Three weeks in article
Hola! My name is Claire Eccles and I am the new Volunteer Communications Manager in the SHARE office in El Salvador. I just graduated from Berkeley High School in California and am taking a Gap Year before heading off to college.
I have been here for almost three weeks now and I am loving it! I take Spanish classes in the morning which is helpful in improving my communications and language skills, and then I come to volunteer at SHARE after class. I joined a local gym which helps me connect with my new local community. Like most people, I had my worries about coming to El Salvador. When I arrived I was expecting to see visible gang presence (and in fact was looking for it from the drive from the airport home), violence, corruption, and all the other stereotypes surrounding El Salvador. I was pleasantly taken aback to see workers peacefully taking the bus home, families playing at parks, children walking their dogs and other everyday activities you see in places where people live. I did not, and still have not, seen any gang violence, catcallers, robberies etc. People have been super friendly to me, greeting me every time I pass. Beyond that, the community at SHARE is incredible. Volunteering with SHARE is an enriching experience. My first day here I went to San Jose Las Flores and Guarjila to have a workshop with women of Guarjila about food sovereignty and encourage the consumption of healthy green foods. Right from the start, I have been participating in the community! Anabell, Laura, and Isabel are all very hardworking, friendly, and enthusiastic individuals. They all make me feel included in this close knit community.
I live with Isabel, the field office director at SHARE, her son Oscar and their dog Viejo. Isabel is welcoming, caring, and protective. For example, every day she drives me to my Spanish class and picks me up every afternoon, just to make sure I am safe and not exposed to any danger. She makes delicious food both at work and at the house. She lives in a very safe neighborhood with a beautiful park and nice gym less than a 5-minute walk away. Her house is charming and my room is lovely. Additionally, they have a fantastic hammock in the house right next to my room which I spend a large majority of my free time on.
I truly am enjoying my time here. I wake up at 5 am every morning eager to start my day–I wouldn’t have considered doing that in Berkeley. The people I have met through my Spanish school and SHARE have been nothing short of kind hearted, outgoing, and eager to explore. Although the country of El Salvador is relatively small, the landscape here is vast and beautiful. This country’s west coast is filled with gorgeous beaches to play, swim, and surf. It has five large lakes and 26 volcanoes–more than enough to keep me entertained for four months. Looking around you immediately notice the boundless greenery and plants that fill this country. From hikes in the mountain to fishing on lakes, this country has it all.
As Chimamanda Adichie said in a fascinating Ted talk called “The Dangers of a Single Story,” “if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding.” This is very applicable with El Salvador. If you only listen to the media and don’t experience it yourself, you will fail to understand the incredible culture, history, and people of El Salvador.