“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.”
In the hot and humid El Salvadoran sun, a group of eleven Ridleians and I spent our March Break digging the ground, twisting rebar, mixing cement and carrying load-after-load of sand. For the most part, our group consisted of people I had never really interacted with, and if you were to have asked me about my expectations before hand, I would have told you that this was not my ideal “vacation.” I signed up because Father Jason promised me the adventure of a lifetime and it ended up being one of the best and most meaningful experiences of my life.
With little knowledge of the Spanish language or El Salvadoran culture, I boarded the plane not knowing what to expect. With great anticipation, the group jumped into our adventure with 100% dedication and I must say that our energy didn’t wane until we left.
We worked in the Village of San Jose de Villa Nueva for Daniel, a man who lived in Atlanta but was in need of a place to live in his hometown. Working with Daniel as well as the foremen at the worksite, Jaime and Emilio was motivation enough. To keep things interesting, we divided ourselves into two groups and competed against one another to see who could dig the deepest hole, or the best hole, and at the fastest pace. We took turns excavating the ground and preparing the footings for the block walls. By the end of our second week, we had successfully completed 8 rows of blocks that would make up the outside and interior walls.
I learned quite a few things on this trip.
- El Salvadorians cook with love. In fact, they do everything with love. Everyone we met, from the family we were building for, to the Habitat Coordinators, to the children at the local school we visited, to the lady who owned the corner store and offered us her washroom very warmly – everyone had passion.
- The people of El Salvador are very enthusiastic about voting. I suspect that this is because many can still remember a time when they didn’t have that right during the Civil War.
- El Salvadorians are very friendly and welcoming.
- Laundry can be done without the use of a washing machine as long as you have your two hands.
- To be consumed in service is one of the greatest feelings in the world.
I am so happy that I made the decision to travel this March Break. I made friends for life, people who have become “mis compañeros.” We also became really close to the foremen at the worksite. We learned about their background and what they valued. Leaving them was probably harder than carrying four bags of cement, each weighing 42.5 kg (we all did this). At the farewell lunch, not a dry eye could be found. We will all miss our friends and many of us plan to return next year to continue our work or participate in other trips organized by Ridley College in support of Habitat for Humanity.
Traveling to El Salvador, we were true ambassadors of our countries and Ridley College, living the motto “Terar Dum Prosim.” Nothing can ever replace what I have learned from two weeks in a Central-American country and the friends I have made. I will cherish this experience and them for a lifetime.