Thursday, January 6, 2011

What happens next?

It is the evening of the sixth day in El Salvador. From somewhere beyond the walls and padlocks the sounds of music and singing are drifting into the Casa Voluntariada. I can hear the excitement of the party and people yelling happily. It sounds like a different El Salvador than we have been working with during our time here.

A profound thing happens when one blindly embarks on something. You can read articles, surf the Internet, search YouTube, but nothing hits you quite like the brick wall of actually being in that situation. That is what happened to me when I got to El Salvador. The brick wall could literally be one of the 10 foot barricades that surround every building in San Salvador, but luckily we haven't run into any of those yet (nor had to contend with the barbed wire on the top.) However, no amount of research or worldly experience could have prepared me for this.

As we quickly learned, we all come from very different circumstances around the country. I do not pretend to know any one's story, nor them mine, but a healthy awareness of that fact is just the starting point for a group like ours to come together. We have all come here for the week from different experiences and are all experiencing different things. Different emotions. Different highs. Different lows. I would be remiss to say one of my lows has been the sinking feeling of realizing the abundance and wastefulness of my day-to-day life. Working with people who have next to nothing and thrive as best they can is humbling. There are of course highs to negate the lows: the high of working with your hands, speaking to the locals, laughing with the children, learning about a people and a country with incredible spirit and hospitality. There are few feelings like it.
Learning from my fellow AFLV group members and the people of Ilobasco and Las Delicias has had an impact on me that will be different from anyone else's, yet we all see that if we go back to our respective homes and sit idly by as if we had not come to El Salvador, we would be no better than if we had not gone. However, I believe (for myself in particular) that I can go home and share this experience and give back on a local level. Tonight we remembered that El Salvador is not unique in its struggle. This poverty exists in our schools, our neighborhoods, our cities. This service can be amplified back at our homes with our abundant resources and unwavering conviction. We have talked a lot about drops in the bucket, and how this trip is one of those drops, but drops create ripples and it only takes one off those ripples to take off on a new mission and spread further. The more drops in the bucket, the more ripples, the more people on the mission to make our global community better. This week is an incredible experience, but it is about what we do after the trip, once we don't have AFLV organizing a immersion, or Sister Gloria's air horn in the morning.
As Dean Brackley reminded us, it is not about the impact we have on El Salvador, but about the impact El Salvador has on us. How will El Salvador affect us in the coming days, months and years?

Katie Burwell is a senior at The Ohio State University and a member of Chi Omega Fraternity.

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