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When I went to El Salvador I had heard many good things but nothing could have prepared me for the experience I had while I was there. While the trip centers around helping to build a house for a family, there is so much more to it. We were immersed in the culture and by the end of the trip, we felt as if we were part of the community. Working together with the people of El Salvador makes you realize that you are truly part of something so much greater, and that you truly have the power to make a big impact on the world
The journey to El Salvador encompasses a multitude of eye opening lessons. As a young person this is important in order to shape your present and future adult self. At least I find this to be true for myself as I reflect today. Among the many lessons I have encountered through experience, the most memorable was the love and generosity from those who face the hardships of poverty each day. I initially learned this from a man who sells honey for a living. At the time I was 16 years old making $9 an hour at the local grocery store. This man didn’t even make half of my hourly wage in one day, and he was a father with a family to take care of. This man was local friend of the organization who the group visited many times before. I was simply a newcomer who was carrying gifts from past travelers, which after I then realized why this man and his family receive such love from those back home. The man offered me honey to take home with me as a thank you. You see the truth behind honey for me is that “Salvadorans will give everything, even if they have nothing”.
While our primary goal was to provide a bit of perspective for my child, I found the trip to be quite enriching as well. El Salvador is a very beautiful country, with warm, friendly, and hardworking people.
The kids were just awesome! They took quite a bit of pride in their appearance, with their white school shirts, well – white! Even with living on dirt floors, without running water, and having to walk miles to school, simply unbelievable, but true. And while visiting the school, you could imagine these kids anywhere, the shy kid, the brain, and the class clown.
The children were clearly loved and well cared for, and we spent some time with one of the younger groups walking the grounds, playing wiffle ball, and spontaneously leaping off of stairs… Seriously, this little girl with whom I had been walking just stopped and when I turned around leaped into the air without a second thought. And it is the spirit of that “leap of faith” and the hard work we witnessed that I hope this younger generation can help break this society out of the cycle of poverty with our continued support.
My experience in El Salvador with Epilogos was life changing to say the least. I had the opportunity to stay on the same work site for the entirety of our trip, and worked as a translator to bridge the language barrier between most of our crew and the family. Being able to communicate with their two children and parents while at the same time building them a home was so incredibly rewarding. Alejandro and Tomas were about nine and two years old. Tomas would watch for a far and only come out when he saw we had candy or finger puppets for him. Alejandro became a member of the team, participating first hand in the production of his new home. The progress we made from the first to the last day was astonishing, but the transformation of our team was just as great. Together we realized the value of hard work and how the effort of some can affect an entire community. Epilogos gave me my first glance into the realm of international service; a journey that I hope to continue again with this program and with many others. Little things like playing soccer against a middle school, or playing tag with the kids from outside of town, created the opportunity for both our cultures to unite; where foreigners and civilians become one people. One moment that sticks with me still today, almost a year later, was what one of the children we met at that soccer game said to me. “Pasar tiempo con todos ustedes me da ganas de aprender inglés.” Spending time with you all makes me want to learn English. One afternoon. One experience. Changed his perspective on us and possibly life in general. Epilogos may be a program that helps build houses in San José Villanueva, but it creates so much more. Friendships. Community. Serenity. Hope.
By traveling to the community of San José Villanueva, El Salvador, my eyes were opened in unimaginable ways. I have not only been able to recognize the importance of service but how I must take the time I am granted on earth to positively impact as many lives as possible. Whether it is traveling to El Salvador to build homes, or doing something as simple as holding the door open for a stranger, we are all capable of spreading love and support to our community. Acknowledging that I am equal with the Salvadorians and immersing myself within their community instilled within me the importance of inclusivity and gratitude in which I have employed throughout my life since returning. I have recognized that I can have a positive impact on a person’s life when I adapt to how they perceive the world. The gratifying and eye-opening experience of embracing a different culture, seeing firsthand the love Salvadorians have for one another and communicating with a whole different group of people was a catalyst for a better understanding of my own aim to pursue a life of helping others and a career involving social work. Every day a smile appears on my face when I remember the beautiful mural I helped create, the speech I shared at mass, providing a roof that will protect a family from the rain, and the moments when I helped the young children at the worksite with their English homework. No words will be able to explain how my life was positively impacted by impacting theirs
My trip to El Salvador in February 2020 was something I'll never forget. It was my first time on a trip dedicated to the service of others; probably the best experience I've ever had. I enjoyed going to bed every night, knowing that we were making a difference in the lives of other people; it was a very humbling experience; to say the least. I had the opportunity to play soccer with the children, hand out toys and candy, and even learn a little Spanish from them as well. The trip was a lot of work mixed in with a lot of fun; the group I traveled with was full of personality and excitement, it was great getting to meet new people and create new friendships. The trip itself was significant; I was able to see a side of myself that I've never seen before. It pushed me to leave my comfort zone and open myself up to new ideas. Ultimately, It was very emotional, from going to church to speaking with locals and being sad to leave. I do not regret visiting El Salvador, and I would highly recommend it to anyone; it was worthwhile.