Thursday, July 22, 2010

A Morning with Barefoot Angels

This is the Bottle of the promotoras who came up with the idea of being the Bottle Fairy encouraging little ones to turn in their bottle and getting a sippy cup in return. She was a big hit!

Greetings from El Salvador!

My name is Katie Fitzpatrick, a member of the ASAPROSAR volunteer team. I thought I would give Barb a little break from posting on this blog.

This morning a group of six of us departed for yet another Barefoot Angels location. When I arrived, I was immediately struck by how bubbly and vibrant the children were. Some of the children were coloring or reading and several of them immediately came up to me with English children's books, hoping that I could help translate. They were so smart and curious. It was truly amazing to see. Once the teacher was able to calm the children down, several of them got up to give us letters welcoming us and thanking us for coming. The letters were such a sweet, genuine gesture. I kept mine to take home with me! We brought frisbees for the kids to play with and they immediately took to this new sport. We all went out to a soccer field that was large enough for them to run around. After breaking into smaller groups, the kids tried to see how many times they could pass the frisbee around their circle without it dropping. I think the winning group managed to get 200 throws in a row! After frisbee, the younger kids went back to the school building to play a jeopardy game with some of the volunteers. The older boys and girls were treated to a sex talk. The boys went into a neighborhood house for their talk with Marvin and Sid while Diana, Tara and I talked to the girls. They were a little sheepish, but fairly interested and their female teacher was particularly helpful because she was so open and eager to ask questions. Overall, I think the morning was a great success and I am looking forward to visiting another Barefoot Angels location tomorrow!


Hey everyone!

This is Marvin, another volunteer at ASAPROSAR. Today was my second day volunteering at Barefoot Angels (Angeles Descalzos), and let me tell you, it was the bomb. Katie already did a great job of covering the day, and I only have time to write for a few minutes (we're playing rummy!), so this will be succinct! We had two sessions, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, and we had a blast playing frisbee and water balloons with the kids, teaching them about general health (7-11 years old), and sexual health (12-18 years old), and just generally spending time with them.

These kids, and their ability to infect us with their smiles, are essentially the cutest, most gracious things alive. It pains to me to know that its unlikely that I'll be seeing them anytime soon, but simply bearing witness to this group of people, the sense of community they have, and their ability to support, cherish, and sacrifice for each other, is something I will always remember. I think that as volunteers coming to visit these kids, its easy to say that this is a life changing experience. We see their hardship, their exuberance, and unflagging resilience, and come out of it feeling humbled and at the same time, elated, that we "made a difference". But when I started to think about it, I wondered, did we really? These children live these lives everyday, in conditions many of us could never possibly imagine. What could we possibly do for 1 day that would have a real impact? This is an imperative question, I realize, that comes with any form of altruism. This is why I feel like the work that ASAPROSAR does is so meaningful. From what I have seen, their functioning as a non-profit organization is astounding. They are composed of a great, diverse body of dedicated individuals, and have far-reaching projects and partnerships which extend to address the most vital issues in El Salvador's rural communities. And most importantly, the effect they create is sustainable, lasting, and INSPIRING. This is where we can come into the picture, gaze upon a mere fraction of the work that this organization does with their community, and feel moved, changed for the better, inspired. I give my whole-hearted support to this organization, and I'm boundlessly happy to see this love that this Dr. Guzman had initiated translated from ideas into brilliant smiles on the faces of these kids. And these smiles are not temporary. Haha that was sappy.

There are probably a bunch of typos in this. Seeyah later, thanks!

Hi my name is Viviana Huang and I am the awesome coordinator of this whole trip! :D

Obviously, Viviana didn't write this...we think Marvin did. Eric says he "is the prettiest." Actually, Viviana is pretty awesome as our coordinator!


