What I Learned in El Salvador
By Ryan D’Silva
I always knew I wanted to go to El Salvador after my brother went to El Salvador 4 years ago and came back and told me about all the friends and the community he visited and all the great food he ate while he was there. I was in 8th grade at that time and could not wait to go and have the experience for myself.
During my junior year at Shawnee Mission Northwest high school, my mom asked me if I would be interested in going in the summer of 2015. I knew I was ready for the experience and I heard that there were four teens from my high school going along, so I jumped at the opportunity. But sadly, I knew very little about the relationship between our church and El Buen Pastor. Luckily for me, our leader and guide, Teresa Aley spent many hours with us before our trip. She brought us up to speed on the history of El Salvador, she asked us what we were interested in doing while we were there. We wanted to meet the President of El Salvador, we wanted to eat pupusas and we wanted to visit El Mozote, and she said yes to it all!
We packed our bags and set off for El Salvador at 3 am on June 1, 2015. We were so excited! Besides me, the other teens were Claudia, Benjamin, Libby, and Roberto. The adults in our group were my mom, Lance, Steve, Donna, Annette and Teresa. This year was particularly special because Monsignor Romero was just beatified and the entire country was excited. We were just as excited because we were going to be a part of their celebration.
Once we got to El Salvador, I was amazed at the kindness of the people there. Our hostess, Sonia always cooked delicious meals. Our bus driver, Santos told us stories about the crimes in El Salvador and went with us on most of our trips. Our visit to El Mozote was eye-opening. We saw the sites of the massacres there, and it was very humbling to see how the people of El Salvador were using those experiences to heal themselves.
Of course, my favorite time was when we reached Buen Pastor and were greeted by everyone in the community. I was amazed by the love we were surrounded by, even though we had never met before. We played soccer with all the young kids and teenagers of the community. My favorite activity was playing bingo with all the people of the community, and going to the water park. Leaving Buen Pastor was the most difficult thing I have done. I hope they don’t forget me because I will remember this experience for a long time.
At the end of 10 days we had eaten pupusas, visited El Mozote and almost met with the President (he canceled at the last minute, but we had a tour of his Presidential home!). But what I will treasure the most is the companionship of the people of my delegation. We shared all our experiences for the 10 days we were together, we ate together; we laughed out loud and played cards late into the night. Those memories will be with me for a long time too. Our delegation is planning to work together on the fiesta coming up on October 18, 2015. I plan to stay in touch with them for a long time.