A great deal has happened since I first wrote and all I can say is "Wow" ! Talk about contrasts. We went from a 5 star hotel in San Salvador to a small village called Victoria where 11 of us stay in a room with 6 bunk beds. Then just when I thought that was roughing it, we took a nice little drive (not) along winding cliffside roads going literally at 45 degree angles full of massive potholes and rocks. I was a basket case as we took this drive and I had the "comfort" of sitting inside the cab of the truck, while Ciara stood up in the back of the cattle truck with the rest of the team while we bumped along. I discovered it's quite difficult for a surgeon to remain calm while imagining all the things I know could happen. But then . . . we arrived at the homes of the people for whom we were going to build the houses. The houses are built basically on the side of the mountain and the spectacular scenery only serves to contrast with the shocking poverty of these people with their single room, dirt floor tin homes held together with mud and branches. Inside the dark home are multiple hammocks hanging or cot-like beds in the same room as the open flame brick oven/stove and the chickens, all in a room as big as most of our bedrooms! In this house 11-15 people live. In the first house I saw a sick child lying in a hammock and it broke my heart to see him, but the children generally are smiling and they are so beautiful as they run around in their bare feet and muddy clothes from the rains. They run around on the slippery rocks and muddy ground like gazelles. I even saw a mother carrying her child in her arms asleep on her shoulder down a steep rocky path.
But today we started the actual building and that was another big "Wow". Two full houses were constructed today and these are made of steel and tin and will have cement floors and will be waterproof. We had the pleasure of testing that out as the rain started just as the last one was completed. Ciara and I did some of the physical labour but part of the time we were privileged to be able to draw and colour with the children who seemed to come from everywhere as soon as we sat down to colour for one or two of them. They warmed up with this activity and everyone wanted to colour their name. One girl hung her drawing in the center of her house.
Must go so others can use the computer!
Joan and Ciara.