Spring break. For many, it means sunshine, sand, and sleep. But for OWU students who traveled to Love and Hope Ministries children’s home in El Salvador last week, it meant mission, reflection, and hard work.
The members of the Love and Hope Ministries spring break mission team were among eight teams of students, faculty, and OWU community members who spent their spring break helping others and working for justice around the world. Organized through the Leslie Center for Peace and Justice in the chaplain’s office at OWU, the Spring Break Mission Program trips for 2013 included: Food and Justice in the Urban Jungle: Detroit, MI; Re-New Orleans: Hurricane Katrina Recovery; Chapters, Houses, and Homes: Apalachin, NY; Women in Community: The Benedictine Sisters of Erie, PA; Crossroads of the Powerful and Powerless: Washington, D.C.; If These Horses Could Speak: Mims, FL; Caring for Kids: Fort Bragg, N.C.; and Love and Hope Ministries: Children at the Core of El Salvador.
Ten participants made up the Love and Hope team, who spent their week at the home in Los Planes de Renderos in El Salvador. Home to more than 20 children, Love and Hope provides a safe, healthy environment for children who may otherwise live in poverty. Faculty/Staff advisors to the team were David Eastman, assistant professor of religion, and Lisa Jackson, assistant to the President. Katie Jacob ’13 served as team leader for the group, with Amber Kimberling ’14 as reflection leader. Other team members consisted of Robbie Lindberg ’15, Whitney Weadock ’16, Laurel Fuller ’13, Elaine Young ’13, Claire Argenta ’16, and Carly Zalenski ’15.
The team had a busy week of service, including their main project, painting an emergency room at a local hospital. Other activities included helping with an English spelling bee, cooking meals, helping with homework, and more. Eastman, faculty advisor, recalls the intensity of their work at the emergency room. “We worked from 7 p.m. to midnight for three nights on this project, and it was challenging. It was tiring physically, but more straining was the experience of seeing all the sick and injured coming in night after night. There was no curtain to shield us from the cases that came in, and in fact it was striking how little privacy the patients enjoyed –or indeed how little they expected.”
Jacob, team leader, had visited Love and Hope on a previous spring break trip, and she was excited to return in a leadership role. “The most rewarding part of the trip was seeing how much our mission team grew both as individuals and as a group. We became much closer as a team and supported and challenged one another as we processed our work at the emergency room,” she comments. Katie was also responsible for helping lead her team in their fundraising efforts before the trip, which included babysitting, “dorm storming” for donations, and luncheons.
For Weadock, the trip provided experiences that will stay with her for a lifetime. “My favorite memory was when we were in a community walking around getting a good look at how the people live. The houses consisted of tin and towels and dirt. As we were walking, a little girl came up and grabbed my hand. She smiled and walked around with me for the rest of the day. Her name was Sara, and when we left she gave me a hug and kiss. When we drove away she waved to me the whole time. Sara was the best memory of the trip to El Salvador.”
For each member of the team, the time spent at Love and Hope enriched the OWU experience in a unique and special way. Yet as they talk about their trip, they share one refrain—it changed their lives forever. Eastman sums up his experience this way. “For me personally, this trip was a game-changer. Other causes my family supports internationally are wonderful, but we know the people there only through a web site or pictures. In El Salvador, I now have a personal connection with the people at the children’s home and have every intention of maintaining an ongoing relationship with them in support of their efforts. I hope this is only the beginning for me with Love and Hope.”
We have added a gallery of photos from the various trips mentioned in this story: