Monday, April 20, 2009

House building is the 'party' on this spring break

This year for spring break alternative, 17 students from Benedictine College in Atchison, Kan., traveled to El Salvador to build two houses for CFCA sponsored members Ines, 88, and Yesenia, 7, and her family. By working eight to nine hours a day, the students were able to complete their goal, plus build a latrine and half of a third house (which was completed two days later by the two men who helped the students with the construction). The third house was built for sponsored member Raymunda, 84.

Below, students Catie Kneemiller and Holly Lancaster share some reflections about their time in El Salvador.

Related links:
Watch a short video about Ines and Raymunda
View a slideshow created by Denise Whelan, one of the Benedictine students

Day 1 (by Catie)
Today was absolutely incredible. This afternoon we left for the work sites and got to actually see El Salvador in the daylight. There is so much hope and such a sense of community here. They really do depend on each other. In the U.S., many times we do not connect with our neighbors. Here they rely on and depend on their neighbors for basic needs. So many times we don't want to have to rely on others, but we were made to support and build each other up, and those who we are serving today are living that out. They know what it truly means to give of yourself so that others may live. They are able to find joy without needing material things, and just knowing that they have their community and are loved by the people in that community. Their community is what makes them strong, which is so amazing to see and learn from.

Day 2 (by Catie)
We definitely worked hard today. Our group leveled the ground for the house, built the frame and put it up. All of these tasks are easier said than done. The wood had to be cut certain lengths for the frames, and the ground was nowhere near level. It made me realize how much work ethic they have. I have also come to see how strong the people here are. They live in such poverty, but I never hear them complain. They are so grateful for everything they have, and for everything we are doing for them. The majority of Americans are not that grateful, and we take so much for granted. Even in the work today, I realized how much we take power tools for granted. Here they make the most with what they have. I am learning so much from them, and I know that I have not even begun to get it all.

Day 3 (by Holly)
Wow! What a great feeling it is to come back, after a long day, and have your hands full of dirt and sealer! I seriously had a BLAST today, and it was so fulfilling.

We got to the site this morning after breakfast and prayer and started to put up the sheet metal on the sides and roof of the house. In the afternoon, Steve, Catie and I put up the window and the door. How great of a team we all were, and everyone did a great job. Our work seemed to fly by, and although most of us had a few scrapes and cuts and bruises, we still got our job done and kept up the enthusiasm.

We had a really good breakthrough with Oscar, a neighborhood boy, and some of the other people living in the area. Marty had a soccer ball, and they were kicking that back and forth for a bit, and then we brought out the bubbles, and the excitement on Oscar's face was indescribable. Even the other little kids were so excited. We asked Ines and her friend if they wanted to blow bubbles. It was so cute and so great to watch their interaction with the bubbles, us and each other. I really believe that they trust us now and are glad we are there. We had some neighbors stop by to look at the house as the day was ending, and it was so nice to see their community together. It really makes me want that in my life—a community full of love, support, laughter, and to take nothing for granted.

Day 4 (by Catie)
I absolutely love all of this! Today we worked on a bunch of different projects, finishing up little things on the house, built a latrine, an oven and worked on Raymunda's house. It is awesome to see how we work together, yet apart. It's amazing how much people can accomplish when they put their minds to it. In working on the neighbor’s house, the construction workers realized it was going to collapse soon. As a group we decided to work all day tomorrow and work on starting to build her a new house. I absolutely love our group.

Day 5 (by Catie)
Today was probably the hardest day yet. We tore down Raymunda's house and began to build a new one, while finishing up last-minute stuff on the other two houses. I didn’t realize how attached I had become to this place, until I realized I wasn't going to be back. There is such a great love here that I have yet to find anywhere else. Mass was also awesome today. It really struck me how we are a universal church. It is something we hear all the time, but I don’t think we can fully understand it until we see it with our own eyes. I absolutely love how no matter where you go in the world, you are going to understand what is going on in the Mass. Leaving today was so difficult. My heart is here with these people. Just because we leave doesn't mean their poverty goes away, doesn't make everything suddenly better. When we leave, they will still be here, still living in the same poverty. I don't think one can fully understand poverty until they see it for themselves. I know my life is going to be different because of this trip. I just have yet to figure out how so.


Steve said...

wow we are famous now. long live BC, we'll be back next year!

Denise said...

This was the most amazing trip EVER!!!