September 18, 2002 - South Bend Tribune : Volunteer brings joy to Salvadorans

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Volunteer brings joy to Salvadorans

Read and comment on this story from the South Bend Tribune on a mother's visit to El Salvador, where her daughter has been in the Peace Corps for 1 1/2 years at:

Volunteer brings joy to Salvadorans*

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Volunteer brings joy to Salvadorans

Sep 18, 2002 - South Bend Tribune
Author(s): Jan Andrews

It was quite a dream come true, to be landing near San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador, where our daughter, Joy, has been in the Peace Corps for 1 1/2 years, with eight months remaining. To see her and her friends' familiar faces in the crowd singing "Happy Birthday" to me was so inviting.

My husband, Carl, and I quickly became acquainted with her plans for us: a cab instead of risking a bus ride with all our luggage and a hostel-like "motel" instead of the place where most of the volunteers stay when coming into the city. The water wasn't running in our room, nor air conditioning, but a fan.

Our primary destination was to visit the community of San Juan de la Cruz in the region of Chalatenango, where Joy has been working with health and water sanitation among about 60 homes. After our trusty cab driver took us to the bottom of the mountain, we boarded one of the two buses that make a round trip each, daily. We were meeting friendly faces and soon realized our dependence on Joy for interpreting and tour guide. It was an interesting role reversal for us as parents.

In each village that the bus passed, we saw it was important when the bus came through; we were surrounded and helped by children as we exited the bus at the end of the village street in San Juan. The children giggled at our attempts to speak Spanish, gave us hugs and peeked in the open air windows. Two more "gringos" had come to town.

We were "escorted" to the soccer field, where the kids tested our softball, Frisbee and soccer skills. We trekked to the Honduran side of the river to see Don Mario's cows (which produced milk, cream and cheese to sell), and ate guava fruits from the trees.

Walking the two-hour trip to get to a phone helped us appreciate Joy's calls, when she's not in the capital. Another bus trip taught us the patience and scheduling of the Salvadorans.

We made several house visits with Joy, being treated royally with homemade cornmeal tortillas, pupusas, tamales, papaya, beans, rice, cream and cheese. The women cook and do laundry by hand, while the men are planting crops of corn, beans and coffee by hand in the hot sun.

We stirred up chocolate chip cookies and baked them in their adobe oven after they made delicious sweet bread. Even though the cookies baked too quickly, the kids loved the crispness. They shared their mountain-grown coffee with us. What a treat!

The last four days we were treated to an air-conditioned room with a warm shower. We visited a local pottery cooperative that employs deaf and disabled people; traveled by cab to LaPalma where we visited two cooperatives employing people to provide wood- painted artifacts to be exported, including to our own Ten Thousand Villages store in Mishawaka -- some employees could even paint at home and still take care of their children; San Sebastian, where textiles were being woven on a foot-powered loom with the workers receiving only $.30/hour; Mayan ruin sites of Joya de Ceren and San Andres, which were mostly open to the elements of wind and rain; and San Vicente, the city where Joy's first months of training and experiences from the earthquake took place.

What an experience in El Salvador for 10 days! We can agree with President Bush, who said when he met in March with Peace Corps volunteers (and American embassy workers), that "they are helping something much greater than themselves!"

Jan Andrews of South Bend is a home economics teacher at Clay Middle School. Her daughter, Joy, was the subject of a Hometown story March 12, 2001, when she departed for El Salvador.

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This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; PCVs in the Field; COS - El Salvador



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