By John Gilberg
Director for El Salvador
SAN SALVADOR — February 8th to the 16th found a party of eleven visiting the small Central American country of El Salvador which is no larger than the State of Massachusetts. In contrast, it has a population that consists of either the rich or many who are very poor with very few that fall in the category of the middle class. S.A.R.A. is helping a Salvadoran NGO (Non Government Organization), the CRD (Coordinadora para la Reconstruccion y el Desarrallo) with funds to support the salaries of two doctors. It also gives medical supplies and medicines for two clinics, and recently sent a 40 foot container filled with donated items from churches, other organizations and various
The mission for our 11 travelers was to bring medicines and medical supplies, along with gifts for the children, and clothes. We carried eighteen suitcases filled with these items with each suitcase weighing almost fifty pounds.
The Salvadoran doctors were anxiously awaiting us, as the shelves in their clinics were bare of supplies and they were scheduled to see the residents of these very poor villages without any means to treat their ailments. With funds from the municipality of Val de Marne, France, each of these clinics have had additions to their facilities within the last two years, making them much better adapted to caring for the needs of patients. The doctors drive their own cars over rough, dusty roads and see patients at the clinic for one day every week. The second day is scheduled with all the health promoters from the surrounding villages, who are taught to teach their communities good health practices and to treat minor ailments. They are each given a health kit and, because of the remoteness of the villages in which they work, they are able to care for serious, non-life-threatening injuries, including, for example, a severed finger. On the third day, the doctors make house calls to the approximately twelve to fifteen villages in the area. It is the wish of all these villages that the clinics could have doctors there for five days instead of only three. The funds, however, are simply not there at this time. We met one elderly gentleman, suffering with a heart condition, who had walked three miles to get to the clinic accompanied by a friend.
It was a thrill to visit the CEFOR vocational school near San Salvador. This school now has classes in metal-working, computers, graphic arts and sewing on a full schedule every day. Since we were there two years ago, there were two new dorms built and ground was leveled and prepared for a soccer field and a basketball court. These new additions were made possible through the donations of a municipality in Italy. It is hoped that by teaching the youth of El Salvador a trade, they will stop joining gangs. There are
thousands of gang members throughout El Salvador. Without schools like this, the youth often have little choice but to join a gang. In the past, S.A.R.A., in conjunction with World Wide Humanitarian Aid, has sent dozens and dozens of computers. They were able to start a computer class three years ago and had a class graduate. We learned that since that time, all the computers were stolen, along with eight welders and other tools. They have since hired four guards, two during the day and two at night. The CRD, through donations, was able to purchase more computers for the school.
The biggest thrill, however, was looking into two rooms at the vocational school and seeing all the supplies that were sent on the 40 foot container. It took three long years to
get them there because of the high cost of shipping (almost $7,000). With the help of our
UCC churches, other organizations and individuals, World Wide Humanitarian Aid was finally able to send the container. The health promoters will welcome, among other equipment, the 40 bicycles that will allow them to travel faster to attend those needing medical attention.
We also visited a clinic for the poor in the city of Apopa, a suburb of San Salvador. It was started almost twenty years ago by Merlyn and Bettyann Larson and serves about 125 individuals a day from a very small and crowded building. We left gifts for the children and babies who were waiting with their mothers. Bettyann had joined us on this trip and this clinic was, of course, of very special interest to her. She still supports its work as much as she can. It is also supported by the CRD and the municipality of Apopa.
On Sunday, we participated in the church services at the Iglesia Luterana Salvadorena
where we met the UCC/Disciples of Christ missionary, Nick Green. Bishop Gomez, Lutheran Bishop of San Salvador, greeted us after the service and we began planning for a working relationship between the Northwest Ohio Association and the Lutheran Church in El Salvador. Bishop Gomez invited our group to his office for a dinner on our last day in country.
We had three youths and a youth director from St. Paul UCC in New Bremen with us
and, when asked, they said unanimously that visiting the villages of El Espino and Arco
El Espino on the Pacific coast were their favorite places to visit and work. It is here that the local children must dig for clams around six hours a day in order to support their families. It is here that we played games and gave gifts to 200 children two years ago. This year there were 350 children. There were Beany babies for the very young, small soaps, shampoos, sponges or wash cloths for the young girls and baseball caps for the young boys. It was with the help of the Community Director and a small, local youth organization that all went very well this year. We could have had more hats as the mothers wanted them too, after they saw that we gave them to the youths that were helping us. We should remember that many of the mothers are still teenagers themselves. We saw some teenage boys looking over the fence at us and handed them a soccer ball with which they immediately began playing. Other balls and games were left with the youth director there.
Rosales Hospital in downtown San Salvador is a hospital run by the State for the poor. It is connected to a medical school and they treat almost every known disease. It is the oldest hospital in that country and it is running on a minimum of funds. It needs repairs everywhere. Sadly, in one ward, we met four young boys who all had cancer and were not receiving the medication they needed due to lack of funding. The doctors themselves are wonderful and are doing the best that they can with the little that they have and under adverse conditions.
There are so many more stories. If you are interested in a slide presentation for a program or presentation, we would love to show and tell. Contact us by E-mail at email@example.com. We can be reached by telephone at (419) 629-2947.
John and Joyce Gilberg