This past week has been truly amazing. I wish every person I know could have the same experience at some point in his or her lives. The people I met and the stories I heard have really put a lot of things into perspective for me. Everyone I met had a different story and a different personality, yet we all came together for a common purpose: to create a sense of change through serving.
Only being in El Salvador for a week, it seemed almost impossible to make a major difference in these people’s lives. I quickly realized I was wrong. While in El Salvador, we had the opportunity to visit three different work sites in three different villages: Ilobasco, Las Delicias and Villa Zaragoza. At each of the three sites we were benefiting specific families or the community as a whole. I spent most of my trip at Ilobasco, where we were digging through a wall of rock to build a new classroom for a school. The work was not easy, yet so many people from the village came out to help us, children included. Two families who Project FIAT have worked with in the past were very involved with the project and even took us back to their houses each day so that we could be fully immersed in the El Salvadorian culture. Regardless of the language barrier, they shared their stories of their experiences during the war and were constantly reminding us how thankful they were to have us in their lives. We grew very close to these two families and all of the children at the site throughout the week; it was really hard to leave them on Friday. Everyone, especially the children, were so welcoming and were truly excited to see us everyday. They were so patient with us when we would attempt to speak Spanish and they were eager to learn the English words. I’ve come to realize that everyone in El Salvador works so hard for everything they have and they are always just happy to be alive, because nothing is promised for them tomorrow. Everyone was so thankful and said they felt privileged to have us in their lives, when really it’s the other way around.
Before we left Ilobasco on Friday, Don Miguel, the “lead” on the project put us all in a circle and sang us a song explaining that we were all one heart and followed one mind, basically reiterating that we all have one common purpose: to serve. He was so thankful for all of the work we did while we were there and went around the circle to hug and thank each one of us individually. That is a moment in my life I know I will never forget.
When we got in the van to go back home, Jaquin, our driver, blasted Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror”. While everyone was dancing and singing along, I took a minute to really listen to the lyrics. I came to realize that this song was the perfect ending to a perfect week. Although we were only in El Salvador for seven days and didn’t complete the projects, it didn’t matter. What did matter was that we were there, we were working and doing the best we could to make a difference in these people’s lives. MJ said it best when he sang, “If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself, and then make a change.” We chose to take a week out of lives to serve the less fortunate, regardless of what was accomplished. We were the change.
Kelsey Fisher is a senior at Kent State University, and a member of Alpha Xi Delta.