Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Rio de los Bueyes Assistance

In response to multiple phone calls from the Directiva and a personal visit from someone from the community, we made a decision to put together some food packs to bring down to the 68 families in Rio de los Bueyes (RdlB) – many who had been evacuated to the school.  Because of their location in the lowlands, much of their community is underwater.  They are close to the Lempa River so between the almost 40” of rain that has fallen in the last 9 days and the releasing of ridiculous amounts of water from the ‘15 de septiembre’ dam, they have been inundated.  We were told that the sugar cane in the fields next to their community were under water.  The cane was over 8 feet tall and located on the side of the roads leading into the community.  No one could get to their work in the fields for the past week and a half.  For a people who live from week to week – working all week to be able to buy the basic things they need to eat, this means they are without funds to buy food for their families.  In addition, they had become very isolated and cut off from the nearest area to make food purchases due to the feet of water on their ‘main’ roads. Getting to Berlín the ‘back’ way requires about a 4-5 hour walk or a 2 ½ hour horse ride.  There is transportation that can go from San Isidro (about an hour and a half walk up the road) but that would involve money.  And even $1 to pay to get to Berlín and then $1 to get back is beyond the reach of many at this point.
The decision had been made to cancel our current delegation’s visit to El Mozote due to the dangers of traveling such great distances in this weather.  So yesterday when we woke up, the Team had already made a phone call and arranged the purchase of rice, sugar, coffee, spaghetti, soup, cheese and oil.   This was delivered to us by about 8:30.  While we waited for the groceries, we bagged up some beans that we had left over from our bean give-away.

Our visiting delegation also helped re-bag rice into 2# bags and filled the big garbage bags with all the goodies.  Raul and his father Antonio came in their KIA (a larger truck) and we loaded up and made the trek out to San Isidro.  We knew the roads were passable to that point so decided we would go as far as we could and then walk from there down to Rio de los Bueyes. 

I was personally worried about how we were going to get the food bags down to the community if we were walking.  Each bag weighed at least 15 pounds.  There were 11 of us on this trip out.  Even each of us taking 4 bags each (which honestly, on that walk, we never could have achieved that feat!).  After 20 minutes, 10# feels like 50#. 

I was told that some people from RdlB were going to meet us and help carry.  Thank goodness! 

The ride out was wet.  We got rained or drizzled on almost the entire way.  It took well over an hour – normally it is about a 50 minute ride to San Isidro.  When we got as far as we could, on the road ahead of us were a few men and several horses!  It was a beautiful sight.  They all had big feed plastic sacks.  They were able to put 4 of our sacks in each of those.  And each horse took 2 of those big sacks.  Nice.  As the men were doing that, and we were all taking photos, even more horses came.  This enabled some of us to have a ride down the more than 2 mile distance in the mud.  (Weldon, one of the delegates had a pedometer and he knows how to interpret it!  He made that estimate based upon the kind of steps he was taking with the conditions he had).

The Pastoral Team did not want to ride (a fear of horses) and two of the delegates chose to walk. Those that rode were led by the horse’s owners.  What a muddy mess.  It rained or drizzled about half the trip.  It took about an hour and a half for all of us to get to the school in town.  People were waiting at the school for us.  The president of the Directiva spoke in gratitude for the efforts made by the delegation and the Pastoral Team who is always keeping an eye on the situation and always has concern for the people in the communities.  They not only have concern, but actually act.  They recognized the sacrifice and effort it took to even just arrive to their community.  Much gratitude was expressed.  Blanca spoke briefly – also expressing gratitude for the willingness of the delegation to make the effort.  It was a difficult trip: messy, cold, wet, long, uncomfortable and tiring.  She joked that we would all be feeling it in the morning!  Then they started distributing.  The Directiva had the list of heads of households of each family in the community that people would sign.  The Directiva took the opportunity to ask everyone to write down the number of people in their families and add those born within the last few months so they could be updated in their census.

Then the names began to be called in the usual manner.  The Pastoral Team had brought some bread, crackers and pop.  It was already 1:30 and no one had had lunch.  This snack served as lunch. 

We took a little break then went back to the activities to take photos and to be with the people in the community. 

At the beginning, the Directiva had asked the horse men to please come back to bring us all back to the truck.  We didn’t need all the horses (many of whom had been ‘borrowed’ from Corozal people) and God bless them, enough horses came to give us rides back up.  It would have taken over 2 ½ hours to walk UP.  It took about an hour on horseback. 

We made the wet trip back to Berlín safely … albeit wet, muddy, tired and achy.  And yes.  As Blanca predicted, we are feeling it a bit this morning.  But it was worth every effort. 

The average rainfall in October is 23 inches.   Between Monday, October 10th and Tuesday October 18th we had about 31 inches here in the Berlín area and nearly 50” overall in El Salvador.  This is a greater quantity than when Hurricane Mitch hit.  And it has been raining pretty much non-stop since then.  (It is now about 4 p.m. Wednesday afternoon).