This is Barb back on the blog....others will be blogging soon. I spent my first day at the Dental Clinic and it was an incredible experience. We were very busy at two different sites all day long. I was quite exhausted after standing much of the day. I taught little kids how to brush their teeth - quite a challenge for me since I don't speak Spanish, but talking with your hands works well. I also took photos of the kids right before their exam and then kept the photos of the kids who were cavity free for the cavity-free poster. It was fun interacting with the kids.

I was amazed at the mothers and grandmothers and some fathers - many sat for hours waiting to be seen. Many of the little girls were wearing their best dresses. It was heartwarming to see the love between the parents and the grandparents and the children. They were obviously very poor, but there was so much love.

When we left, I noticed a woman of about 35 perhaps carrying a large two -handled water jug back and forth from a spigot to her home. She carried the water jug on top of her head. I lost track how many times she went back and forth, but remember five trips. The whole time her little four year old scampered along her side. Every time she passed, I smiled at her, and she smiled back. She had waited hours for her daughter to be seen, then she was fetching the water for her family. I couldn't help but think of how tired I was and yet she was still working and caring for her family.

Tomorrow, I go back to the Barefoot Angels. Only girls are volunteering tomorrow, so I have been voted to give the Sex Ed talk to the teenage boys. I'm taking Juan Carlos with me to translate since I don't speak spanish. A group of our ASAPROSAR volunteers sitting behind me are alternately acting like it is cool (a 55 year old mom) is giving the Sex Ed talk to teenage boys, to howling with laughter. Oh well....I've been embarassed other times in my life! :-)


This is Sid and today was my second day are Barefoot Angels. Another day with hyperactive kids! My favorite activity of the day was the water balloon toss. Everyone got in a group of about 5 or 6 kids and tried to pass the balloon back and forth as many times as possible. We made 30 water balloons but kids only really lasted 2 to 3 tosses so we ran out pretty fast but it was still worth it. I was also really impressed with the appreciation the kids had for everything. We all got hugs from each kid, the young ones and the older ones, and they gave us thank you cards for coming and one kid from each age group recited a thank you message to us. I have never seen anyone so excited to receive such basic gifts like a toothbrush and toothpaste. Although these kids don't have much, they make sure they are grateful for anything that they receive. I also have so much respect for their teachers. The kids are such a cohesive group and I am sure much of the credit has to be given to these teachers and the parents of the children. Overall, a really enjoyable day!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A Day with the Barefoot Angels

I am losing track of what day it is....yes, it is Wednesday. Today, I went to the one of the Barefoot Angels sites in Santa Ana. We pulled up alongside a brick wall with a large metal door, with Angeles descalzos (Barefoot Angels) painted in bright blue paint on the outside. We opened the door, and there was another world inside. A grassy field, playground equipment and a low-slung building with about 25 children, from ages 7 to 12 waiting for us. Part of the building had walls in the back, but the part we worked in had only one wall. Hard to explain...

Anyway, we pulled out frisbees and played with the kids and they had a wonderful time. We gave out soccer shirt to the boys and mini-frisbees to the girls. Funny how most of the girls wanted their frisbees to be pink.

We then played a extreme body fact, dental hygiene, nutrition, and general anatomy jeopardy game. The kids were smart and got almost of the questions right. They were exhuberant and very excited.

We noticed about 4 or 5 of the kids' shoes were in bad shape and talked with one of the teachers, America, to figure out a way to pull them aside and give them a new pair of shoes from the bag of donations we had. We managed to find a pair of shoes for each of these kids and they were extremely appreciative. One little girl asked if she could give me a "besito" to say thank you for her new shoes. She gave me a sweet kiss on my cheek and through her arms around my waist and gave me a long hug. All of the children were so affectionate and loving.

We also rode on a swing - we affectionately called "the death swing." It was fun, but rather scary. The kids squealed every time they rode on it, and we also squealed when we rode on it.

We came back to Asaprosar for lunch and took a short break, then returned at 2 pm. In the afternoon, we had a group of 12 to 18 year olds. Marvin and Sid talked with the teenage boys about sex ed and Tara and Caitlin P. talked with the teenage girls. The girls were very open with their questions, and the boys were too. We played frisbees again with all of the kids and they loved it and also the jeopardy game with the younger kids.

