By Jana Stohler, CDF/ConDev Intern in El Salvador
It’s been a whirlwind, these last nine weeks. I was able to conduct and submit 163 surveys on conflict drivers. Researchers at Texas A&M’s Conflict and Development Center are beginning to analyze the data I collected. As I’m wrapping up the surveys for the CDF/ConDev research project, and reflecting on the things that SHIP has accomplished, I realize just how blessed I am to have participated in this experience. Although SHIP is a fairly small non-profit organization that is supported through financial donations and by volunteers who come to the facility to work, it is making a huge impact in this little part of El Salvador.
This week marked the last week for the mission teams. Since mid-June, three different teams have arrived to share their love, gifts, and skills with the community surrounding SHIP. The teams worked on two different homes, cooked with the girls from the orphanage and from the neighborhood, helped with homework and tutoring, held Bible schools with the kids, and shared the burdens of the neighborhood of El Pino.
Team members this week put the finishing touches on the two houses that had been started by the two previous teams. Little was left to do on the first house, except for a final board around the top of the house for stability. The second house needed a little more work, and the family needed a little more love from Team 3. Because the family had nowhere to else to stay, SHIP actually built around the old home, and when the new one was finished, the old home was demolished, from the inside out. The family was among the neediest that SHIP has ever helped. They lacked the most basic necessities, and SHIP was able to meet some of those needs.
This particular home was located a little further from SHIP’s facility than most of the other projects, requiring a short drive and then a walk down a steep, rocky hill. Although I didn’t have an opportunity to go to the home while it was under construction, I joined some of the women from the team and others who worked on the home when they visited the seven-member multi-generational family after construction was complete. On this final visit, the family was given toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo, and soap, and the three precious little girls received new dresses to wear to church. It was very touching to see the joy in their faces as they stood in front of their home. It’s very gratifying to help families like this one because they are so appreciative. As we made our way up the hill to the car, they joined us so they could wish us a final farewell and thank everyone again for all that had been done for their family.
During my time in El Salvador I have witnessed how the lives of the people in this little community in a fragile state have been touched and lifted and inspired, because they know that they are not going through their struggles alone. They are learning that they are loved by Americans that devote their time and resources to help them out, and that’s a very good thing, indeed!