El Salvador ’13
When I woke up this morning, the first that entered my mind was “oh crap, we go back to reality today.” But, as I laid in my cot, waiting for Bri and Sammi to wake up, I realized that I couldn’t be further from the truth. This week in El Salvador has done nothing but open my eyes to the harsh reality that so many actually endure each day, whereas my “reality” is having to study for the education I chose, working at a job I get paid more than minimum wage, and eating from a buffet of options every day. Traveling to El Salvador with Habitat for Humanity on behalf of Babson College has been one of the most eye opening and amazing experiences I have ever had. The heart and core of the trip took place in Getsemani, a poverty ridden community in Ahuachapán. Getsemani is made up of dirt, rocks, piles of dirt, hills, and more dirt. Walking through the community, you can’t help but notice the obscene amounts of garbage littered everywhere, the unjustifiable use of the word house, and the sick and starving dogs. However, amongst all of the negative, everyone you pass by always has a smile on their face and happily say “Buenas”, “Hola”, or “Buenos Dias” One of our team leaders, Sharon, has now been to Getsemani 3 times and can only rave of the accomplishments this community has achieved. They’ve gone from toilets you have to pour water into in order to flush to the type with actual piping and running water. They’ve built a successful 53 person co-op business and are steadily building and expanding. There’s even a community center they use as a school for the young children of the community rather than using someone’s very small home. Getsemani has grown so much as a community and after spending a week with them, it’s clear that they’re determined and capable to continue their growth and development. Getsemani is full of tough living conditions and hardships but each day we were greeted with the warmest and biggest smiles. We met and worked with some of the most wonderful and cheerful people you’ve ever met, from the cutest little kids to the women entrepreneurs to the masons of the homes we were building. Swaldo and Douglas, were two of the guys we built the house alongside and taught entrepreneurship to as well. These two were community members who were sponsored by Habitat to learn English, and used their knowledge to help translate between the locals and the Babson team. They played such a vital role in making us feel so welcome into their community by just being themselves, so funny and kind. I learned so many new Spanish phrases from them; one of my favorite would be “algarala suave,” which means to take it easy (complete with a dance move, of course). They had such an easy going attitude about life and the obstacles thrown their way. I’m so grateful for having the opportunity to be a part of such a sweet community’s growth to full potential. During our trip, we began each day teaching entrepreneurship and skills to further grow their business to some of the members of the co-op. The students basically grasped information that usually takes Babson students an entire semester to learn, in about a week. They were so attentive and full of such bright ideas. Every time we asked a question, we were shocked at how on point and creative their answers were! In the afternoons, we helped build a new home for Don Rigo and his family, who currently live in very inadequate housing. We built alongside the family, the family’s friends, and other community member volunteers, all who actually worked throughout the entire day. Thinking back to it, I don’t remember even one of them complaining about the extreme heat, the continuous hard labor, or never ending swarm of bugs. Saying goodbye to this community was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do. Getsemani has a way of making you feel so connected to the people and stay as long as possible to help improve their quality of life. Sitting on the plane right now, I realize that I’m going back to the comforts of the Babson bubble, but I now have a better and new perspective on what “reality” can mean to so many people.