Monday, December 27, 2010

3 Years in 30 Minutes

My time is officially up, and I have closed out my Peace Corps service in El Salvador.  It was a really hectic and long process.  Moreso for me because I had the Regional Lead stuff to wrap up as well as a few last projects that had crept up in the end.  But finally, I completely it all and flew out of El Salvador on Dec 22.  It was a sad time in my community, with many goodbyes and quite a few who shed tears.  On the last day, we made a small trip to the beach in the morning and then they accompanied me to the airport for my 2pm flight. 

So, how can I sum up 3 years in one entry?.... BULLET POINTS haha.   Lets run through what, with the help of MANY people, I have been able to accomplish. 

In-Site Projects
  • Live barrier and contour ditch formation with farmers
  • Grafting, Marmalade, Home Garden training through a $250 SPA grant at the National School of Agriculture for 20 farmers.
  •  Through a Partnership grant of $2300, we replaced the roof of half of the community house and the storage area.  The electrical system was revamped and bulbs bought for the new sockets.  The inside and outside were painted, along with doors, and security bars.  A door was installed in the outhouse, and a security screen put on the window of the pharmacy of the adjoining medical dispensary.  In addition, 25 new metal chairs, 5 foldable metal tables, and large dry-erase board on pedestals were purchased.

  • Art classes for kids and a Mural/Community Map project.  With the collaboration of local businesses, Kids to Kids grant, and private donations, the classes were given, murals painted in the community house and a community map build and painted at the entrance of the community.  About an $1800 project

  • The natural spring in our community benefited form a project $1750 to renovate its sources after landslides in the last hurricane.  A filter system was also installed, new pipes installed, the place painted, faucets installed, etc etc.

  • Numerous trainings with the Development Committee on project design and management
  • Health projects with the newly reformed Health Committee (medical brigades, fumigations, recycling campaigns, donations of medicines, AIDS trainings and workshops, fundraising techniques)

  • Construction of iron protections of roof of medical dispensary through a VAST grant ($1500)

  • Construction of bathrooms in the local hermittage as well as megaphone system for community announcements ($1300)

  • Youth group work in trainings and events, soccer team equipment through Kids to Kids grant

  • Road retention walls and bench construction for bus stops

Municipal Projects
  • FUDEM eye campaigns in three rural locations.  Close to 500 people as beneficiaries with half of them receiving some type of glasses after the consultations.  Later, 12 surgeries were obtained through collaboration with FUDEM and transport from the Mayor's office.  Cataract and Pterigion surgeries were done at symbolic costs (one even at 15 dollars).
  • Fuel-Efficient Stove project..... we built 93 stoves for families all across the municipality in collaboration with the NGO.... Water, Trees, People.

  • Potable Water system for my community and the neighboring one.  This project is probably the biggest.  We spent a year and half gathering information and soliciting different groups.  Success wasn't had until we teamed up with an NGO called Madre Cria and the Mayor's office.  Together soliciting the Japanese embassy, it seems that a project of more $100k could be less than months away.
  • Project design and management courses with 3 different development committees
  • Scholarship committee work for over 30 high school students and 5 university level students

  • Bathroom and potable water system construction in the parish medical clinic ($2500)

  • Translator for Army Medical Brigades and Habitat for Humanity builds
  • English classes to Women's group in main town, and vacation english classes to all in pueblo
  • Obtaining of library with Rotary Club of San Miguel for a local school
  • Elaboration of Electrical system and flooring in empty room in local school so as to install a computer classroom

  • Member of Volunteer Advisory Council (VAC)....
  • Regional Leader Position in Year 3
    • Creation of Regional Handbook for new volunteeres
    • Creation of National/International group reference guide for current volunteers
    • Executor of Regional Conventions to bring the volunteers of a region together to collaborate more on common goals and projects
    • Carrying out of site visits and administrative responsibilities delegated by San Salvador Staff when necessary

WHEW.... so there ya go, thats the majority of it.  My life's work for the past 3 years.  Many thanks to all who supported me over the years, and a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!!

At the airport.

"I do the very best I know how - the very best I can; and I mean to keep on doing so until the end."
Abraham Lincoln

Friday, November 19, 2010

Time's a Closing In

Well, I officially have a little over a month left in my Peace Corps service.  My last day as a volunteer will be December 17, 2010 and it looks like I'll be flying back to the states on the 22nd.  The month is beginning to fill up and I am having to decide which things I am going to attend and which ones I won't.  The last few weeks, I'll be reserving for my community, hopefully.  Any who.... lets recap lots of stuff thats happened the past while.

