April 2015

Final Reflection by Rachel Wagster: We Left Our Hearts in El Espino

As I sit here in my cozy bed, with my puppy cuddling by my side, I cannot help but feel that something is missing. Just as I was reflecting on the experience, one of the compañeras from the trip texted me that she left her heart in El Espino. It hit me like a ton of bricks; we all left our hearts there. My heart is with the community that embraced us fully without knowing us. My heart is with the students who wake up before the sun to make it to school on time. My heart is with Xiomara and her family who did everything they could to make us feel at ease in a new environment, by means of giving up their own beds for us to sleep on. A piece of heart is with the every kid with whom we played soccer, and it stayed with them when we scattered from the field before sunset because of the gang initiated curfew. My heart is with every person I met, and with those I may never meet, who have or are suffering in El Salvador. My heart is as full as it is heavy, and I have never felt this way before.

I did not want to write a reflection immediately after our flight landed in the US out of fear that my words will not do El Salvador justice. Furthermore, it is taking a lot of time to process everything that we just experienced. As a group, we know how shocking, amazing, and beautiful everything was down there. However, trying to explain that to my friends and family has proven to be far more difficult that I had imagined. I am not ashamed to say I cry every time I look through pictures or tell a story about the trip. I cry because my family down there is so beautiful and taught me so much about love and strength. In addition, I cry when I see all the things we have here that they do not have access to down there. It truly breaks my heart to see how so many people are struggling in El Salvador. On the contrary, the abundance of laughter and love I experienced shows me how resilient and incredible they are. I hope to bring the light that shined within El Espino to Colorado.

I remember the welcoming ceremony and seeing all the scholarship students for the first time. Everyone was laughing and smiling, and despite a somewhat problematic language barrier, we all felt connected. Going to Xiomara’s house for the first time is a memory I will never forget. It was so beautiful, and overlooked a hill covered with trees and plants I have never seen or smelt before. Meeting Jeisón and Milagro for the first time was exciting. I had no choice but to speak Spanish. I think the first day was hard because I was scared to speak. However, as time passed they started to understand my gringa Spanish and Xiomara even tried to use English. We slept on our own beds that first night and the entire family slept in one room. That is just one example of how giving and kind the people of El Espino are. I snuggled up with my blanket from home and quickly fell asleep. When I woke up, an unfamiliar face greeted me in bed. A chicken had wandered in at some point in the night and slept in the corner of my bed. Another memory I hope to never forget. I washed my blanket I brought on the trip but it still smells like El Salvador. I hope that smell never goes away.

Every day we spent in the community we grew closer to the people who live there as well as to each other. I admire their strong faith and feel honored to have gone through this experience. I hope to never forget their stories of heartbreak and loss as a result of violence. A fire was sparked in Anna 11 years ago, and a fire is lit inside me now. I will continue to give my heart and energy to those people and the foundation. Thank you for the experience of a lifetime. I miss everyone and my new home already. Until next time…

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Final Reflection by Benjamin Gemoya: The Way Home

So the last day of this trip was pretty sad and exciting. Exciting because I finally get to see my family after 9 days. I actually miss them. I could stay away longer but my mom will probably kill me. Sad because I am leaving El Salvador and because I hope I get to stay in touch with all the people that came on this trip. It was an awesome group. We all loved each other and had one of the best experiences we will have in our lifetimes.

On the way home, I do have a lot of thoughts but it’s too much to write down. I know I have a lot of time on this plane, but you have any questions, just give me a call. I’d love to tell you more about this trip. I believe it changed the way I am going to live my life. Especially I am not going to be so needy and just be thankful for what I have now and just live life to the fullest.

Your one and only BenJAMIN Gemoya.

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Final Reflection by Kelsi Madrid: All You Need is Love

I have been pondering ways to write my last reflection. How do I even begin? My heart hurts extra today as I think of everyone in El Espino. I fell in love with that country and those people. Everything I do, everywhere I look, I am reminded of El Espino. I found myself smiling in class today remembering all of the laughs my family and I shared. My life is changed forever.

Never in my life did I think I would be welcomed with such open arms to a place I have never been. The physical beauty of El Salvador is unbelievable but the real beauty is beneath the trees and inside the little square houses. The real beauty is the people.

The community of El Espino will always be in my heart and on my mind. I am incredibly thankful for the opportunity I was given, for the forever friendships I made on this trip, and most of all the family I stayed with. They were the kindest, most amazing people I have ever met and I thank them the most for making my trip better than I could ever imagine. I believe that I will someday return. I wish I could go back right now to heal the heartache of being away from these incredible people.

So thank you to everyone who supported this trip, to Anna and the group for being so awesome and to the people of El Espino for showing me that all you need is love.

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