By Andrew J. Tonn
SAN SALVADOR–The day broke clear and hot and despite the best preparation, the morning’s travels began late as is often the case in Central America. Eventually all hands were arrived and were accounted for and we set out into El Salvador in a big and shiny bus labeled “Tourismo”.
After a few errands we toured the Dr. Merlyn Larson Clinic in the suburb of Apopa. The clinic, named for the late Doctor, was begun 21 years ago by Merlyn and his wife Bettyann. Bettyann was with us, however, and it seemed she knew everyone in town. She has been coming here for many years, even through the civil war, and has been deeply involved for all that time in the lives of the Salvadoran community.Doctor Yazika Ramos de Chinchilla, the Director of the Apopa Clinic, led us on a tour of the busy facility. The clinic provides a wide range of community health services ranging from treatment of the standard childhood ailments to physical therapy for elderly stroke victims to testing and prevention services for a wide range of diseases, from AIDS to Malaria.
After the clinic we visited the CEFOR vocational training school, a facility SARA has supported with funding and equipment ranging from computer stations to a printing press. CEFOR provides vocational training in a variety of disciplines including computer science, carpentry, printing, graphic design and sewing. The changesare evident since last I was there. There are new buildings and a basketball court where once there was an overgrown field and a general feeling of hope and progress.
Finally we made our way into Soyapango, the most heavily industrialized city in the country and, sadly, one that has had many problems with poverty and crime. We met with the several term mayor, Carlos Ruiz and he and his staff spoke on what projects are underway and what is being done to improve the city’s conditions. We gathered for a photo-op in front of donated wheelchairs and were shown another health clinic that provides similar services to the one in Apopa.
The sun began to sink and the intense heat of the day cooled as the sky turned dark. It had been a long day and we finally returned to our hotel to prepare for our journey in the morning down to the southwest of the country. We were on our way to the coast, to El Espino, to visit the currileros, the children who work digging clams from the mangrove swamps and the SARA funded clinics and doctors there.