Lunch Hosted by St. Andrew Presbyterian Church in Aptos
By Edita McQuary
On Sunday, February 18, St. Andrew Presbyterian Church in Aptos was filled with people waiting in line for their “pupusa” lunches and for the report from members of Santa Cruz al Salvador (SCaS) who had just returned from their annual delegation to El Salvador. Pupusas are thick, handmade tortillas filled with beans and cheese, a traditional meal in El Salvador.
Santa Cruz al Salvador has been in relationship with the Salvadoran people in the communities of Guillermo Ungo and El Pilar for the last 20 years. Delegation leader Pastor Karla Norton explained that Santa Cruz al Salvador has “accompanied” the impoverished people in these communities, and has assisted in various projects over time, especially in the areas of health and education.
Co-leader Lucas Grams from Lutheran Community Church in Watsonville talked about the Salvadoran people’s humility, kindness and faith and how moved he and his wife, Wendy, are each time they have visited.
Dr. Lorena Russo spoke about the Guillermo Ungo Medical Clinic, which SCaS has been supporting since 2003, and that now that the Salvadoran government’s Ministry of Health has taken over the clinic, SCaS can channel these funds in another direction.
Dr. Russo also described the crafts session and how Joey Amrhein, a SCaS member on her third trip to El Salvador, opened her magic bag and out popped a variety of crafts which these children seldom see. Masks were the in-thing this time. Seeing the smiles on the children’s faces and even some of the parents getting involved was exciting.
The scholarship ceremony for 120 students and their families is when the children are presented with books and shoes for the next school year and a gallon plastic bag filled with gifts from their God-parents (madrinas and padrinos) from the Santa Cruz area. These families know the value of education and encourage their children.
It is a SCaS tradition that delegation members visit homes in small groups and have a meal with the sponsored child and the family to get better acquainted, pray with the child’s family and to try out their Spanish. The mother is given a gift bag with a thank you note and compensation for the meal.
Santa Cruz al Salvador’s focus has now turned to El Pilar in the area of La Libertad, one of the poorest communities in El Salvador. Pastor Karla said it is Guillermo Ungo as it was 20 years ago before SCaS starting” accompanying” them. Many of the houses are made of aluminum sheets, cardboard, or sticks. In 2006, Trinity Presbyterian of Santa Cruz raised enough money to put in two wells and in 2015 SCaS built another well in the nearby community of Bendicion de Dios.
Currently, the community leaders of El Pilar have identified 80 families who could use composting latrines and one of SCaS’ fundraisers, Walk4Water, has raised enough money for 20 of these.
This year’s visit was particularly moving as the people are subsistence farmers and, due to the drought, 100% of their crops had failed last year. Joining Hands Network, a Presbyterian effort, has been teaching them about permaculture.
The money left over from the January 2016 trip was given to the El Pilar community to visit the permaculture site and for education on making composting latrines.
If you would like to make a difference in someone’s life, visit www.santacruzalsalvador.org.