El Salvador 2015
From the time the Foundation was created in 2008, Cam Marshall said that someday a group of employees from GlobalFlow would travel to a developing country to build a house for a family in need.
In 2013, the board suggested a timeline – Spring of 2015.
In the spring of 2014, a committee was established within the board to research the possibilities, with travel dates being set as Easter of 2015.
The first step for the committee was to seek an organization with which to partner. After much research and consideration, Habitat for Humanity was chosen. The next step was to choose a country. The committee wanted to choose a country that was truly in need, and wherein the people had little opportunity for help. Because the team members would be paying for most of the trip themselves, cost was also a factor. Following much consideration and reflection, El Salvador was chosen. After the committee had chosen El Salvador and confirmed the trip with Habitat for Humanity, the process of recruiting participants began.
Because a main tenet of the Foundation has always been to “ensure that the funds are given to organizations that are meaningful to the employees and to which the employees are personally committed”, the decision was made that the Foundation would commit a set amount of money, and that money would be divided equally among the participant employees to help cover the cost of their trips.
In the end, GlobalFlow sent a team of 10 people, including employees, family members and friends, to El Salvador. They were a mighty 10!
Habitat for Humanity’s fee in the chart below covers the cost of the build and all accommodation, meals and transportation during the orientation and build days.
Individuals are responsible for their own costs to get to and home from the host country (flights).
Rest and Relaxation days are a separate expense, of which we had 2 days.
Habitat for Humanity Fee
R&R – accom and meals
Total cost per person
Minus Foundation donation *
TOTAL PAID PERSONALLY
This total does not include spending money. However, it does include all necessities while there, on build and R&R days. As such, a person could have gone with very little spending money.
Left to right - Evan, Dave, Cam, Dean, Lorie, Karen, Barb, Darrel, Carolyn, Rudy
The team arrived in El Salvador on Saturday, April 4. The next day, Sunday, was a day to tour the sights and history in San Salvador, have an orientation regarding the build, and meet the family for whom the house was being built. The Habitat field officer assigned to the team was Katy. She shared her vast knowledge of El Salvadorian history and boundless hope and enthusiasm for its future. It would be wonderful if some day El Salvador reached the potential that Katy sees in it!
Above - Katy took us to a memorial wall. Names of people who were killed or simply disappeared during the civil war are etched into the wall. As you can see, it is an incredibly long list.
Below - The church in which Archbishop Oscar Romero was assassinated in March, 1980.
The tour and history lesson were a great start to the trip. However, the highlight of the day came when met the family. The house is in the Ciudad Arce area of El Salvador, in the community of Santa Rosa. Its recipient was a single father, Gerson, and his 5 year old daughter, Melina. Grandpa, Hector, had supplied the land next to his own house, and worked with the team on the build every day.
Above - Cam and Gerson, with his daughter, Melina.
Then Began the Work
Before the work began the team took a few minutes to meet Grandpa and Grandma, who lived on site, and say good morning to Melina. She is a beautiful little girl.
Grandma sending Melina and her cousin off to school.
Karen and Melina
And then it began.
Arriving at the work site, nobody had any idea of what to expect. It was a beautiful forested area, with mango and cashew trees surrounding, and birds singing and cicadas droning. And huge piles of sand and gravel and bricks that needed to be pushed up a hill to the build site. In wheelbarrows and buckets.
Going on the build with a group of people who, for the most part, work together at home, made it easy to designate who was doing what. Everyone basically took to a job, and the work began immediately.
The build was in the beginning stages. The team jumped right into working from the foundation up - hauling and tamping dirt in the outline of the rooms, and mixing and pouring cement by hand.
In the beginning
Buckets and wheelbarrows.
Tamping dirt before the cement is added.
(That night one of the team members called her husband back home and told him about the first day. He googled how much it would cost to rent a bobcat in El Salvador - $60/day for the machine and a driver. OMG! But that would defeat the purpose. Okay. No bobcat.)
Below - End of day one. The rooms are outlined in cement.
On the morning of the second day, rebar had to be lowered into the foundation, and tied. While one group became masters at Rebar Tying 101, the other group continued to move the mountains of gravel and dirt up the hill.
Left - Rebar Tying ; Right - More Dirt
By the afternoon of day two, the rebar was all in, and the job of pouring cement on top of it to fill the foundation began. This cement was mixed by hand with shovels, and then carried in pails to be poured throughout. To get it done, there was one efficient assembly line, mixing, moving and pouring cement.
In addition to Hector, grandpa, working on site every day, there were 5 other El Salvadorians who were part of or joined the team, worked incredibly hard, and became friends.
