Our January 2019 Canadian volunteers, from left to right: Brenda Patterson, Betty McLandress, Matt Harvey, Eileen Simpson, Kathy Ferguson
El Salvador, January 12, 2019
Hola from San Salvador. This morning we met up with Ramon and Maria, our student. We had breakfast at Pollo Campero. Matt was in his glory because he could enjoy fried chicken, beans and nachos for breakfast. We drove up to Monte El Padre, Ramon's birthplace to meet with another farm family supported by Otra Fe. Although we made it clear it would be a quick visit, we soon discovered they had set the tables and put on a cauldron of lovely chicken soup. We couldn't refuse their generous hospitality, what's one more giant bowl of soup and chicken cooked over the open fire? After lunch they took us on a nice walk through their property. They were quite proud of the modest parcels of land they rented.
We then continued our journey towards San Salvador but not before stopping at a donut shop in Santa Ana to meet with Angel and his wife Roxanna. Angel is the lawyer for Otra Fe. Roxanna is a University professor. Manuel and Marilu then joined up with us to escort us to a lovely, quaint hotel in San Salvador. One more sleep before we head for the airport home at 4am.
It has been a great week of work and cultural experiences with our Salvadoran friends and family.
Until next year, thanks for listening to our story,
~ Eileen Simpson
Metapan, January 11, 2019
Good evening all. This morning we were wakened by the vigorous tolling of the church bells at 6 am. They chimed the hour all night long, but at 6 am they rolled a continuous peal for at least 30 seconds. There was no sleeping through them for me. Ramon and Otto were meeting us for breakfast at 7:30 am so we needed to be up shortly anyway.
After breakfast we set off for the dental clinic that Ramon had organized in a remote area with a dentist from Metapan. It was a bit of a challenge to locate the clinic as Ramon wasn't entirely sure of where we were going. We did eventually arrive and I had the opportunity to dust off my oral hygiene instruction skills and with Brenda interpreting we showed about 15 kids and moms how to brush their teeth before lunch.
In the afternoon we headed out to an area referred to as San Diego to meet with farmers that we support with funding to purchase seed and fertilizer. This was our first visit to the actual area as they usually meet us in Metapan. It was a short visit but it was good to see the area which is basically a volcanic field. Lava rock was visible amongst the remaining crops.
This evening we were generously welcomed by the dentist to her home for dinner. We enjoyed her hospitality and discussion. The clinic today served 45 people. This is a lower number than expected due to a political rally in the area. Because of the low number Dr. Brenda has offered to do a clinic in the area of El Milagro with the remaining supplies. Overall it was a good day. Tomorrow will be more community visits and then on to San Salvador.
~ Eileen Simpson
Metapan, January 10, 2019
Hola from Metapan! This morning we had a lovely breakfast at the hotel and then packed our bags and headed off for Metapan. We stopped in El Refugio at the women's bakery on the way to check in with the women's group. The bakery is no longer being run as a bakery full time, but is still being used daily. All of the women have started small personal businesses out of the bakery because the bakery just couldn't support all of the women any longer. One of them has started a pupusaria, one a sewing business, jewellery making and one is still baking .
They greeted us warmly and served us quesadillas and coffee before we continued our journey with another stop at Casa Blanca historical site. Here there are architectural ruins and artifacts, and also an area dedicated to preserving the history of indigo use and production. It was a very informative and fascinating stop.
Our journey continued on to Metapan where we met Ramone and Otoniel at Pollo Campero, fast food restaurant (we seem to eat there often as we trust the food and drink). After lunch we met up with Carlos who has benefited from Otra Fe with equipment to use with his herd of dairy cattle. He drove us up the mountain to the farm where we met with the women from El Limo. We could feel the temperature drop as we made the climb in altitude. Carlos has had food success with the artificial insemination equipment and the women are doing well with their business of making shampoo, face cream and lotions. The farm is always a treat to visit as it is serene and beautiful. The view of the country side is incredible and is set on the borders of Honduras and Guatemala.
We were treated to a delicious dinner prepared by our Metapan scholarship students of pupusas, tomato sauce and cortido. Alex and one of the students played some traditional Salvadoran music for us and we had a chance to talk with each of the students. It was a very enjoyable day.
