Alternative winter break leaves students wanting a second taste of El Salvador

By Ellie Hawkins

One of the most competitive activities for Suffolk University students is the alternative break program. The S.O.U.L.S Center for Community Engagement plans trips for student throughout the country during spring break and to El Salvador during winter break.

There are multiple trips during spring break, but only one during winter. The El Salvador trip was started in honor of Joe Moakley and the work that he did during that country’s civil war. The civil war lasted for 12 years and during that time there was a great amount of reported injustice brought upon civilians and prisoners of war.

Abby Kim, a senior, said “the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Kim said she was able to find inner peace through her experience on the trip.

The trips focus is to learn more about the civil war and help preserve its memory. There were 18 students and faculty that journeyed to El Salvador, staying in Suchitoto at Centro Arte para la Paz. They spent 10 days in this area, half of the time visiting museums and hearing testimonies about the war and the other half building a home for a survivor of the civil war. The woman’s name was Rosa and along with her daughter Selina’s help, they assisted students in building their house out of mud adobe bricks.

Photo by Kelsey Abrams

El Salvador is a high-risk country to live in and due to this Rosa’s house got a crack through the middle after an earthquake. This resulted in her decision to build another house.

Through Habitat for Humanity she was able to buy the materials for her new home for between $7,000 and $8,000.

The group from Suffolk was there to help build her house. Even though the days were hot, students were almost able to finish the house. They helped clear the ground for the sidewalks, carried buckets of sand to level the ground in the house, built the walls of the house and painted it before their time was up. All that was left to do was to attach doors, windows, a roof, and cement poured onto the floors outside and inside the home.

The two men who were working on the house said a meaningful and heart-breaking thank you to the group. They said that they were so grateful because otherwise they would have been building the house, pick axing and moving sand and dirt all by themselves. The group also received a thank you from Selina, Rosa and from Habitat for Humanity.

The trip this year was different than previous years. The class that was associated with the trip was changed from a history class to a government class. The government class was only a month long from November to the end of the semester.

“The first time I went, I left my heart in El Salvador. It’s difficult to describe love. I feel I can never justify the experience and can never explain it to my satisfaction,” said Thay Thao, a senior who attended the trip for his second time. “The people of El Salvador are so resilient; they are so captivating, calm and friendly to the extreme. They devote themselves entirely to their task at hand and open their arms to everyone, no matter who they may be. To say that El Salvador has changed me would be an understatement. The faces of the people I’ve met in El Salvador will forever be engraved in my heart. These are the reasons I had to return to the beautiful country of El Salvador. Que Viva El Salvador!”

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