Inspiring student immersion trip to El Salvador has farreaching impact

Three years ago, Lianni Castro ‘04, assistant director of Campus Ministry, volunteered to have her hair shaved to lead a “Bald for a Change” women’s rights fundraiser. She did so to benefit in part CoMadres, a committee of mothers and relatives of prisoners established in 1977 to discover the truth behind the disappeared and politically assassinated during El Salvador’s civil war.

This month Lianni – along with five Dominican students joining her on a Campus Ministry Immersion Trip to El Salvador – learned how her donation from the fundraiser was spent. Blanca Garcia, whose mother is one of the co-founders of CoMadres, informed Lianni that the lives of three Salvadoran families were greatly enhanced by the contribution.

“I hadn't seen her since she received the donation and she let me know that with the money raised they were able to improve the homes of three women - building them new roofs that provide stability and shelter,” Lianni says.

“They were able to buy products for one of the mothers who owns a store and with that she has been able to elevate her business and provide for her family. They provided food baskets to members of CoMadres, who otherwise have trouble providing food for themselves and their families. They also have been able to get counseling services to help all of the members who have ongoing PTSD and trauma from the war and war crimes that were committed on them. It was hugely humbling to hear what our contributions were able to do for these incredible women.”

It was a highlight of an eight-day cultural experience, in partnership with CRISPAZ, Christians for Peace in El Salvador. Sarah Ovard ’20 (psychology), Shaina Gaba ’20 (nursing), Serena Reeves ’20 (liberal studies, music), Hannah Burton ’21 (nursing), and Allison Kustic ’21 (political science) were welcomed into the homes of people in the rural community of Papaturro and spent time with youth leaders. They heard inspiring stories of how the families of Papaturro’s community fled from El Salvador, lived in a refugee camp and made their way back to El Salvador. They have evolved into a community that has grown from 25 families to more than 125 families.

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The students also met with local government leaders, created crafts with local artisans, hiked to a waterfall and a volcano where coffee is grown, and visited a Dominican church and a historic site where four churchwomen were martyred before the civil war.

“They all expressed how their eyes and hearts were opened to the Salvadoran people that they encountered,” Lianni says. “They learned about the history and realities facing the poor in El Salvador and the influence that the United States has on this small Central American country.”


January 16, 2018