Students Spend Spring Break Helping Others in El Salvador

April 05, 2010

Students enrolled in a social responsibility course at Mount Union traveled to Monte Oscuro, a little village in western El Salvador for spring break. For the eleventh year, Mount Union has worked with the rural health organization ASAPROSAR to complete various missionary projects.

“We worked in a small village and saw living conditions that were shocking to many of our students such as people living in small mud houses with no running water,” said Dr. Stephen Kramer, professor emeritus of psychology who established the social responsibility course, which has included annual Spring Break service trips to various third world countries since 1992.

 Many in Monte Oscuro do not have latrines (toilets), so the group was involved with paying for and helping to build 15 of them for different families.  “The main reason they don’t have adequate latrines is that they don’t have the money for the necessary materials to build them,” added Kramer.

“The thing that surprised me the most was the housing situation,” said Brian Deeds, a senior business administration major from Elyria, OH. Deeds decided to go on the trip because a fellow student had told him how life changing it was. “It is unbelievable that people could live in mud houses that have no ventilation and are smaller than many people’s living rooms. Yet, they are truly happy.”

For many students, this wasn’t a typical spring break trip.

“This trip had a purpose.  Sure, there was time for us to shop and have fun, but in the mornings it was nice to wake up and know that we were going to help complete strangers that would appreciate it,” Deeds added. “Overall, it was rewarding, memorable and life changing, unlike most spring breaks which are just fun.”

 “Most people in the village lack sufficient health care, food, jobs and education for their development,” said Kramer.  “Their life is a struggle, but they have strong family and community ties and work hard to make the most of their situation. They were extremely appreciative of our help and tried to make our stay as comfortable as possible.”

Prior to and during the trip, the students learned some Spanish in order to build basic communication skills.  “Of course, having to communicate in Spanish is always a challenge for our students,” added Kramer. 

Those who attended the trip returned with a greater appreciation for life in a developing country.  The students kept journals where they wrote about their experiences and outlook. Most seemed determined to continue to find meaningful ways to serve in the future.

“I think what surprised me most was how strongly some people reacted to the trip,” said Lucy Coughlin, a junior psychology major from Alpharetta, GA. “Everyone changed and was deeply touched by this trip, and to see how some of my peers really opened up were pleasant surprises.”

“My favorite part of the trip was when I gave a young boy a toy car worth about $0.33 and he went crazy over it,” explained Deeds. “He jumped up and down and played with it for a good half hour. In that instant my life changed because I realized how little you truly need to be happy and how much I have.”


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