Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Be the One to Change a Life: Compassion El Salvador, Part 2

In case you missed the blog I posted yesterday containing the first part of this child sponsorship journey with Compassion, you can find it here.
In the meantime, I'll carry on with this post as though it's seamless.
I thought it would be most appropriate to kick this blog off with a video of the welcome we received in the town square of the city of Ataco. I was overcome with emotion once again. And apparently I overlooked the little guy plugging his ears...
The project there partnered with their local community to have the high school's marching band greet us. Of course I cried. I've never been welcomed by a marching band before. (note to self: ask pastor why he's never had a marching band welcome me to church on Sundays.)
The girl you see holding my hand in this picture is Glenda. We were kindred spirits (to be said like Anne from Anne of Green Gables). She's woven throughout the photos I'm posting of our time in Ataco.
Of course the marching band followed us through town as we walked to the project. I'm thinking of hiring my own marching band to follow me wherever I go now. Makes me feel important.
Once we made it to the church at the project, the children sang songs, danced and performed a skit for us. This little guy is probably our son Dawson's age. He's okay I guess... you know that's a joke, right?
The little girl craning her neck to sing into the microphone is Monica.
She's an absolute doll.
I couldn't resist taking a picture of the back of her hair. I want to do Evan's hair like this but he probably wouldn't sit still long enough.
 These children are just too cute to ignore! Kind of like me. As a matter of fact. There were (I believe) at least 4 of us in the tour group who sponsored children on the spot on the day of this visit. Our team leader, Bobby brought sponsor packets with him and several of the children from this very project were included in the packets he had with him. (I was particularly moved when an adorable young boy of about 6 or 7 came up to me as I was looking through the sponsorship packets and he was rattling something off very fast in spanish. I grabbed a translator to tell me what he was trying to say and she said he was asking if his sponsor was with us, he wanted to meet his sponsor. When we told him no, he walked away so forlorn. I was ready to lie and wanted to chased after him to say "it's me! I'm you're sponsor!" But I wasn't sure if that would make him happy or not since I'm a terrible soccer player.
I have to interrupt my regularly scheduled ramblings to say, that I got to know each of the sponsors in our group and I love them all dearly. I miss them very much. Here's our entire group. Front Row: Gabi, Blair, Esther, Debbie, Sondra, Jorge
Middle Row: Susie, Imelda, Joni, Denise, Michelle, Carrie, JenniLee
Back Row: Kim, Jordan, Bobby, Fernando, Jason, Bert, Jason, Yours Truly, Jenna, Juan
 Denise met these 2 cuties and found out they needed sponsors. But then she was all like "No thanks". Ahahahahaha! just kidding! She decided to sponsor both children that very day!
This is Kim and the tiny stinker in the blue shirt is Alex. I say he's a stinker because he caught on to how adorable we all thought he was and decided he could get away with anything. He totally reminded me of Evan. He loved Jason. His brother and sister are also in the picture but I believe they have sponsors. Kim didn't waste time sponsoring Alex. She snatched him right up. I called him the project mascot.
 While everyone else was meandering around looking for children to sponsor, I decided to get in on the action. Bobby gave me the sponsor packets to look through and Jason suggested that I find a girl, since I'm out numbered by boys. The sponsor child we have in Mombasa Africa is also a boy. There was only one girl available to be sponsored and I found out that she was part of the project we were going to visit on Friday! Her name is Ana. So I snatched her up. You'll hear all about her when I get to Friday. Patience people!
It was time to tour the project. Here's a classroom. Our translator asked the children to raise their hand if they get letters from their sponsors. All but one rose their hand. So I asked for her name so I could write her a letter before we left. Then the translator found out that actually 9 kids in the classroom hadn't ever received a letter from their sponsor,and I was like "Woah Nelly! That's a hand cramp waiting to happen." So several of the sponsors in our group each took a name and we all wrote the children letters. yay.
This project has a metal workshop. 
We visited the bakery workshop where they were making these things that I don't know the name of them. But they were filled with a sweet fruity jelly. 
They made fun of my small pudgy version. I'm pretty sure their's are made incorrectly.
After the visit to the workshops, I wandered aimlessly around the project and found these troublemakers.
I forgot who was taking the picture but he yelled "Be LOCO!" An art which I have perfected.
