Those Who Restore Dignity

I’m writing today from San Salvador on an immersion trip with my students. We’ve been here for three days now and it’s been fantastic and a nice stretch for me. I speak just a little Spanish but enough to grab some phrases here or there. About half of our students are fluent speakers (out of the 9 women here with myself and my Jesuit Colleague). So I’ve felt like my Spanish should be more proficient…I haven’t made it a priority and should make a better effort when I return. I’m getting better as I stay here and it reminds me how much immigrants have to work to learn English (a much more difficult language to master).

So this is an immersion trip. We spent out first day going to Centro Hogar/Programa Velasco, a day care center in a very poor part of town. We learned about how they care for the kids there but also how they’ve started some women’s empowerment work there as well.

We visited the homes of two people who have benefitted from the work of the center accompanied by two of the workers, both former students from Santa Clara’s study abroad program “Casa de Solidaridad”. They lived in very meager homes and their whole families lived there. This is clearly what poverty looks like and often we Americans, know nothing of it.

I’ve spent time in Nicaragua as many know and I mentioned to the students that the poverty there was about the same although the main area of the city looked a bit better here than say, Managua does in my opinion. It’s interesting to watch these students see this with their own eyes after I have already had my eyes opened to such poverty in the past.

Even with such poverty, people have shown us great hospitality. They have learned through the various programs that they have been part of that they are not “nothing”. The real work here is not ending poverty, but rather it is restoring dignity. We will probably always have poverty here, but teaching people that despite poverty, they are still children of God is indeed a great stride forward. Often people believe that God has cursed them and that is why they are in poverty, so dissuading them from that idea is paramount and the folks here who have worked for this are indeed amazing.

I’ll be back tracking on our adventures for a bit. So stay tuned for more. But know that the presence of God is here and it is rich indeed.

And so please pray for us as we go forth to experience more, to be with those in poverty and to try to see the other as ourselves. Amen.

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