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Area residents return from home-building trip to El Salvador

Published: Friday, Aug. 23, 2013 2:39 p.m. CST • Updated: Friday, Aug. 23, 2013 2:42 p.m. CST
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(Photo contributed)
Malden residents Larry and Deb Dalton joined Steven Becker, financial associate, St. Louis Heartland Region, Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, on his Thrivent Builds trip to El Salvador this past June. This was Becker's fourth trip to El Salvador and his second as team leader.

KEWANEE — Poverty and inadequate housing have a whole new meaning for 24 area residents after working side-by-side with Salvadoran families during a Thrivent Builds Worldwide trip.

Deb Dalton of Malden fully expected to work hard and change the lives of Salvadoran families for the better. While these expectations were met, it came as a surprise that she was also strongly impacted by the experience.

“Volunteering in El Salvador really grabbed my heart,” Dalton said. “One of every three people in El Salvador lives in substandard housing, partly as a result of a lack of job opportunities in the country, so by our American standards, the Salvadorans have very little. In spite of that, the people we met were generous and hospitable, hard-working and so excited to live in their own home.”

From June 8-16, a team of 24 people, including Dalton assisted with the construction of homes for families in Ahuachapan, El Salvador. The volunteers working alongside the families who would live in the community carried bricks, mixed cement, moved dirt and painted interior and exterior walls. Each 400-square-foot home under construction includes a living room, kitchen, bathroom and two bedrooms.

The team’s contributions gave a boost to the community-building efforts of Habitat for Humanity El Salvador. Habitat El Salvador has developed a more holistic way to help poor Salvadoran families improve their quality of life. This new community — funded and built partially by members of U.S.-based Thrivent Financial for Lutherans — provides each resident family with a simple, decent house, utilities and social infrastructure such as green areas and community buildings.

Thrivent Builds Worldwide teams like this one will help build as many as 35 homes in the Getsemani Community in Ahuachapan, El Salvador this year. Thrivent Financial makes an $8,000 contribution to the Habitat host affiliate on behalf of all participants who are members.

This team of volunteers also had the opportunity to put down their work gloves and have some free time to attend a Lutheran church service on Sunday, play soccer with construction masons, learn how to make pupusas (a corn-based tortilla filled with cheese and beans, a national staple in the Salvadoran diet). The volunteers will have an adventure day on The Route of the Flowers, a popular tourist attraction.

“Even though it was a week of hard work, it was also exhilarating to know that we were doing something to make a difference,” Dalton said. “I went into this knowing that the work we would do would better the lives of those we served, but now it has changed my life, too.”

While the team of 24 traveled to El Salvador, other Thrivent Builds Worldwide volunteer teams help build homes in other parts of Central America, in the United States, Eastern Europe, Africa and beyond. All trips bring together Thrivent Financial for Lutherans members with other Lutherans and volunteers to build homes with families in need.

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