I also found a few boys and asked them if they wanted to race, which somehow turned into a soccer game. If you'll watch this video clip until the end, you can see me asking Glenda "which stinking goal is mine?" But she thought I was asking her who's team I was on. So I basically just ran all over the place kicking the ball every which way in my flipflops carrying a backpack. Because that's the way I roll.
Playing in a suit and tie was my other option.
They gave me a penalty kick. I'm pretty sure it's because I got nailed on the side of the head with the ball, even though I tried playing it off like I meant to do that because all soccer players use their heads to score goals.

It was time to bring the game to an end and head back into the church. This area is so beautiful that I walked around snapping pictures of the project and the scenery.
We finished this day with "A Day in the Life" visit. This is where 2 project teens live -Bryan and Neddy. They are cousins and both sets of families share this space. That's Bryan in the lower left corner.
Here's a group shot of all of us at the home visit.
In front are: Neddy, Ronan and Bryan (who is holding their cat Mikey, which is totally my nephew's name). In back are Me, Jason, Joni, Deena (who is holding her son Paul) Deena's sister and her son. 
Bryan hopes to go to university someday and be a civil engineer. I told him that was okay, but an astronaut is better. Neddy loves music and learned to play guitar. He loves Hillsong United music and he also wants to go to university.
Bryan's mom is Deena. A sweet, hospitable lady who laughed at us a lot. We gathered around her table and shared lunch together. Then it was time for her to teach us how to make tamales from scratch. Like, we had to actually grind the corn for the tortillas and grind the beans for the filling. 
Jason got cranking. Ha! Get it! Literally...
You saw Neddy (the guitar necklace) David (in the middle -a staff member of this Compassion project we were visiting in Ataco and we loved him! He befriended Jason right away and gave him a lapel pin of the flag of El Salvador. Since I didn't get a pin, I stole a piece of corn from the grinder when no one was looking, for my souvenir.) and on the other end is Bryan.
I can grind corn like nobodies business.
Then I had to use the restroom. David gave me a horrified look when I said, and I quote: "Neccessito ir al bano". He asked the translator to ensure I really needed to go. If he had just known that I peed my pants earlier when I was playing jump rope with some kids, he'd know I don't mess around. So. I found the restroom.  So you're aware, in nearly all the restrooms I visited while in El Salvador, the toilet paper smelled like baby powder. No lie. 
I don't know about ya'll, but when we got home, I totally told Jason to hang his bike from our bathroom ceiling.
In case you were wondering, I wasn't bothered by the restroom at all. I've peed in the woods. So.
When I returned from my pit stop (get it? pit stop! hahaha!) I was required to learn the second step of grinding corn. A grueling process of scraping a rock back and forth on the corn paste until it's consistency is soft enough to be used for the tamales.
I had no idea what I was doing, since I missed the demonstration. So I'm pretty sure I'm a natural and I should be featured on Food Network. Then I made Jason take over.
Before long, it was time to cook the onion and fill the corn with spices before forming the tamales. This is the kitchen.
I don't think Deena trusted me near fire. Jason is the one who nearly caught his house on fire when he was in middle school! Okay, so I caught my dad's field on fire once. We're even.
Time to form the tamales. Form the tortilla dough into a bowl shape, put beans in the middle, form the tortilla dough around the beans and flatten it. Then wrap it in a banana leaf to be boiled for 2 hours.
We finished with a lovely stack of tamales ready to be boiled. We didn't get to enjoy them because we had to leave before they were finished. So Deena promised to bring them to us the following day at the project. We were spending an additional day there to have VBS with the kids.
Before heading out, we took a few more pictures of the house.
Please buy the "YOATACO" bumper sticker for me. I scoured the market looking for one and didn't find any. Buy me 2. Just because.
The next day was VBS. This day was specifically planned so that we could have time to play with the kids.
We performed a skit of David & Goliath. It's 5 minutes long, but we're pretty funny.
And I asked my Israelite Army team to take a "Charlie's Angels" pose with me. Jordan, the tall blond, was feeling a bit more "Israelite Army Supermodel".
We brought games along since this day was planned.
Jason was intrigued by their version of American football..
Glenda asked if she could take a picture of me. I had to charge her a small fee.
