Thursday, May 27, 2010

A much needed update...

It has been a month since Juliann, America and I showed up in San Salvador, and it has just completely flown by. Our first wave has been here for a good three weeks and the second wave team will be arriving in a few short weeks themselves! They have their work cut out for them too, the first wavers have been great as we´ve been putting things in motion and coordinating various projects for them to be working on. We´ve been running on empty for weeks now and have lots to show for it, hence this blog being extremely late in the making!

We´re pleased to present our wonderful home, where our volunteers have packed themselves in, can´t wait to cram 10 more!

We´ve had a great time getting to know the city. On one Saturday a few weeks ago some of us took it upon ourselves to explore the city center, check out the main cathedral, center markets, and the like. San Salvador is awesome!

The courageous country directors sporting "Che Guevara" hats, as if we have a right to.

Weather has been interesting, while it´s supposed to be the rainy season, the first week to two weeks of everyone being here was uncharacteristically dry, and quite hot. The first bout of rain that the volunteers saw was an exciting event.

Now it seems we can´t get it to stop, it´s been downpouring on us all week, and all day, which is also uncharacteristic. We´re waiting for the normal torrential downpour in the afternoons surrounded by beautiful clear skies in the mornings and evenings, so far no luck.

Project-wise things are so busy we couldn´t be happier. We started right off with the local partnership of Habitat for Humanity, and found ourselves digging trenches and preparing lots for foundations. The project has been lots of fun, Brian Lunt is our project lead for Habitat and has kept us busy at least once a week working to rebuild homes for families displaced by Storm Ida last year.

Habitat has requested that we provide an EMT training for their volunteer coordinators and head masons for the entire country, we´re excited to add an educational supplement to this project this year, something that will be very sustainable and will be a great asset for them to have.

We also were able to get things right underway with FUDEM. We really can´t say enough good things about them. We took all the volunteers their second full day in country to the main FUDEM clinic in Col. Flor Blanca where we were all trained on taking visual accuity for the outreach campaigns we´ve been doing with them.

It wasn´t long before we were off on rural and urban campaigns providing subsidized eyeglasses and referral services for those without other resources to proper visual healthcare.

With FUDEM we have in the works an addition to their program, in preparation for their new Ventanitas de Luz program targetting needy school children throughout the country, we´ll be helping them develop training materials on eyeglass care, proper use, and signs for teachers and parents on potential visual health problems in their students and children.

The LDS Church Employment Center has partnered with us again on our annual English Classes geared towards increasing employment qualifications through improved language ability. In the first two days of sign-up we had over 130 students wanting to join our classes, it was a madhouse.

With so much demand we were unable to even accept everyone that wanted to take the class, which is a first in the history of the class. The first day volunteers interviewed all applicants indivdually to do the "pruebas de nivelacion" or placement testing.

We now have functional weekly basic, basic advanced, intermediate, and advanced classes with the goal of some of the advanced students teaching further basic classes throughout the remainder of the year while HELP volunteers are not in country.

BALSAMO is one of our other main projects that is moving along really well now. We are working with them in a small group of caserios, or family groups, in Canton San Lucas. We´ve met a couple times with community leaders there and have been coordinating with BALSAMO who has been working in community agricultural projects there for years.

This was our first meeting with the BALSAMO technicians working in Canton San Lucas, it was on May 10th, which is Mother´s Day in El Salvador. So while we got a lot of work done, and some good plans made, it wasn´t long before Brian and I found ourselves karaokeing Hey Jude at their party in the back room and dancing with all the employees.

They have a nice way of convincing you to do something you might not want to.

This is the community center where many of the community leaders meet for various reasons. Our first meeting had only four community leaders there, but the second trip out earlier this week was full of leaders, both men and women, ready to work with us on some great projects. We are hoping to implement a community garden project which will include a nutrition component, analyzing the fruits and vegetables native to their community, and developing a customized food guide for them to use along with training workshops to know how to best utilize their food to provide a balanced and fully nutritious diet for their families. Canton San Lucas has some of the worst rates for child undernutrition in the country right now.

Last week McCall and Peter arrived, finishing out first wavers. They´ve already been down in the dirt with us at Habitat and helped work on many of these awesome projects.

Orphanage work at CIPI (Centro Inmediato de Proteccion Infantil), Health Information Systems and proper signage/health education literature at Hospital Bloom, among other projects are also beginning to come together, which we´re very excited about. Expect more information on those soon! And for more continuous updates, so you´re not stuck reading our novel chapters everytime we´re able to update the blog!

El Salvador rocks!