Students Spend Spring Break in El Salvador
March 30, 2011
Students enrolled in a social responsibility course at the University of Mount Union traveled to a rural village in El Salvador to help others during spring break. For nearly 12 years, Mount Union has worked with ASAPROSAR, a rural health organization to work on a variety of humanitarianism projects.
“I felt that it had a significant impact on most of the students,” said Dr. Stephen Kramer, professor emeritus of psychology. He established the social responsibility course, which has included annual spring break service trips to various third world countries since 1992. “It enabled them to connect in a meaningful way with people whose lifestyles were dramatically different from their own. In doing so, I think it raised their awareness of the problems faced by developing nations and made them question aspects of their own consumer-oriented lifestyle. It put a very real face on these problems in a way that no textbook or film can.”
Many individuals, both old and young, who were living in the rural village, lacked proper housing and cooking conditions. Mount Union students were able to fund the construction of a new house, three outdoor kitchens and a new roof. Not only did Mount Union students fund these projects, they also assisted in the manual labor. Each family was extremely grateful for the students’ help.
“Until meeting the families we worked with, I had never seen people so full of happiness and appreciation,” said Abby Honaker, a senior English: writing major of Fresno, OH. “We were able to have a lot of fun, go sightseeing and purchase souvenirs. But for our group, this spring break was about more than that. Being a part of this trip, doing manual labor and connecting with the people was truly a life changing experience.”
Prior to and during the trip, the students learned some Spanish in order to build basic communication skills. 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, and most seemed determined to continue to find meaningful ways to serve in the future.
“I was touched by the overwhelming generosity and gratefulness of the families and workers we met throughout the week,” shared Kate McConnell, a senior English: writing major of Boardman, OH. “I will always remember the overall experience of the trip as well as the many stories we returned home with.”
Kramer added that he certainly saw many seeds being planted by the variety of people that the students encountered during the week including both the families and children with whom they worked, but also the staff members from ASAPROSAR who genuinely care for the families. “It is an amazing organization which is working with very limited resources. But, it is truly committed and dedicated to its mission of improving the lives of the rural poor in El Salvador.”