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|El Salvador Quick Facts|
|Ethnic groups:||87% Mestizo, 11% White/Caucasian, 1% Amerindian (Pipil, Lenca)|
|Population:||6,134,000 (July 2009 estimate)|
View the image gallery from the 2011 mission
We began as a group of individuals from Canada, coast to coast. After 2 weeks in San Esteban Caterina, we were a tight-knit team who had shared countless stories, experiences, tears and laughs together.
We arrived in San Salvador, El Salvador Saturday afternoon and ran into our first hurdle as a team as we attempted to exit customs at the airport. Nothing gives you a better indicator of how well a team will perform, than watching a group of tired, hungry, people who only met a few hours prior, work together to sort through and organize 42 fifty pound hockey bags full of our supplies. When we were clearing customs, the airport officials declared they were going to keep all of our supplies in order to inventory them – this was despite having all necessary paperwork – and then return them to us on Monday morning. Eventually, a compromise was reached and 4 hours after we landed, we left the airport! We thought it was gift enough that we were leaving the airport, but were surprised to learn that our amazing group of 11 interpreters had been outside waiting for us the entire 4 hours and still greeted us with smiles and hugs!
The next two weeks flew by in a flurry of clinic, construction, the mural and story time!
Over our 8 days of clinic, we saw nearly 1900 patients with varying medical needs. At times, our resources were quite limited, which yet again was a true testament to how we can pull together and work towards the common goal of meeting the needs of the patient to the best of our abilities with what we have available to us at the time.
Our construction team, led by Linsay, assisted 26 families whose homes "on the hill" we previously assessed, to provide them with more adequate structure and shelter. Each house was provided with 10 sheets of tin and 10 pieces of lumber and asked how it would best be used to improve their house. We then hired locals to do the labour on the roofs and with the tin. It was rewarding being able to see a home both before and after its renovations and speaking with the families who would tell you it no longer leaks!
In addition to the hundreds of families we fed that visited the clinic, we bought rice and beans for the families "on the hill". The community on the hill was one of the poorest areas in San Esteban and its people were most recently affected by flooding, both in their homes and by losing the majority of their crops. Many families still reaped the moldy corn for lack of any other food.
Tam, our mural artist, had many hurdles of his own, but after a slow and frustrating start, he managed to pull off a colourful and fabulous mural in the town square. A local artist collaborated with Tam to come up with the design that consisted of mountains, balloons, musical instruments and traditional candies called melcochas. All of these items are representative of the area we stayed in.
When we first arrive, the veterans who have been on these trips before can be heard saying, "You'll be surprised how close you become, how quickly". This is not a statement to be taken lightly as the first-timers realize just how accurate it is. We live and work so closely together with the rest of the team that we can't help but find things in common and develop life-long friendships. And then, of course, there's STORY TIME! You can learn a lot about a person during story time. Each night, as dinner was wrapping up, people were encouraged to share moments from their day. Some started out more hesitant than others, but by the end of our 2 weeks, story time became a daily ritual where teammates eagerly thanked and praised others and shared more than just their interactions throughout their workday.
Over these 2 weeks, the dedication, hard work and desire to help others at any cost allowed our team of 27 Canadians from various backgrounds and skill sets come together to overcome what others miht have viewed as insurmountable obstacles.