Grandpa Manuel and I take a break from the manual labour. How did I get so dirty? And why is Manuel wearing my hat?
It’s been awhile. There hasn’t been much to write about in the corporate, Canadian world, which is why I decided to go to El Salvador in November for 10 days to volunteer on a Habitat for Humanity build.
I’ll do anything for some blog material.
The truth is the meeting to sign up for the build happened the week I got back from Sri Lanka in March. I saw it as a sign from sweet baby Jeebus and signed up before I had got my first pay cheque.
Needless to say it was an awesome time (as us Canadians always say) and it’s easily been the best decision I’ve made since coming home (the second best decision was buying a Grey Cup ticket, the third was remembering Trina’s birthday).
So, me and 37 other colleagues made the long journey down to San Salvador on November 8, and after a couple days relaxing on the beach, we spent 5 full, sweaty days working on 3 homes for 3 different families. We all paid or fundraised over $2,000 each to get ourselves down there, make a donation to Habitat El Salvador and buy the building material for the houses.
I know, I know. If you enjoy judging others as much as I do, you’re probably asking why we all just didn’t put our money into building houses in inner city Regina where the need is huge for decent homes?
Well, first off, it’s fucking cold in Regina in November, so the 30+ temps looked pretty good (sorry for being selfish). And, second off, I think you’ve got to do both.
For sure we need to take care of our own backyard, but the fact is we don’t live in a bubble anymore. Those days are gone. If you don’t believe me just look around Regina at all the new faces. What happens in Sri Lanka, or El Salvador, will eventually reach us here. And instead of being surprised or outraged or ignorant when it finally does, why not search for a bit of understanding now, a bit of common ground.
And while I also know that a 10-day Habitat build is a small drop in the bucket, there was nothing small about it for those 3 families. Those three homes will completely transform those people’s lives forever.
On my build we heard the same thing every day from our family: “I can’t believe you came here from your country to help us. You don’t know us. You don’t speak our language, yet you spend your own money and leave your families at home to build us a house. It is unbelievable.”
To me, that says it all. It’s real. It’s simple. It’s human. And, it was great to be a part of.
Where to next?
This ever-growing memorial wall in San Salvador list the estimated 70,000 civil war victims.
One of the victims of the 12-year war was Oscar Romero, a catholic bishop who was killed during Mass in 1980. Watch the movie if you get the chance.
Here’s the beach where we started and ended the trip. Pretty quiet.
Our accomodations at the build site – old cabins that coffee plantation workers used to live in.
Here’s the view from our cabins.
Mountains and volcanoes are everywhere in El Salvador.
These guys are everywhere. Still don’t understand how some people are terrified of them.
Here’s the FCC crew that I built with. Good people.
Why wouldn’t we get transported in a Jewish bus in El Salvador?
Lots of bricks to lay on day 1.
A new fashion style to mix cement presented by one of our leaders Remi.
Putting the mortar in between the bricks. Had to be careful not to push the whole wall over.
Putting in cement in the rebar forest.
Jason “The Torch” doing some supervising of the walls going up.
The walls went up quick once we got going.
Our interpreter Szabos (left) and one of the masons pose for a pic. Szabos was a beauty. A former seminary student who lived in Colorado for 10 years and is now deciding between the priesthood or a wife. I vote for storyteller.
We planted a Canadian toonie in the house for good luck.
A good cry and a hug were never far away on the job site. I, of course, just grunted manly and rubbed dirt on my face.
Temperatures were close to 40 degrees during the day, so breaks were necessary.
Our head mason Edwin made sure the house went up right. He wasn’t sure what to make of us crazy foreigners.
This young fellow showed up on day 4 to cut the bricks.
In 40-degree heat mixing the cheezpa and the mescla was an outstanding workout.
Here’s the front entrance. Almost ready for the roof.
Here’s Theresa’s son looking into his new house.
This is where I spent some time – the septic tank. We dug it down 9 feet (5′ by 5′). Good workout. Also was the official complaint department. This is Alex our other interpreter who enjoyed all the Canadian girls.
Always lots of kids around the job site to check us out.
Here’s the family on the last day with the roof ready to go on. Very proud of their new home.
Some steep climbs walking through town.
A lot of guns and gangs in El Salvador. There was no packing heat allowed in this business.
Rainie made some papussas for us for our wrap up lunch.
Here’s some of the tasty food.
A view from the plane as we made the 36-hour trip home that was full of tornadoes, overweight planes, U-turns in the air and sleeping in the airport. Good times.