By JILL BADZINSKI
For the Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org
Six Washington County residents recently completed an outreach trip to El Salvador to follow up on ongoing initiatives of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church and Rotary International.
West Bend Sunrise Rotarian Dave Baldus and his wife, Eileen, and Our Savior’s members Pat and Kris Groth joined El Salvador volunteers David and Nancy Slinde for the first week of the Slindes’ two-week trip in January. The Slindes have visited El Salvador dozens of times and lived in the Central American country for 30 months. The Slindes have worked with other volunteers to improve water filtration, fresh water drinking supplies, education and economic opportunities in the impoverished nation. Along the way, they have developed deep affection for the people, particularly the children.
“When I first got to El Salvador, I did not like it. It was hot. It was dirty. It was buggy,” David Slinde said. “Then a mother pleaded with us to help because children were dying from illnesses caused by the poor sanitary conditions, and I knew we could make a difference.”
On the most recent trip, the Slindes, Balduses and Groths visited a public school in San Luis Talpa to distribute 15 cases of books funded by a grant from the Rotary district and the Slindes to children in first through sixth grade. The school has been an ongoing project for the Slindes.
“When we arrived, the kids were free range as there were no classes,” David Slinde said.
Then the Slindes and other volunteers got to work on a multi-year project that resulted in a new kindergarten and pre-kindergarten building, computers and restrooms. The restrooms were dedicated on the same day the books were distributed.
“It was a day of much celebration and joy for us, the teachers, parents and students,” David Slinde said.
A particular highlight was when David and Nancy Slinde each took a few swings with a 50-pound hammer to demolish the old restrooms. Then the sextet was asked to visit another school in different community. In short, it will likely become the Slindes’ next project. The kindergarten through sixth-grade school has 90 students but no lighting, windows, whiteboards, books, desks or school supplies.
“We are waiting for a financial assessment of the needed building improvements, textbooks, desks and supplies,” David Slinde said. “This might be our seventh public school to accomplish in the future.”
The remainder of the trip included visiting a women’s cooperative that is raising chickens for food and income. Supported by Our Saviors Church, the program was initiated four years ago and has grown to include 14 beneficiaries. Following a discussion of how the project has made a positive impact on the lives of the participants and their families, the team heard requests for coops, chickens and training for eight more women.
During the second week of the trip, the Slindes meet with other local residents to review requests and plan for future projects. The to-do list is as unending as the people’s enthusiasm to help improve their health and quality of life, David Slinde said.
“We don’t proceed with any project unless the community is willing to invest their time and money into sup- porting it,” he said. “Even after all of these years, we are so impressed by their eagerness to contribute. Often they need help getting started and raising funds and making plans and connections. That’s what our role is.”
Volunteers David and Nancy Slinde take part in a ribbon-cutting ceremony for new restrooms at a school in El Salvador. The Slindes and four other Washington County residents recently visited the country to donate books and learn about additional project needs