During the week of March 6th – March 10th 2017, 13 Ministry Brands employees participated in a vision trip to multiple areas in El Salvador. This second annual trip was facilitated by Compassion International, which operates over 270 projects throughout the country. At Compassion, the chief goal is to “release children from poverty in Jesus’ name”, and we have chosen to align with them because of their focus on doing in-country work through the local church.
Along with staff from Compassion International, our team spent four days visiting and serving children in some of the country’s most remote and deprived areas. Throughout our time in El Salvador, filled with fun, fellowship, working and learning, our group designated each of the four days to unique assignments and fascinating adventures.
The first full day in the country led our group to Mi Redentor Vive El Tablon, which is the Compassion Center located near San Miguel. This center serves over 150 kids in a mountainous area, which is known for lower gang activity and extreme poverty. The trip to the center required a bus ride full of winding, steep cobblestone roads.
As the bus arrived, our team received the warmest of welcomes and it was clear that the children located at the center had been preparing for a visit! We were welcomed with balloons, signs and handmade American flags waving amidst the sounds of the excited children.
Once everyone introduced themselves, the kids at the center had a presentation prepared for us, followed by a tour of the center and the classrooms that hold children from ages 3 to 17. In these classrooms, teachers focus on four key areas of growth in all of their children: cognitive, emotional, spiritual and physical. Compassion centers are open to serving kids when they are not attending school, as government schools in El Salvador are only open for half of the day.
After the visit to the Compassion Center in San Miguel, the team split into three groups and each went to visit the homes where children are living. On average, each child travels about 10-20 minutes to reach the Compassion center from their home.
Once in the homes, our team received tours and were able to present a small gift of beans, rice and other foods to the mothers. Most of these homes consist of corrugated metal or cinder block construction with dirt floors. The majority of families who live in these homes do not have the luxury of indoor plumbing, and most kitchen areas are located outdoors. Flooding is a serious problem during the rainy season.
On Day 2, our team visited two additional Compassion projects. One, a Child Survivor Program (CSP), which helps new and expectant mothers learn how to give proper care to their children. Once their children turn three, they will automatically be enrolled in a Child Development Sponsor Program (CDSP) where they will receive a permanent sponsor.
In addition to providing help in caring for their children, the women are also taught key skills to earn money and put food on the table for their families. Our group spent time with ladies who were sewing and cooking, and both groups are already generating income for themselves and for the project.
The second stop was to one of the five Compassion projects where we are helping to fund new bathrooms. This is important for more than just the obvious reasons. In this particular community, gangs are prevalent. Helping to provide safe, updated facilities is critical for the local families trying to care for their children.
After our tour, our team served snacks to the children at the center. They received rice and fried plantains, along with juice served in a baggie. Some of our group tried to end their trip (and lives) early by riding unrestrained in a Salvadoran pickup truck.
For many, the highlight of the entire trip was our Fun Day. All sponsor kids were brought to Pato Canales, which is a petting zoo and water park near the coast. Compassion rented out the entire place and gave our team the opportunity to spend the day with our sponsor kids, each of whom brought along one grown-up. Fun Day was spent swimming, playing soccer, eating a big lunch and exchanging gifts. Plus, lots of hugs and smiles!
Our team was extremely impressed with the level of sophistication and excellence that Compassion exhibits for their central El Salvador operations. They are now serving more than 60,000 children in the country, with plans to dramatically expand over the next 24 months.
The Compassion Market, which is new this year, gave us the opportunity to shop for goods that were manufactured by adults and children from various Compassion projects in El Salvador. Our team bought bags, paintings, mugs, hammocks and other unique gifts from the local community.
Even though this trip has come to a close, our team is excited to continue its relationship with Compassion International and the local families of El Salvador by supporting, sponsoring and building long-term relationships with all of the incredible people our team met.
In just our second year of visiting, we’ve already seen a number of these long-term relationships grow into something special. Building on the success from our first two trips, our hopes and prayers are that the children we interact with will be lifted out of their current circumstances and the cycle of poverty within their areas be permanently broken.
Stay tuned for more global and community efforts by the Ministry Brands teams.