Culture & Compassion

By: Maddie Sokol
Staff Writer

This Summer, Blessed Trinity senior, Claudia Mitchell found a place that left a mark on her heart. This place was El Salvador.

Around February, Claudia decided with her life-teen leader and life-teen friends, from St. Ann’s Catholic Church, to go on a mission trip to El Salvador. She described the feeling as a yearning call.  “I felt that God was calling me to help others in different countries,” she said.

Although she was excited, she knew that the requirements to go and the protocol to come back was going to be a little complicated with the Zika virus spreading and usual safety issues, but that didn’t change Claudia’s decision.

While Claudia was there, the sleeping conditions were much different from her normal day-to-day ones. “At the house we stayed at there was no air conditioning and we slept in bunk beds. We each brought around three fans to put on our beds to keep us from sweating. We had to keep mosquito nets over our beds,” Claudia said.

Her group built houses for single moms who could not afford to buy their own. During this time, she said she met children of all ages, “and became friends with adults who lived around the worksite.”

Claudia describes the living conditions as a big difference from those who live in America. She said she saw people living in one-story houses made of either brick or wood. “They used tin as a roof. All houses were surrounded by barbed wire because others would try to break into houses or stores to get whatever they could to either eat or sell for money,” Claudia elaborated.

As Claudia was finishing up her last few days in El Salvador, she visited orphanages, where she met a nun that described some of the difficulties she has run into while taking care of the orphans, “she said the orphanage rarely got donations of money so the nuns have to earn money by themselves. This one particular nun told me how one time she went to go buy food and as she got in her taxi with the groceries a teenager robbed her taking the food and her wallet,” said Claudia.

Going to El Salvador for the first time, she noticed the differences between American culture and Salvadoran culture. She states that each country is different and El Salvador is full of dancing and colorful festivals. “The women wear these gorgeous dresses of vibrant colors. I always thought that El Salvador was going to be just a poverty-stricken country with low-spirited people, but I was completely wrong. The people don’t think of themselves as less fortunate. Every little thing they have makes them happy,” said Claudia.

Claudia’s experience has changed her perspective on the way she views different countries and cultures, but also a change in the way she views her life. Going to a country where most of the citizens are impoverished, Claudia reflects upon her own welfare and concludes, “El Salvador opened my eyes and I realized that it is not the materialistic things, it is the little things in life are what make you the happiest.”