Day 2 had its ups and downs……. literally! After a chilly night’s sleep, we were up by 5:30am, down to breakfast and on our way to the first community at 7:45am. Yesterday we finished our day up at the top of a mountain, but today took us down the mountain, through a valley, and back up another mountain. It was a long, often uncomfortable, dusty, bumpy, 1.5 hours standing in the back of a truck. This community had never heard of the Shelter program, and many of the locals were curious about these 15 blancos arriving in a grand cloud of dust. We divided into our 3 teams, with 4 local men each, and off to our sites we went.
Team Brown started off with the challenge of having to hike into their site with a 500ft elevation change. No biggie, except for the tools and the 18L water coolers that they had to hike in with them. But they were rewarded with the money shot, the million-dollar view at the top. Team blue, struggled with the familiarity and getting back into the groove of building. But they were rewarded with having the amazing Wilbur join them, who is a local with an infectious smile and has built many of these homes with us before. Team Green, had a very rocky site, which made digging 16 deep holes a slow process. But they were the envy of all teams when they moved into a full shade site for their second build.
We all started this trip on such emotional highs, but by the end of the day, we all seemed a bit down and defeated. Our target was 5 houses today, but we only completed 3.5. It’s true that the first day is always the hardest and slowest, but this year we seem to be met with bigger challenges than usual, and yet we committed to building 5 more houses then in previous years. Commuting 3 hours a day was definitely not in the cards, but if that means less sleep to leave earlier, then that’s what we are committed to do. Some of us were met with physical challenges of working in the heat (myself included), but team compassion and shaded tasks were available for those of us to remain useful. There were a few situations of “what went up, had to come down”; square roofs generally don’t work on erroneously rhombus shaped houses (not that Team Brown didn’t eventually figure that out!). But camaraderie still shone through the differing frustrations (El Salvadorian time, is very much a thing) and we got the day done. We drove the long road home under the stars of the black sky and lightning bugs.
We ended the evening with a team meeting (by candlelight as Paul is very particular about his lighting!), some reflections on what our challenges were and what the highlights were. It was a time like this, when all we wanted to do was crawl into our beds, that has lifted us back up. We shifted focus from the grumbles to the gratitudes. The smiles and extreme thanks that a single mother offered us for her own home, the little boy who wanted to stay in the arms of Gareth after his young parents received their first home. Who could say this day wasn’t an extreme success? We did it, and we’ll do it all again tomorrow already knowing what lies ahead. We’ll rise up from our beds with the same joy and excitement as we started today, knowing that we have the ability to touch many lives in a tangible way.
Here are a few more photos from our day…