Tomorrow Ramon has organized a dental day with a local dentist. Should be an interesting day.
~ Eileen Simpson
Ahuachapan, January 9, 2019
We woke to another beautiful day ready to tackle another day of work out at the chicken coop. We have been enjoying beautiful temperatures here this year. The evenings have been about 18 degrees and quite comfortable for sleeping with daytime temperatures around 30 C.
Marilu prepared another hearty breakfast for us and then we were transported out to begin work.
We spent the morning sifting sand, mixing cement, soaking and carrying bricks and laying and pointing bricks. We all put in a good amount of effort working alongside the students and the morning went by quite quickly. Anna Rosa and Katherine prepared our lunch again and we were all ready to enjoy the fried yucca, beef and salad waiting for us. After a short siesta for some (Matt) we loaded up the truck with some more water and then returned to the job site. We spent a bit of time doing more of the same work and then had to leave for the coffee co-operative to pick up the bags of coffee we had ordered.
When we arrived we were exploring the premises a little to see the process of turning the coffee cherry into the roasted bean. As we were nosing around we were met by a gentleman who offered to give us a tour. As it turns out he was the general manager and gave us a great explanation and tour of the whole place. We were served coffee and had a great discussion while enjoying the view.
We went from the co-op back to the hotel to get cleaned up for dinner with all of Felix's family, the students and a few of the community members. Kathy, one of our group, brought some mini hockey sticks for the kids so we enjoyed a rousing game of hockey after dinner. There were three games played, big kids, little kids and then adults. There were lots of laughs on our final night here in Ahuachapan.
Tomorrow we head to Metapan.
~ Eileen Simpson
Ahuachapan, January 8, 2019
Today was a great day! I think that after the early start yesterday and a relatively late night we all had a good sleep. Marilu served us a superb breakfast of tamales before Felix picked us up to head off to the chicken coop that we had built 4 years ago. When we arrived we were joined by several of our scholarship students and Felix briefed us on what needed to be done.
We will be extending the brick walls up by 3 feet, so the existing bricks needed to be scraped clean of accumulation so that the new mortar will adhere properly. After being cleaned the bricks needed to be wetted, again so the mortar will bond properly. We also needed to procure sand, bricks and water so we broke into groups and got to work. We managed to get the bricks cleaned by the time the truck arrived back with supplies, so we unloaded the goods and got the brick wall wetted down before breaking for lunch.
After a delicious meal of chicken soup served with lime and tortillas we soaked the new bricks and sifted sand to mix mortar. We were instructed by Felix (who is a master builder as well as a pastor) on how to lay the bricks and then he allowed us to continue on laying the courses ourselves. Brenda whispered to us that it was only because we were building a house for chickens rather than people that he gave us the go ahead.
By days end we had completed about half of one side of the coop, so felt that we had accomplished a fair amount of work. It felt great to be physically active today and to see the project started. We also enjoyed working with the students and were impressed by how capable they were of whatever task they were given. Adan is a university student studying languages and is learning English, so it is fun to communicate with him.
It is now time for bed, tomorrow is another work day, so will check in tomorrow evening.
~ Eileen Simpson
El Mozote, January 7, 2019
A very emotional day in El Mozote. It was worth the long drive and early start to see our students absorb their history that they have never been exposed to in their school classes.
We visited the massacre site of El Mozote and saw the touching memorial and then moved on to the war museum. You can see the names of the people killed by the government forces on the plaques in the pictures below.
The ages of the people killed were noted behind their name, several were listed as "0". These were either infants or unborn children that were murdered. They were memorialized on the church wall.
Tears were definitely shed today.
~ Eileen Simpson
Thank you to Eileen Simpson, Paisley, Ontario for the news write-ups this year, and her support of Otra Fe Canada
Here's a fun video for you to watch! The easiest (and most fun!) way to get to and from the worksite in El Salvador, is to ride in the back of a pickup truck. Frowned upon here in Canada, but quite common in El Salvador.
In this video, you'll see a white car following closely behind the truck. What you can't see, and what causes the group to laugh, is that the driver is smiling and waving at the camera.
Thanks to Matt Harvey, Otra Fe volunteer
If you are interested in joining us on one of our yearly trips to El Salvador, visit Travel With Otra Fe and learn more about it.