Tuesday, March 26, 2013

It is official! I am moving to San Salvador in September to work with Cristosal as a member of the Young Adult Service Corps.

That was a lot of information in one sentence... allow me to break it down.

In January, I met with an old friend over coffee. He was my boss many years ago when I taught environmental science, and we share a love of Spanish, intellectual debates about development, and really tasty caffeinated beverages.

I told him that I was frustrated working at a desk, and though my job as an environmental scientist is interesting and important, I missed people - that sense of being truly integrated in someone else's life and know that what you do makes a real difference for them. My friend suggested I speak with Noah Bullock, a buddy of his and the Exectuve Director of an extraordinary anglican, human rights organization named Cristosal in San Salvador.

Actually, let me rephrase. Cristosal isn't directed by Noah - I learned in talking to him that it is directed ultimately by the members of the communities they work in. Each project is the product of many conversations, facilitated by Cristosal's staff and driven by each individual voice at the table. It sounded too good to be true, but despite my best efforts, I have yet to find any evidence to the contrary.

Jose Lopez, one of Cristosal's lawyers, meets with community leaders from La Anemona to discuss legislation to legalize their land. In 2009, Hurricane Ida destroyed their former hillside community, forcing them to relocate.
I will be working with Cristosal as a member of the 2013 Young Adult Service Corps (YASC). Though I was not raised in any religious tradition (unless you count Star Wars and the Red Sox), YASC's definition of mission resonated deeply with my own purpose:

"Responding to people’s physical needs is very natural... but we should never forget that our first call is to be in relationship with others and to respond to God’s call for reconciliation. We are called to listen to one another’s stories...We are not all called to travel across continents or to visit prisoners, but we are all called to love our neighbor as ourselves."

My goal in moving to San Salvador is to learn from the best. It is also to seek humility and grace in the face of obstacles that are bound to come my way. I gotta admit, I used to be a bit of a smarty pants. Before I lived in Nepal in college, I thought I was going to fix poverty. Literally. I was going to take my college education and solve suffering.

I think it takes an extreme sense of humility, patience, and love to be able to come face-to-face with someone's pain and not immediately want to do something, ANYTHING, to make it stop. But that immediate reaction is not always the helpful one because it's meant to make me feel better. In the end, I want to work with Cristosal because I want to learn how to listen and see someone not as their poverty or their situation or their circumstances, but as my neighbor and my friend.

Though YASC covers over half of our costs, I am responsible for raising $10,000 to cover my insurance (medical, dental, and emergency evacuation), housing, flights, and training. When you break it down, each day of my year with Cristosal costs about $30. If you would like to contribute and make my trip and Cristosal's work a reality, please visit the "Support" tab above!

Many thanks, and salud!

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