El Salvador

El Salvador

Friday, December 21, 2012

House #2

Meeting Marta...

House #2 was to be built for a quiet, shy lady and her sickly, anemic son, Hosea Adrien (17). All seemed pretty straight forward – she lived in a shack of tarps, mud walls and various pieces of metal in the shadow of her farmer father’s large home. Yes, this lady needed a house to keep her sick son dry and give them the protection they needed and deserved. It was not an uncommon sight.

But wait. There is more. Look closer and listen for everyone has a story to tell...

Marta (36) is one of 13 children and has only a grade 3 education. She married young and birthed 3 children. Her husband never gave her a house of her own (something that is expected in their culture) and then, one day, left. Her parents helped her financially when the children were young and she managed to keep them in school until grade 8. She works in her father’s fields, as does her son when he is well enough. They have 5 chickens and get beans and corn from the fields.

One day, her husband returns and takes their healthy son, Samuel Antonio, and leaves for good. Marta does not know where her son is living or how he is doing (my heart breaks right here). Marta’s daughter, Flore Esmarelda, is married and lives in San Felipe; she sees them every few months. She is proud to have a grandson, she says.

And what of this house God is blessing you with – what does it mean to you, Marta? She promptly replies, "It will keep my son dry and safe. It will be my first house; it makes my heart so happy!" Again, that shy smile.

We ask her: "What is it that keeps you smiling?" And, she quietly replies, “I know that only God can help me.” In her situation, would I be smiling, I ask myself?

So, we ask quiet, smiling Marta what it is that she dreams for in the future. My heart swells and eyes brim as she explains through our translator: "I want my son to get married and have a family ... and that God gives me good health to see my grandson grow up." I nod a knowing smile. Here we sit, women living a world apart in time and space, but we simply want the same things for ourselves and for our families. Simple truths. A mother’s heart is the same. I reflect, whether you live in San Felipe or St. Catharines. 

There are other truths to be told of Marta’s life, but she chooses not to share those with us.  Truths about how one survives in poverty; truths about hard choices; truths about being abandoned. But a real truth was spoken – Marta knows that only God can help her. Amen, Marta.

by Karen Hooper & Shirley Francey

Friday, December 7, 2012

House #3

The family that we interviewed, House #3, was a family of four. The father's name was Amilcar Romero and he is 27, the wife's name was Paubla Aguirre, and she is 22, and the two children were Yaquelin, 7, and Stephany, 16 months.

Amilcar grew up in the area of San Felipe, where we were building. He has 8 sister and 4 brothers. Amilcar only went to school for grade 1, and we found out that he was forced to drop out because of his inappropriate behaviour. Amilcar is only able to write his name and he cannot read. He was fortunate, however, because his father taught him the value of hard work, and he did not fall into any of the local gangs as many young men do. Currently, he works as a farm hand, in the fields, only making enough to buy food for his family. He dreams of owning his own land, but he works on his father's land right now. His ultimate dream is to become a construction worker, and so he loved helping out with the building of the houses and worked at every worksite.

Amilcar met Paubla when she was 17, as she was the sister of his best friend. Paubla grew up in a village near the volcano called San Antonio Katerina. Previously, she was in a relationship with a man who abused her and finally abandoned her leaving her with Yaquelin, who was a baby. Paubla was 15 years old at that time. She returned to her parents home and they supported her. He visited her at home because of her brother, and then fell in love with her and brought her back to San Felipe. Although Amilcar calls Paubla his wife, they are not married because it cost a lot of money and you must travel to the city. The cost is $10, which doesn't sound like very much but is actually worth about 1 months supply of food. This upsets Paubla and makes it hard for her to trust Amilcar, because they are not married and she fears that he will leave her as well. She is generally an angry person who has a bad temper. They often fight, but soon makeup. She has so much pain in her heart. Amilcar is hopeful that a new home will give Paola the peace and security she craves and some stability and trust in the foundation of their family. A new home will offer protection from the weather, and safety. He is so happy to receive this house, He says “thank you” to God and to his dad for supporting him. He is sure that God will pay us (the team) back for this generosity. At this point, Kate assured him that this house was a gift from God. God is wonderful, he says and he can’t believe he’ll have a home by the end of the week! Today, one of his dreams is coming true, he knows it will be a new start for them.

We asked Amilcar about his relationship with Yaquelin and how he feels about her. Before the translator could tell us what he said, we already knew that he loved her by the way that he spoke about her, and how he smiled when he talked about her. Even though she is not his daughter, he still loves and accepts her as part of their family and treats her equally to his biological daughter, Stephany. As he put it: “if you love the chicken, you gotta love the chicks!”

Paubla wouldn't speak with us personally; we think she was jealous of our outgoing translator, who happened to be the same age as her. This told us that she is very insecure in her relationship with Amilcar, and that she is very troubled in her heart and struggles with anger.

When we asked Amilcar about his faith, he told us that he grew up Catholic. Unfortunately, it's a very long walk to church, and so they rarely go. He didn't quite understand when we asked him if we could pray for him, saying that we could pray for him when we were at church.

As part of the housewarming gifts we gave this family, there was a Spanish Bible. Amilcar cannot read but Paubla can. It is our prayer that she reads it and learns to accept Jesus as her Saviour. It is truly the only way she will ever experience true peace and acceptance.

by Jayne Duldner & Kate Duldner