Thursday, June 19, 2008: poverty and hope

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Today our work was of a different sort. Arturo started us off with a talk about the poverty in the area of Santa Clara, a village about half an hour down the highway. We then piled into two trucks and headed down the road. Our first stop was to deliver the tote bags filled with school supplies to a school that Sister Martha was instrumental in founding. To get to this school, we had to walk across a suspension bridge that looked like something out of Indiana Jones. This was the only way over to the village.
After walking a ways down a winding path, we arrived at the school. Sister Martha had started this school because many of the children can’t make the long trip to the nearest school. It has only been in existence for 2 ½ months, but had 30 students in grades 1-6. Four posts and a metal roof, an old blue tarp for one wall, simple desks, and a small blackboard on an easel were all that made up this school, but it is already making a difference in this small village. Unfortunately for us, the students were on a one week vacation while we were there, so we were unable to actually hand out the tote bags to them. Many of the children were off in the woods gathering firewood, but while we were there several students did wander in, so we were able to take a few photos of the children with the totes.

Back across the bridge and into the trucks we went for a half hour ride to the small village of Santa Clara, population about 500. Arturo and his wife Suyapa live here, dedicating their lives to trying to make a difference in the lives of the villagers. Suyapa has started a preschool, another wall-less, floorless shelter where anywhere from 2-15 toddlers come for food, games, and loving care.

In the field below the preschool was a brick-making business that Arturo had started to provide jobs for the local rough necks. The business itself is quite interesting. The men dig mud out of a hole, then mix it with sand. The mixture is then put in wooden brick molds, dried, then fired in a kiln for 18 hours. Each brick sells for about 3 limpera (15 cents). The work is hard, but provides some income and pride to the young men who have stuck with it.

Just when we thought we had seen the worst poverty there was to see, we pulled up in front of a shack that blew us away. The walls had been adobe, wattle and daub style, but had broken down and been replaced with tarps and anything else the owner could find. Arturo brought some granola bars to the two young children who were there (Thanks to Ann Prather, for the forethought to pack so many!). The little boy, wearing only a dirty tee shirt, had such a smile on his face when Arturo gave them the food that it literally went from ear to ear. According to Arturo, many of these children don’t do well in school because they are hungry, not because they have missed breakfast that day, but because they haven’t eaten for a couple of days.

There can be no ending for this narrative, because poverty is never-ending. The Bible tells us the poor will always be with us. However, the hope for the future lies in these children, through good health care, education, and love. Arturo and Suyapa are on the right track.

Beth Eberhard