By Taryn Walker
Week 1: We stayed in pairs with El Salvadorian families, eating breakfast and dinner with our new families getting to know their language, customs and history. During the day we visited several women’s co-ops, focusing on the different trades they had learned that were now providing money for their families, and witnessing the empowerment that came with these increased skills. We sat with each group of women to hear their stories and how their group had formed, and how this has given them a voice in their families and communities. We visited an Indigo textile workshop, another that worked with sewing and dyeing, also a group that focused on education and awareness training around domestic and community violence towards women and children. We spent some time with La Vaquita, a program DFW supported in 2008, which helped build a store for 10 women to make and sell cheese and other dairy products. So fun to see that from their success they are now finishing the second floor for a storage room and accounting office for their growing business!
We also learned, first hand, how the recent war and violence has shaped El Salvador’s culture through our visit to Archbishop Oscar Romero’s museum and chapel where he was murdered. On the national holiday of November2nd, All Souls Day, we spent time visiting an amazing monument for the innocent people killed or still missing from the war, then went to see a countryside cemetery where three Maryknoll sisters were buried after their murder in the early 80s. Two current sisters traveled with us to share the plight of the nuns and led us in a service of remembrance of all those who have died. Going farther back in history, we visited several Mayan ruins and learned about the government’s efforts in restoring them. We also threw in a couple Spanish language classes for good measure to prepare us for our time with the PINCC patients.
Week 2: Service work with PINCC. The number one goal for the week was to train the El Salvadorian doctors and nurses to be able to carry on the important work of screening and treating lesions to prevent cervical cancer. Whatever our group of nine DFW volunteers could do to help, we were up for the challenge. We worked in four different clinics around San Salvador. Each day we saw at least 50 patients, assisting in their treatment and helping to educate them about the importance of medical treatment and safe sex. Many of us shared how much we were learning about the female body and saw first hand how much knowledge was being exchanged. The head of the health commission for the country came to the graduation celebration for the doctors and nurses that achieved the status of trainers. It’s very exciting for PINCC and the medical community of El Salvador to be able to continue the training without PINCC and volunteers being there. This is a true example of giving a person a fishing pole and teaching them to fish, instead of giving them the fish for just a good meal!
Once again, DFW and the organizations that we support are making a big impact, both for us from the US, and most importantly for the many women in El Salvador that received training and treatment through PINCC. I continue to be proud to be a part of such a great organization.Read the trip diaries