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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Last post from Sister Shelley

A final note from Sister Shelley to the staff back home in Ottawa

Well here we are on our second last. Today is a visit to the cathedral where the tomb of Archbishop Oscar Romero is located and the rest of the day at the beach.

All are gone except me and one kid from Trinity who is sick! I am staying home to kid sit. Most have been sick but with a strenuous schedule, extreme heat, culture and the lack of what we are used to on all accounts has probably accounted for this. Myself and one other teacher from Trinity and a couple of kids have not been affected so far. Cross your fingers.

The trip has been exceptional as a learning experience. Last evening during our reflection time the kids were concerned about the “stupid” questions they will be asked when they return home. How does one communicate an experience like this? It is not a holiday just because it is taking place in a southern country. It is difficult. It is heart-wrenching and it causes each to reflect on what is really necessary for life. How does one communicate what it is like to experience a people who create life, sustain life and nurture its growth and development by ensuring that all are included, all are important and all are equally loved by God? How does one communicate the experience of a community that, in many ways, does in a normal day much of what we do, yet at the same time have absolutely nothing except for the food they grow to eat, the clothing that is donated to wear and the play they engage in that is creative as they do not have the “toys” to use normally necessary for such entertainment? How do you communicate the experience of the youth they have met in both communities? Youth who get up at 4:30 a..m to help in the fields before school, who come back at 7:00 a.m. for breakfast then head to school from 7:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. and after that they spend time in groups completing their homework then return home to help again in the fields or in their “house.” (Houses are a relative term!) People here go to bed at 9 p.m. or 10 p.m. at the latest. How do you communicate the experience of listening to the hopes and dreams of so many young people who would love to go to university but know it is beyond their reach? Their parents are subsistence farmers and the youth live with the reality they, too, may well become the same.

Our kids experienced the reality of engaging with their peers who are as intelligent, articulate, hopeful,  with dreams and plans as they have, BUT have none of the opportunities our kids have. So . . . they return hopefully changed. They return hopefully eager to keep the experience alive by becoming active agents of change. Margaret Mead said something to the effect that it only takes a small group of committed people to make change and that in fact  is the only thing that has ever worked..

So, yes, it has been a wonderful trip, but is it “fun?” That depends on how you define the word fun. We have lived with dirt everywhere, lack of water, creepy crawlies, heat, fatigue, inability to communicate as we would like to,  etc., etc. But we have shared life with people have welcomed us so openly and warmly, people who have told us this is now our home and we are welcome here anytime. And what was asked of us? To remain in solidarity, to share THEIR story of hope, of longing, of a story filled with the power of a God who suffers with the poor and the power of community!

The group has just left for the beach. They are unable to go to the cathedral Miguel has just informed us as the former rebel forces have taken it over  in protest of the many abuses of the people and injustice and the lack of movement on these many issues.  There has been an incidence with the Archbishop of San Salvador thus the reason for the takeover. Story best left out of an email! Enough to say there are right wing and left wing the world over!

Love, Shelley

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