Tuesday, July 20, 2010

4th of July El Sal style

Ok So we realize that this is quite late in coming seeing how it is now August but we still have so many different posts that we want to make and we are going to start with our 4th of July Bash El Sal Style.

So Heidi´s birthday is on July 5th and her favorite holiday is July 4th. She likes it even more than Christmas, sick, I know! (Just Kidding Heidi!) She decided that if we were going to celebrate the holiday we had to do it right. So we started searching for places where we could buy a ton of fireworks. We hit the jackpot and we may or may not have gone a little crazy. We refuse to tell how much money that we spent though!

Here is Heidi with some of the goods. She was like a kid in a candy story...or a Heidi at a fireworks stand.

Here are the ladies that owned the little firework story. So I´m pretty sure that we made their whole month! They were ecstatic when we asked for more and more fireworks. I think we probably helped them meet their sales quota for that month in just a half hour of shopping. They were so excited they bought us candies and sodas.

Ok these two photos probably need a little explination. You´ve heard of roman candles right? Ok but you may not have heard of a roman candle war. This is apparently a tradition in Tyler´s family. A terrifying but hillarious tradition. So this above, is the warning found on a roman candle and this below is what Tyler looks like when he gets one in his hand...hence the terrifying nature of the whole thing.

To have this roman candle war we decided it would be better to get away from the city (and just any people in general; mostly for their own protection). We headed to the beach Costa Del Sol where Heidi found us a great little hostal that was pretty close to the beach. The ironic thing is that it was surround be a small little fishing village. When the sun went down the poor villagers had no idea what was coming. We started the firecrackers and then the roman candle war. WE talked to a couple of them in the morning and they laughed when we told them that it was us and that we were celebrating our Independence Day. They seemed to understand because they then told us stories of the crazy things they do with firecrackers during Christmas and New Year´s.

Andy testing out the roman candles.

Jeanette was quite a devious roman candle warrior.

This was Heidi´s favorite purchase...well worth it!

As shown.

Andy and Kristy sharing a sparkler.

McCall, Kassandra, Esther, and Jessica jumping with their sparklers

More sparkler fun.

Tyler setting off some smaller fireworks.

Dusty and Esther

Jaclyn showing how it is done with the roman candles

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Learn us some ingles pues!

So I know you all want to know the amazing things we´re doing teaching English to our Salvadoran friendlies, but first things first, some brief updates for those interested in our other awesome projects:

We finished a portion of the CIPI Paint project, inaugurating our first finished mural there in the girls comedor, it is amazing, expect a blog about that soon...with pictures of course.

CIPI Workshops are moving along. One of our most recent successes was a successful union of the Universidad Centro Americana social hours program, integrating students from the university into our workshops. This will provide a framework for volunteers at CIPI year-round working from what we´ve set as a foundation regardless if we´re there or not.

BALSAMO Square-foot Gardens are moving really well. Lots of families have shown interest, taken initiative to put together their gardens without us there, and share experience and know-how. Some have even started planting!

Tomorrow will be our Health Fair in San Lucas. Teaching over 500 kiddos about proper hygiene, dental care, nutrition, and more...

Hospital Work is also a blast. We are getting close to having real mock-ups for the new signage at Hospital Bloom, and continued our relationship with Hospital Zacamil where we are able to interact directly with surgery patients and critical patients. Intense, but great experiences.

Alright, so there´s much more of course, on to the good shtuff:

Our English classes rock, thanks to project lead America Nelson (no bias here, I love you). Seriously, awesome classes. This week our advanced students will have to step it up as they will take on teaching the two basic classes and the intermediate class on their own with volunteers there. The whole team will be involved in the BALSAMO Health Fair, so we will all be out of town until late tomorrow night, leaving the classes up to our fully capable advanced students.

Juliann has been preparing them for this, and the goal is that they will be taking on our classes indefinitely when we leave.

Advanced students have already had practice teaching the lower classes earlier this year. This happened to occur during our Board site visit with Mindy, check out her blog to read more about her experiences with the English classes or anything else with us here.

Our intermediate class loves Jessica and McCall, who now team teach it, but they can´t help but miss Kenna, our rockin´ intermediate teacher from the first wave. Kenna´s the only volunteer all summer that has gone home so far, she´ll be joined by several in about a week. Sad.

In other English news, this year HELP El Sal formed a new partnership with Universidad Modular Abierto, one of the bajillion schools in San Sal. There many students are actually studying English full time, though they often lack the one-on-one time with native speakers that they really need to improve their language ability and really utilize it to improve their chances at a better job in this country. It´s been a great experience for everyone involved, and is held weekly.

Talk English be good.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Habitat para la Humanity

Our Habitat project this year is some good times and then some. We´ve had a great time working with the community building homes. As we´ve stated before, the Habitat project this year is in a place called San Vicente, a community that was destroyed last year by the tropical storm Ida has had a rougher year than normal. Complete livelihoods have been washed away by major mudslides and hundreds of families are homeless.

The project in San Vicente is to build homes for those affected by storm Ida, and the wonderful thing about it is that the entire community falls under Habitat for Humanities rare fully-subsidized programs. Most families who receive homes must pay a monthly payment until they´ve covered a certain portion or all of the cost of the home, but these community members are required only to invest "sweat equity," or labor and manpower to help with the build. In this way we are able to work directly with the families who will be living in the homes!

One awesome thing we were able to do this past week was tour the Santa Ana build site that the 2009 HELP International team worked on. The site is practically finished, and there are families and gardens already occupying the spaces that our dedicated volunteers spent hours and days working on last year.

We´ve come to learn that Habitat for Humanity is starting to steer away from their previous "One House, One Family" model, and has begun community projects. We couldn´t have been happier when we met with our local contacts at the beginning of the summer to hear this. Most Habitat projects not only work to achieve an entire community of homes in a central area, but also include community centers, daycare facilities, and other community oriented build projects to improve the quality of life of those who will be moving in.

Here´s the already functional children´s community center/day care for the Santa Ana project from 2009. It truly is inspiring to see such beautiful and wonderful facilities that HELP volunteers were a large part of.

Brian Lunt, 2010 Habitat Project lead and Gail Chadwin, National Volunteer Coordinator

We look forward to seeing this year´s project progress and begin to bless the lives of salvadoran families in a permanent way.

In other Habitat for Humanity news, Tyler Nelson (me...one of the Country Directors) and Brian Lunt (the Habitat project lead) have been working with Gail on coordinating a First Aid/Basic EMT training for Habitat masons and volunteer coordinators. We look forward to reporting on a succesful workshop in the next few weeks.