El Salvador, Spring 2015, Youth Delegation
by Caitlin Krohnke
In June of 2015 I traveled to El Salvador on a mission trip with the St. Boniface’s Youth Delegation. I would not have gone if it weren’t for my older brother, Austin, and mom, Sara. They went the previous summer, and had amazing things to say about their trip. My brother explained that you have to experience the trip first hand to truly understand. Pictures, videos, and stories don’t do the trip justice. When we traveled to El Salvador we stayed in Berlin, a community about a three-hour bus ride from San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador. But the real mission part of the trip was when we visited El Recreo, a community only about 10 miles from Berlin, but a rough, bumpy ride over rocky roads. El Recreo is full of the nicest and smartest people I have ever met. They have a very difficult life, but to them it’s just that. Life. No matter where I looked, I saw smiling faces, making me feel very welcome. I quickly realized the power of a smile breaks down any type of language barrier and cultural difference.
On our second day of visiting El Recreo we visited a couple of the high-schooler’s homes. Their homes consist of dirt floors and tin walls supported by pieces of wood. Even though they had very little, I could see their pride shining through as they showed us around. How many of us can say we built our own homes?
Our transportation in the Berlin area consisted of riding in a truck bed and holding on to a metal railing, which I actually enjoyed a lot. I was amazed how the simple things I experienced made me appreciate so much more. After visiting the house of siblings Stephany (19), Eryverto (17), and five others under the age of 11, we were heading back to the church in El Recreo and it started to rain. As we were getting drenched, I looked over at Stephany, who was beside me in the back of the truck, and we began to laugh hysterically. In that moment, I felt a genuine connection. Although we had just met and didn’t speak the same language, our smiles and laughter were all it took for our bond to begin.
Another person who touched my heart was a 10 year-old boy named Carlitos. He is caring and full of energy and happiness. On our second day in El Recreo, he gave me a gift. It was a mouse, made out of a nut, coffee beans, a stick and silicon. Carlitos and I spent a lot of time together. When I had trouble understanding what he was saying he would try his best to help me. When I just couldn’t understand, instead of getting frustrated he would just smile and giggle. Just like many 10 year-old boys, Carlitos was stubborn. When I would try to take a picture with him I would tell him “sonrie,” which means smile. He wouldn’t smile showing his teeth until I tickled him enough to make him. On the day we drove away from El Recreo for the last time, he waved to me and smiled showing his teeth as big as he could.
During this trip our group discussed how to break the language barrier, and I believe it was broken. One simple smile says a thousand words, and laughter brings much joy and happiness. I learned that words are not necessary to feel a connection with another person. Smiling and laughter are the same in every language.