First off, my scholarship nursing student finally graduated!!  I accompanied him and his mom to the graduation ceremony in San Salvador, and then I treated them to lunch at Chilis in celebration.  He has persevered and I'm glad its all over.  A thank you to all those who helped out here and there throughout the years with his education.

David's Mom, David, and me just before the graduation

A nurse!

Next, here are the final pictures from the mural project inside the Community House. All is finished and that project is wrapped up now, although I would like to patch up some spots outside that haved scratched and put some better letters on the entrance, but for all intensive purposes, this project is done.  Thank you to Kids to Kids and the Caja de Credito and some private donors for helping these murals and the art classes for the kids come to fruition.

Next, are a few photos of an ongoing project that we've been pushing the past few years.  We have been gathering information and applying for grants for almost two years now for our potable water system here in our community.  You might remember that we barely lost a grant proposal to Spain back a year ago, but now we've partnered with an NGO called Madre Cria who is now working with the Municipality to get a grant from the embassy of Japan.  It is a super difficult project because our water system is located in three different communities and 2 different municipalities.  Each community wants certain things, but the money is not enough to go around.  My hope is if we win this opportunity to better the system, that it will open the door with Japan to continue working in the future.  Another huge problem that we have had is that when the communities first started the potable water system, certain landowners donated pieces of land to make the system a reality.  They did not, however, make written legal documents marking the transfer of ownership.  Fastfoward to 25 years later, land has been sold, or inherited, and even though there are numerous witnesses to the donations, everything is trying to get money in return for officially signing over their (already donated) terrain.  Projects all over the municipality have fallen through due to this, and our almost caved as well, because FIRST, international organizations refuse to work on private land, and SECOND, nobody has money to go around buying (or rebuying) pieces of land for every circumstance.  At the end of the day though, it looks like we will fulfill all of Japan's pre-requisites in time to win the project, and that our years of work will have paid off.  They have come and looked at everything and have given it the OK to proceed to the next step.  The project will be well over 100k. 

Here are some pics from our lawyers visit to mark of the land and search for it in the National registry.

Inside of these "tanks" on the hillside, are where the water is gobbled up and sent to our communities.

The pipes coming in are from the captation tanks from the pic above and the water you see is the overflow that our system can't handle

The 21 years old US Motors vertical water pump

I also got a chance to burn some of my vacation days that Peace corps has given me over the years.  I actually have had quite a few, but have been unable to really take advantage of them for moneysake!  We can't travel in the last three months of service, so I ended up losing about 20 days of vacation!!!!!  Craziness.  Anyways, I got a chance to go to Honduras for a few days in bus and we checked out the Mayan Ruins at Copan, and then shot up to the coast at Tela where we saw the 2nd largest Botanical Garden in the world.  It was left behind by the United Fruit Company (remember the Banana Republic like places where all the naners used to come from?).  The last day we passed through San Pedro Sula, which was just another big city.  The ruins were my favorite part.

Large bamboo....not native (this kind)

I didn't know cork was from a tree!

My first time seeing a coca plant

The place we stayed at Tela, Honduras at the beach

Irma is our registered nurse at Peace Corps that takes care of us vols

Underneath Copan Ruins

The 16 kings of Copan

Dunno who he is.

Looking down on the plaza...specifically the ball court

In other big news... I had my first visitors here to El Salvador!!!  My parents came down for a few days to check out my situation, and they did VERY well for not speaking the language.  We basically just hung out in my community, and by the last dinner, they were telling jokes (through me of course) to the rest of my neighbor's family.

Welcome! moms and me haha

Checking out my lemon tree

My archnemesis

On top of the church by the bells

The parish house ladies! They are so nice!

Dinner with the fam... Mother telling her super pickle joke.

I pretty much have to walk like that in most houses haha.

A random guy showing up on my porch selling armadillos and crabs.

Me and the "maestro" Alex

Finally, I've been in the capital the past few days in my final Med Checkups for Peace Corps to let me out of El Salvador.  I finished today with a clean bill of health.  Now all the paperwork will begin with my final reports and investigating more on grad schools.  Also, I have my regional convention coming up to plan, so that will be a lot of work as well.

In the next post, I'll sum up two more projects that we are finishing up as we speak.... The system of metal bars for security in our Medical dispensary and the revamping of our natural spring that was affected by some landslides.


  "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

Matthew 6:34