How can I even begin to describe all that I have learned from this trip? It wasn’t just about the work; it was so much more! Experiencing the culture, the language, the food, and the people of El Salvador as well as getting to know everyone who took the trip, we all seem to be inseparable after this experience!
Building a house is so much more complicated than it seems, because in order to build up, you must first dig down. Our team started from scratch – a flat land with dirt on it. We had to dig trenches for the concrete mix to hold the wall in place, using Pick-Axes and Shovels. After that was completed, we moved sand, gravel and bricks to the worksite from the road. Some of us mixed cement and concrete, and sifted sand for the cement. While others were handling steel wire – the skeleton of the house.
It was a lot of fun, but at the same time, a lot of work. Everyone worked so hard, pushing themselves past their limits, keeping in mind the family that we were building the house for – they were our motivation. At the end of everyday, everyone was coated in scrapes, sweat and dirt. By the end of the trip we didn’t complete the house, but we laid the foundation, and the first layer of bricks, and hopefully we were helpful to all the masons.
Despite the hard work our spirits were always up because of the two brightest children in the world – Daniel, the couple’s son who was receiving the house, and Pati (Patricia), Daniel’s cousin. Whenever we had a break, we all spent time together and despite the language barrier, we tried to talk and played games. We also met Abuela, Daniel and Pati’s grandmother, who always brought us fruit, snacks and drinks from her small tuck shop during our breaks. She would peal a mango for you from her mango tree, she always had a smile on her face, and was the strongest and most inspirational person throughout the trip. As a group, we really bonded with each other, and when it was time for us to leave, we all left with teary eyes, but an amazing sense of accomplishment and reward.
This trip impacted my life, and my perspective. I’m so grateful for all that I have, and for how fortunate we all are. I constantly imagined what it would be like to live in a house built with four tree trucks and a piece of steel covering the top of it, collecting water with a bucket everyday. I admire Abuela for her strength, how she took care of her family, ran a tuck shop, and did so much more. During our workdays, we also went to visit an elementary school in San Salvador, this visit again, made me appreciate the facilities we have even more. The smiles on all the children’s faces were incredible and rewarding. And lastly, the friendships we made on this trip are priceless, I wouldn’t have traded this experience for anything. I’m glad that I came on this trip, and although I wish we could have finished building the house, I’m proud of everyone!
As told by E Chin Mak ’14
Mr. Martinez created this video with more pictures from the trip:
Volunteering in El Salvador was one of the best experiences I have ever had. Volunteering is one of my big passions and since I have been the recipient of service by others I have always wanted to return the kindness. The Habitat for Humanity trip to El Salvador this March break was a perfect opportunity for me to do this.
My experience in El Salvador was challenging. Since El Salvador is a developing country, we did not have many of the luxuries that I am accustomed to in my native country of Korea or Canada. At the work sites, there was no mechanical technology to assist our progress—shovels, pick axes and buckets were the only tools we had in addition to our own muscles; and yet it was fascinating to see how much the group could accomplish through sheer cooperation.
After working with my host family for almost 2 weeks, I found that even though they did not have much money, they were always happy and thankful for what they had. Smiles were always on their faces, and they greeted our group every morning with happiness. I learned how to appreciate, be happy and be thankful for what I have. I highly recommend that my peers sign up for future Habitat trips. Thank you to all the Habitat staff, the construction foreman, my peers, Father Jason, Mr. Martinez, Mr. Smith and especially my host family for all their love and care.
Kevin Yoon ’14