I should write more, but am tired. I will upload a few photos.

Tomorrow, some of us who went to the Barefoot Angels today will be going to the dental clinic. New update tomorrow!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Out in the Field

An incredible day for all of us. We all got back to ASAPROSAR's compound, dirty, sweaty, exhausted, and humbled. One group went to La Magdelena and set up their dental clinic for about 66 kids and their mothers. The rate of decay was about the same as last year, but the severity of the cavities was much less. Many had good strong teeth as they are so poor, they can't afford to buy the sweets and snacks at the nearby "Diana" store, that are so prevalent everywhere. The dental clinic is on land that is donated to ASAPROSAR for their preschool "nucleo" program and turned into a dental clinic when our volunteers came today. It is obvious that the people who live there deeply appreciate ASAPROSAR providing dental care for them. The children were dressed in their best clothes for their dental visit. Many had walked for miles - some as much as 8 miles each way for their dental appointment. Several of the promotoras were there - the same ones who had just completed their training the day before. They all greeted us with smiles and greetings of "hola." I am so impressed with their energy and passion. The promotoras and some of the children took the time to decorate the dental clinic with festive signs and stickers - it was very touching.

Our group stayed for a little while and I took some photos of the children, the chickens, and the women making pupusas, with the practiced hand of someone who had made pupusas for a lifetime. I watched as one of the women adeptly pulled a piece of the corn dough into a mound in her hand, quickly pulled a small amount off and put it back in the bowl, then gently patted the pupusa into a small pancake, smoothed some mashed beans on it, then laid one on a hot griddle over a wood fire set up on a metal stand.

Our group then left for a nearby school where we helped several of the environmental ASAPROSAR coordinators teach a curriculum to 11, 12, and 13 year olds about what you can reuse, or compost. Recycling doesn't exist here. We also watched a puppet show with the younger kids, which was about conservation and the environment. The children were all giggly, wore blue uniforms, and were very curious about us.

We then drove to a nature preserve called Magdelena, near the volcano Chingo. Waving stalks of maize lay on one side of the deeply rutted road, while sugarcane fields stretched for miles on the other side. It is a wonder our van could even drive along the roads. Every now and then we came to an intersection, usually marked by a cow tied to a tree, a stray dog lying in the middle of the road, teen boys on bicycles, or women carrying firewood on their heads. We always had our windows wide open, as there was so much to photograph. We passed homes of families who farm the sugar cane. Chickens could be seen roaming in and out of the homes, and children stood shyly in doorways, returning our waves. The people are so poor, and we waved at everyone and they smiled and waved back.

We eventually came to the nature preserve, where Roberto and Mauricio and two women from ASAPROSAR gave us peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and we sat and ate our lunch. We then spent a good 30 minutes doing nothing but taking photos of butterflies. We first saw lemon colored clouds of butterflies along the road. But, when we arrived at the nature preserve, I realized I had never seen so many butterflies in my life....really. Beautiful azure and black ones, solid azure, jewel green and black, lemon yellow, sunny yellow and black and more. Evidently, ASAPROSAR just completed the construction of their building in the preserve and the butterflies are attracted to some of the minerals used in the construction - so we were told. Every butterfly seemed more beautiful than the one before.

We went on a hike - Roberto said just 30 minutes - but it was more like 1 1/2 hours as we had nine different stops where Roberto and Mauricio took the time to point out the incredible mushrooms, trees, the spongy forest floor, ferns that curled together with the slightest touch of our hands, and the history of the preserve.

We drove back to Santa Ana tired, muddy, and quiet. When we arrived back at the ASAPROSAR compound, we immediately joined everyone else for dinner - which was a delicious chicken, rice, and potato pancakes. After dinner, each of us shared one or two things that left an impression upon us that day. We all had special stories. We will have special memories that we will take home with us.