This little couple made our day. We didn't capture the blanket the boy is holding in the picture, but my friend Joni cracked me up when she said "He says, 'all I need in life is my girl...and my blanky'."
We took a group photo with the staff members here. The lady in the front row-yellow shirt giving bunny ears to Debbie came up to me and hugged me and said "you are a young princess." 
At least that's what I think she said. It was either that or "you are no spring chicken". No, she really did say I was a young princess and it melted my heart. ♥
One more scenery picture, a lime tree and...
Jason found this guy that got hit by a truck was working on his truck.

And now. Drumroll please. We've come to the last 2 days of our trip.
We visited the Compassion Project in San Salvador. What a sweet welcome.
We got to meet Ana, our new sponsor child. This is the project she attends.
To say she was terrified is an understatement.
She reluctantly followed us to visit a few workshops.
These cute little nino's prepared a song for us.
And when we left this preschool classroom, she burst into tears.
She cried for her mom and they had to go get her. So Jason and I continued on to visit the workshops without her. We went to the woodworking shop, and heard testimonies from the boys who were learning the trade. Many of them were involved in gangs and doing drugs before the project staff found them. Once they started the project, their lives were transformed. 
I had to step out of the workshop because I burst into tears over Ana's reaction. My heart was broken. If she only knew me! Surely she would love me! 
Once her mother arrived, we talked to her again. She was still very timid.
We found out through our translator that this area where she lives is very dangerous. There is a lot of gang activity and the community is very protective of the children. We also had no prior contact with Ana through letters, since we had just found out about her and decided to be her sponsor only 2 days earlier. We were told however, that when she found out she had a sponsor she was initially very excited. We were told that she would be able to meet us the following day at the water park, during the sponsor child visit. We had not expected that, but we were so grateful that the Compassion staff offered this to us. Of course we would like to spend more time with her. After this meeting, we left her with her mom to go hear the project orchestra.
This orchestra practiced for 6 months with no instruments. They didn't have them because the project couldn't afford them. They learned the music and learned the finger placements as though they had the instruments, believing in faith that they would receive them someday. One day a generous donor made a contribution that allowed them to purchase al of these instruments. This is through a program that Compassion calls Complimentary Interventions.They had very little time to prepare for us, but you would never know it.
When the program had concluded, we formed a receiving line to hug the students as they came out, and to give them words of encouragement. Finally we said our goodbyes and prepared for our final day in El Salvador. The day all of the sponsors met their sponsor children.
I don't know if there was a dry eye on this morning. We met at a local water park. Compassion buses the children to the meeting location, and some of them travel for hours (Compassion has project locations all over El Salvador). When our bus pulled up, Carrie and Bert were one of the first sponsor to meet their sponsor child. This greeting was all it took for the tears to start rolling. I'll admit, running through a grassy meadow with arms open wide for a hug is how I had always envisioned a greeting to be.
Finally it was our turn to meet Ana again. I kept telling them "no wait, I'm not ready!"
And here she came...
So I burst into tears again. Thankfully Jason was so loving and patient, because I was so traumatized that I mentally shut down. I didn't know what to do. After walking around the park for a bit, visiting the monkeys and the turtle and the parakeet, she agreed to go swim. It was during this time that she began to enjoy us. We had a squirt gun and she started shooting us with it and then I asked her to play tag "Mica!". Um. I have no idea if that's the correct spelling, because I just looked it up and the word "chamber pot" came up.So. 
Our time of swimming was up. So we gathered in the pavilion to eat lunch and we had grabbed a coloring page with markers, because it didn't look like she was going to swim at first. 
And THEN it was time for all of us to go and get the gifts we had purchased for our sponsor children. Thankfully, they allowed us to stop at a dollar store the previous evening. So we stocked up.
And... that was the moment I'm certain we won her over. 
We showed her how to pay the game we bought her. Only her mom was no good. Hahahahah! Just kidding.
This little girl "asked" if she could play. She was the sponsor child of Kim who had been sponsoring her for several years and found out at this visit that she is deaf and mute. I loved her. She chased me while we swam, gave me hugs, and her mom asked if she could take her picture with me.
And that is the true story of the girl who stole our heart .
Compassion's tag line is: "Releasing Children from Poverty in Jesus' Name".
Please sponsor a child today.