminded/showed our Vianney boys how to sing and act out, “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes!” #servicejusticepeace @vianneygriffins pic.twitter.com/8XWYeQEJO1— Vianney Campus Ministry (@Vianney_CM) May 15, 2019
At the work site, we all had jobs which were either to sift the sand, to help make the mortar for the houses, or cut the tall grass using machetes and sickles within the houses. We also unloaded 500 cinderblocks, 10 cement bags and some sand from a truck.
After working for a couple hours, we went over to the community center to help feed the young children and also the elderly people that come there for food. It was very nice to meet all of the kids at the community center and play games with them.
I met a few little kids when I played soccer, which led to playing tag with the kids, then a little girl and I played around with Jenga blocks.
After we left the community center, we arrived back at the house with some time for people to rest up or to play games inside or outside the house. We had the typical Salvadorian food for dinner: plantains, tortillas, rice, puree beans, and salad.
Finally, we ended the night watching the documentary on Oscar Romero and having a reflection on the overview of the documentary we just watched.