April 2014

Final Thoughts by Emily Valdez

“Te amamos con todo el Corazon.” To be loved. Isn’t that what we all want in this life?

My whole life I have looked in so many places–some good, some bad–for love. I’ve looked for comfort and love in having tons of “friends”, in money, and in materialistic things. I have worked so hard the last few years to travel the world and “do my own thing” without my family and without anyone holding my hand. All of these ambitions, all of these things, have always fallen short of what it truly is that I have always desired.

This week that I have spent in El Espino, an impoverished, dangerous, and materialistically-lacking community, has given me more fulfillment than any “thing” ever has. One fact of life that I have so greatly seen and learned is that in poverty there is wealth beyond money and beyond objects. When there is nothing else to give, one is able to know the love that he or she is able to give. The people of this community gave love in such an unconditional way. Their love was so quickly given without boundaries or hesitation. In just a few short days I was fully embraced as a friend, a sister, a daughter, a niece, a cousin, and a granddaughter. I was family and I received all the genuine love that the people of this community express so greatly every single day. It was such a simple and humbling experience, but such a huge opportunity to see life in a different and beautiful way.

As a college student, you don’t see living without running water as a great Spring Break, but it is because we have lost a desire to step back and analyze what truly matters in life and have gotten caught up in the everyday bombardment of technology. In an honest effort for a pure and simple life, we can find the love that is such a desire in each of us. We can allow ourselves to love full-heartedly and in turn be loved without fear. It breaks my heart to know that I could not bring every one of the beautiful, loving, and deserving people of El Espino back to the U.S. with me; but it also scares me to know that I am back in that world that has so many “things” and yet lacks so much. My web of emotions is full of fear, sadness, and most importantly love. I pray to God everyday that these feelings remain in my heart, not because I enjoy them all, but because I know these emotions can make a person do some incredible things.

My fire has been lit, and I know I will go back to El Espino. I know that the people of that community are working hard for better lives and I want to be a part of their efforts!

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Final Thoughts by Josh Adams


Two hundred and forty hours. Fourteen thousand four hundred minutes. Eight hundred sixty-four thousand seconds.  When written out it may seem like an eternity. If you take a closer look it’s really only ten days. A third of a month and only 0.02739 % of a year.  A little more than nothing than a blip on the radar that is our life. This ten-day blip was especially special.

Along with nine other people I made a trek to the community of El Espino, El Salvador. As a group we were immediately thrust and welcomed into the community with open arms. The moment we stepped off the micro we were showered with an endless line of hugs and smiles. One word jumped to the front of my mind. Unconditional. These Salvadoran people had an unconditional love for these ten American strangers.  After being welcomed into their home and being declared the newest member of their family I realized that they didn’t care what mistakes I made in the past. They were just happy to have a new brother.

The entire community is set on fire with a desire and passion for education. Knowing that one day they can become the focal point of change in El Salvador. Witnessing that passion firsthand was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. It really prompted me to take a moment and think about how much of a shame it would be to not take some of that fire and share it with our own communities. I’m pretty sure it was Gandhi who said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” This small community in the middle of the small country of El Salvador has taken those words to heart and are working together to be that change.

All week we heard that the scholarship students look up to us as delegates for The Foundation of Cultural Exchange. Those scholarship students will never really know how much we look up to them. The challenges they go through each and everyday in order to be that change they so desire to see is nothing short of amazing. In writing this reflection I am sitting here wishing that everyone I know could experience that unconditional love and passion for life that the people of El Espino shared with me. Then it dawned on me that they can. I can live my life happily and show my passions and exhibit an unconditional love for all and be that change I wish to see. I may be a blip on the radar and mean absolutely nothing to El Espino when this is all said and done, but El Espino will always be a huge blip on my radar and will always have a special place in my heart.

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