Written by Liam Wilson ‘ 16
This March Break, a group of 17 Ridley students, one Ridley teacher, and a Ridley nurse had an experience that none of them will forget for the rest of their lives. It is not going to be easy to forget the long hours of working under the burning sun mixing cement and moving bricks. It is not going to be easy to forget the smiles on the faces of the family members who watched their new home being built. And the relationships and friendships made on the trip with our Habitat for Humanity translators, masons, groups leaders, and fellow students are definitely going to stay with us for a long time.
I had the opportunity this March Break to travel to El Salvador with 16 fellow Ridleans, Mr. Martínez, and Ms. Honsberger. To say that it was a great experience would be an understatement. I didn’t know very many of the other students on the trip well, but by the end of the two weeks, I felt as if I had know them for two years.
We split everyone up into two groups to work on two separate houses. Nothing had been started on the house that my group worked on. We spent the first two days just digging into the ground to make the foundation. After that we did a bunch of different tasks like filling in the trenches with cement and sanding the outside of the bricks. Over the course of the next two weeks, we had some great times together. Whether it was moving huge piles of sand, moving huge piles of bricks, or mixing cement, we always found a way to make it fun. Meeting and interacting with the family that we were building the house for was an experience in its own. Although the family had very little, they did all they could to make us feel welcome and comfortable. They are some of the happiest and most generous people I have ever met. We also became good friends with the masons and with our Habitat reps Jaime, Emilio, and Jxoe.
Although a lot of time on the trip was spent working, that was only half of it. The purpose of the trips is to forge bonds with people from another country and to experience another culture, and we did just that. Our first day in El Salvador was spent touring to capital city of San Salvador. We visited the Cathedral in San Salvador and learned about one of the country’s heroes, Oscar Romero. We also learned about the dark spots in the history of this beautiful country and how many people lost their lives in the conflicts during the 70s and 80s. It was extra special for us because one of our leaders, Mr. Martínez, fled El Salvador as a child so he was able to give us a personal connection. The second weekend, we toured a coffee plantation where we saw all the steps that go into a bag of coffee and we hiked in El Imposible National Park. Everyone on the trip has mixed feelings about that hike because the park and its views were beautiful, but it was almost a 6-hour hike. Very tiring. To complete the cultural experience of El Salvador, we ate some great food. We got to experience many different traditional El Salvadorian dishes like pupusas and tamales. Mr. Martínez also introduced us to the El Salvadorian KFC, Pollo Campero. To sum up El Salvadorian food in one word; amazing.
All in all, the trip was an unbelievable experience. Not only did my friends and I have fun and experience a new culture, but we also made a difference in the lives of two families, something that makes the trip about way more than ourselves. As John Bunyan once said, “You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.” I highly recommend this experience to everyone. I would like to thank Ridley and Habitat for making this possible and also the leaders, Mr. Martínez and Ms. Honsberger for being so great.