Left - Hector (Grandpa)
The Habitat mason on the build was Will. He was very happy with the progress made. By the end of day two, the build was 2 days ahead of schedule. A second mason working on 2 of the days was Alex. Their smiles and laughter made the hard work easier. Could those two fly with trowels in their hands!
Right - Will and Alex
There were also 2 teenage boys from a neighbouring family, Jorge and Eduardo, who joined in and worked very hard every day. Rudy, a GF team member and translator on the trip, continues to keep in touch with them.
Left to right- Will, Eduardo, Rudy, Jorge
And last, but definitely not least, was Ricardo. Officially, Ricardo was the assigned Habitat driver. But he became much more than that. He was our driver, teammate, R&R guide, and friend. Ricardo made sure that we saw and experienced everything about his beautiful country that we should and could, and he kept us safe. On the morning of day two he grabbed a shovel, and became one of us.
Back Row Standing - Left to Right - Evan, Jorge, Barb, Eduardo, Darrel, Karen, Rudy, Dean, Dave and Will
Front Row Kneeling - Left to Right - Alex, Cam, Carolyn, Lorie and Hector - Ricardo is taking the picture.
Day Three began with mortar. More specifically, mixing it with shovels. Of which the first step was, of course, hauling up the sand with which to mix it.
Above - Cam didn't speak Spanish, or Alex English. But the negotiation was clear. How many more wheelbarrows full?
The dirt and cement were mixed with shovels in a pile, and water added to a bowl created in the middle. Then came the delicate process of turning it, requiring patience and care so as to not be the person who let the damn break and water run out. The El Salvadorians were substantially better at it than we were. It was obvious that they had all done it before. (Below)
And then began the bricks – haul, stack, mortar, place, more mortar, repeat. Again. And then again.
Left - The first row of bricks is begun.
Right - But first they have to be hauled up the hill in wheelbarrows.
It was not, however, all work and no pleasure. We also laughed a little bit. Okay, a lot. And enjoyed the beauty and novelty of our surroundings. We discovered cashew fruit. That’s right. Cashews are really fruit. The stem is the nut that we eat in Canada.
Left - Dave behind cashews hanging on a tree.
Right - Darrel giving cashew fruit a try. Not so much sweet.
And mango. Oh my. There are truly few things sweeter than eating a mango right off of the tree!
- Left - Eduardo shimmied up a tree about 30 ft. and knocked some mangos down.
Right - Cam enjoying the fruits of Eduardo's labour. Literally.
And more smiles. At work and play.
Left - A rare picture of Dean - no shovel, bucket or wheelbarrow in his hand.
Right - A future Habitat mason.
The last full day to work on the house, and we wanted to make it count! Those of us especially feeling our muscles (and age) continued to lay bricks.
Above Left - One more row. Above Right - Cam has a new calling.
The more energetic (and younger) members of the group pushed the last of the sand, gravel and bricks up the hill. Will was very happy when the last of the bricks were unloaded. That meant that he wouldn’t have to do it after we left.
Above Left - Darrel got into a contest with Eduardo and Jorge to see who could push the biggest load. Seriously.
Above Right - That pile used to be at the bottom of the hill. Nice.
The final day of the build was a day of celebration. The family cooked us a delicious meal in appreciation of our work. We ate and shared time with the family and friends that we had made throughout the week.
Clockwise from the top left - Rudy, Will, Darrel, Eduardo, Jorge, Hector, Ricardo
After the meal, the family and Habitat thanked us with words and gifts. Cam spoke on behalf of all of us, and gave everyone who had worked with us and become our friends a gift from GlobalFlow.
Right - Katy and Cam. He made her cry.
Left - Cam gave everyone a GF t-shirt. Hector got the "G".
We celebrated what we had accomplished on the progress of the house (which was a great deal more than was expected); we celebrated what we learned from our time in El Salvador (which was more than we ever could have imagined); and we celebrated the friendships that we made (which we will always keep in our hearts and minds, even from many miles away).
Above - How we left it.
Then we relaxed. Saturday and Sunday we stayed at a beach resort and toured a bit, for those who wanted to.
Saturday was spent lounging on the beach. It was a well-deserved rest.
On Sunday, Ricardo took those who wanted on a tour of some other sites in El Salvador. We visited San Salvador Volcano, which erupted and devastated the surrounding area in 1917, and visited a Mayan Ruin site.
On Monday, April 13, we returned home, ever more aware of how lucky we are.
Back Row - Cam, Evan, Dean, Barb, Karen, Rudy, Lorie, Darrel, Carolyn and Dave
Front Row - Ricardo, Hector, Jorge, Eduardo and Will
Maybe, someday, the GlobalFlow Foundation will help another group of employees and their families and friends to discover the personal growth and satisfaction that comes from helping someone who truly needs it. We came home more fortunate than we left.