It’s hard to believe that as I write this, we are now only two clinic days left from being done. We have had a couple of wonderful days, full of all kinds of emotion for me. We just got back to the hotel from our rest day at a small beach resort. It is privately owned and we were the only people there since it’s a week day and everyone else is working. It was a much needed break from the intensity of our clinic days. We sat around the pool, played in the surf and I enjoyed reading a novel, something I haven’t had time for lately. It was a gorgeous day!
Our last two clinics were gorgeous, too, but in a different way. I took this first picture as we drove to Joya Grande on Tuesday. You can see the volcano faintly in the distance. The country is beautiful! There are high mountains and hills and deep gorges that I wish I could photograph. The sky is a stunning blue and there are still flowers in places since we are here near the beginning of the dry season.
When you take a closer look at El Salvador, you will see a clear dichotomy in the culture. There are the very rich and upper middle class, and the very poor. Below is a photo of how the people we are helping live. Sometimes they have concrete walls, but most do not. They cook over open flames outside. They have holes in the ground for toilets (I know. I had to use one!) surrounded by walls and a blanket for privacy. They hang their clothing on lines or just over their fences to dry. They wash those clothes in the river. So many differences from what we are used to in Canada.
Despite the state of their lives, these people are polite, gentle and so grateful for our help. Joya Grande was devastated by the flooding. A torrent of water just washed out a road and dropped it by 20 feet. The following pictures were taken after our clinic was over, where we didn’t have to turn even one person away! What a joy to be able to help 635 people in a community where we were the first team in to do anything for them. You can see how the waters just tore apart homes and left behind mud. The school principal told us the story of how the waters came around 9pm when people were in their homes. An elderly woman told one of the medics that she remembers hearing people crying and shouting for help. A man tells of how his fishing net pulled up two of his friends’ bodies. A church collapsed with people inside. This happened after just 4 hours of rain and with no warning! Families were torn apart and lives will never be the same. 50 families lived in the school until a month ago. The school even had to be shoveled out of all the mud.
The following photo shows a house whose walls are actually sunk into the mud. Whole houses were washed into the lake.
This photo shows a family living in a house with no walls. This really struck me, it was hard for me to keep the tears back. Such loss!
Despite all this, there is still such beauty. The people return your smiles. They are so gracious. There was one man who came in the clinic with his three children. It’s not as prevalent, seeing a father with his kids in the middle of the day, so I think he has probably lost his wife. I had the privilege of filling his prescription. There were a large number of meds needed for him and his children. I handed them off to Dashina, one of the spanish-speaking people working with us, and started on the next form. Dashina stopped me to get my attention. This man wanted to make sure that he could say “Gracias” to me. I don’t get that very often and I will always remember him.
On Wednesday, we thought we were going to Verapaz, but in true Central American style, that got changed. Instead we sent to San Agustin, which was another community hard hit by the flood. There were many similar stories. Here the flood turned a small river into a deep gorge. But again, the people were wonderful. There were a lot of big orders this day, lots of things these people are dealing with. Again, we didn’t have to turn anyone away, helping 573 people. Some of our team were able to go look at the damage like on Tuesday. I didn’t go this time.
This man was so cute! He was one of the last people in the farmacia and was there while I was taking some photos. He turned to me and gave me this big smile, but the photo didn’t turn out. So I took another one, of him leaving with his meds. Just as I snapped the shutter, he waved to me. It’s another person who won’t quickly leave my mind.
Now we are going to finish resting up for our next clinic day tomorrow in Verapaz. It’s a community of about 2000, so it’ll be another crazy day, like Monday.
We so appreciate your prayers for our safety and health. The roads to San Agustin were a bit treacherous and right on the edges of the gorge, so thank you for praying.