Am currently staying in the capital city, San Salvador, after having to go to the hospital to get a persistent stomach bug checked out. It's not nice, but does give me a sense of the health systems here in El Salvador.
The doctors try hard to accommodate but they don't have the resources in the rural communities to make the necessary checks so I was presumed to have a parasite and was sent packing with some very generic pills. Unfortunately to get good health care it seems you need to travel to the capital and have money to pay!
Anyway, it appears it's nothing too serious, just a virus that was very persistent and it should be almost cleared up by now. One of Progressio's staff, Hector, has let me stay in his house while he is at the project and his housemates are a couple of very lovely Spaniards but the language barrier is once again proving difficult and I forgot my dictionary. Damn!
I should explain what we have been up to the last few days. My title is a bit misleading; we didn't exactly build a church! The group started work on the church on Wednesday (although I was absent due to illness!) and I don't think any of us knew what to expect. The church had been built to a bigger extent than anticipated!
We since discovered that two local women, Ellia (who I mentioned before) and Rosa, had been fundraising, with the help of CBC (the organisation we are working with), the local church and community, for some time in order to build this church high in the mountains for the benefit of people living in a very rural community.
The village has very few amenities and it is so remote that the people here are cut off from almost everything! The women had managed to fundraise enough to buy materials in order to build the church up to that point. It had mud walls but a sturdy metal and wooden structured roof.
The money had been raised in local communities and from local charities but they didn't have enough money or resources to finish it off. Progressio supplied some resources and we helped the local people to level the ground, mix cement and build a concrete floor with an altar.
What I found impressive was the local organisation. It wasn't an international charity coming in saying they need this building so we'll build it for you, it was local communities recognising something they needed in their community and having the initiative and organisation to make it happen.
Don't get me wrong they are very grateful to CBC, Progressio and us for all our help and we definitely helped them to achieve their goal much faster but they are obviously very determined people that work very hard to help each other within their communities.
The thing they are lacking is resources, but they got so far without any resources at all so it shows how well local people can create their own development. I realise I am really beginning to sound like a Progressio ambassador with all this talk about "empowering local people to make positive change to their environment"!
People who know me might think it's strange for me to be so positive about building a church. Despite the fact that I am volunteering with a Catholic organisation I do remain an atheist! But I may have lessened my harsh opinion against religion since the last time I went volunteering.
I once only ever saw the negatives of religion and of the church. And although I don't think I will ever be a religious person I do now see the benefits of religion within developing countries. It brings people together. People have community and they have hope when they go to church and its something I feel we lack in the UK.
Although I don't believe in the same things they do I envy their community spirit and I crave a community back home where anyone I stop in the town will go out of their way to help me and me for them, where everyone knows my name and knows what I'm doing that day, where if the community needs something they don't bother complaining because the council hasn't done it yet, they just get on and sort it - together!
Apologies for the cheesiness of my blogs, apparently when I'm not discussing these things face to face with someone I find it easier to talk in a slightly cheesy way in order to explain it better!
Natasha Kendrick is a Progressio Empower volunteer in El Salvador.