Tomorrow - day two of the dental clinic, where they expect to see about 60 kids. Our group will go to one of the Barefoot Angels sites and teach the teens about sex education through a Jeopardy game, and other activities.

More updates tomorrow!

Monday, July 19, 2010

First Day Encounters

We arrived in San Salvador and went through customs.....that always takes a long time. The weather was sunny, humid and it was about 100 degrees. We wandered into a store filled with sweets and snacks called Diana. These are the foods that entice the children that lead to such problems with cavities. We then had a long drive through the mountains, where we checked out the view and Juan Carlos took a quick group shot of us, and then we stopped for traditional Salvadorean pupusas - hold the cabbage and hold the salsa. We can only eat fruits and vegetables that are peeled. So, no salsa!! It's hard to remember what not to eat and what is ok. It was a long, tiring day from waking up at 3 a.m. and arriving at ASAPROSAR at 8 p.m. I have to get used to the fact that all of the meals are long - 2 or 3 hours it seems.

We unloaded our vans in pouring rain, welcomed by two guards in the walled in compound of ASAPROSAR carrying semi-automatic rifles. Security is very tight here, but we are safe that way. We couldn't figure out if the security is needed or if it is just part of the culture here, but we can only come and go in the vans with Juan Carlos and our drivers. Juan Carlos (or JC) is the man and our go to guy for everything.

Sunday we played tourist to have a better understanding of the places we will be working in. We went to Tazumal, a Mayan ruin which was incredible. A 3,000 year old Mayan ruin. Our tour guide only spoke spanish, but Juan Carlos diligently translated for those of who are Spanish-challenged (me). The guide gave info about everything from the Mayan soccer games, sacrificial rituals, and the reasons behind each architectural detail. They have only unearthed about 30% of the temple and it was huge. It's unlikely to ever be fully excavated anytime soon as there are only five archaeologists working on it.

We then drove to the coffee plantation Santa Leticia where we had a great lunch with coffee of course, and toured the coffee fields. Our guide attempted to drive our van up a steep road paved with rocks and a few boulders, but we safely got out and walked up the steep hill. Mud was everywhere, as it was humid, hot, and it's been raining several times a day. We walked through the coffee fields, taking photos of coffee beans, spiders, picking up ancient ceramica that washs up to the surface because of the rain. Our grand finale was when we arrived at the 20,000 lbs carved heads, which is comprised of rock composition originating from Guatemala, which is a mystery. We also took lots of photos of familiar plants, an incredible biodiversity, and strange, tropical flowers.

Today, we are doing the promotoras training and tomorrow we are off to work in "the field." More to come! Keep positive thoughts that Colgate-Palmolive and the El Savadorean Ministry of Health want to further support the work we have already accomplished.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

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El Salvador Dental/Nutrition Project

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Preparing for our trip

When I decided to go to El Salvador to volunteer with ASAPROSAR, at first I thought it would be great accompanying my nearly 20 year old daughter, as she figures out her career path in life. Then, I realized....I want to go.

Now, it is less than two weeks until our group of about 20 boards Taca Airlines early in the morning on July 17, to spend 10 days in Santa Ana. We will teach dental care at first to ASAPROSAR's promotoras (health educators), then tour the various programs under the auspices of ASAPROSAR: a heifer program, a microcredit program, and the Barefoot Angels - an after school program for kids ages 5 to 18. We will also teach dental care to families in the rural areas surrounding Santa Ana, distribute toothbrushes and toothpaste, and apply fluoride varnish to children's teeth.

I will be documenting the trip with my camera, video camera - and this blog!

Creating this blog was on my to do list. We are completing our training, getting donations of toothbrushes, toothpaste, fluoride varnish, and preparing a health curriculum for the Barefoot Angels.

Thirteen days and counting until we leave! I'm so excited and I know this trip will be an incredible experience for all of us.

For more information, check out ASAPROSAR under the links.

More news soon...