The Romero Trust pilgrimage today visits the CAFOD connect2 community in Puentecitos, El Salvador and joins in celebrations for the opening of a bridge that CAFOD partners helped to build in this rural part of the country:
Thursday, 21 November
Today we travelled to the Guaymango region in the west of El Salvador to visit projects supported by CAFOD’s partner, the Jesuit Development service. Our CAFOD partners work with the poorest of the poor, who live in abject poverty. This is a very remote area and, for the final bit of our journey, we have to travel up hills in the back of an open truck and walk through muddy paths and forest.
Our first stop was to officially celebrate the opening of a new bridge, which will stop the community being cut off during the rainy season. We met a 66 year old woman, Mercedes Garcia, who was born and has lived her whole life in the village. She explained to us that without the bridge many of the children in the village had to climb trees in order to cross the flooded roads on their way to school. She told us this was very dangerous as the water could be over 10ft deep during the rainy seasons. The rainy season used to last for 4 months, but recent changes in the climate meant they were now getting 6 months of heavy rain and perhaps 6 months when children might find it too difficult to get to school.
The new bridge had been built by the community with the support of CAFOD’s partner the Jesuit Development Service. We all joined together in a prayer led by Bishop John Rawsthorne to bless the community and the bridge and officially open it. Bishop John described CAFOD as the bridge between poor communities across the world and people in England and Wales.
The local catechist, the representative of the community, thanked the Bishop and CAFOD and said they would pray for the people in England and Wales who had helped them. Mercedes added that the Jesuits had given the community the confidence to build the bridge, and that they would build more things in the future.
We then travelled on foot deeper into the countryside and down some deep muddy slopes to a remote farm where we met a hard working 35-year-old woman called Sibia. She and her community had benefitted from funding from CAFOD world gifts.
Thanks to funding to set up their own business and a gift of chickens, the community now not only own chickens who lays eggs, but have set up a community bakery business where they use the eggs from the chickens!
Erasmo, from CAFOD’s partner the Jesuit Development Service, also explained to us the pressures the community face and how they further support them. One such important project is how to protect their own diverse range of seeds, enabling them to grow their own fruit, vegetables, Medicines and other products at half the price of big multinational companies in the region.
We then witnessed the abundance of crops they are growing and were welcomed by the CAFOD Connect 2 community in Puentecitos. Many CAFOD volunteers will remember Fidel and his wife Julia, who visited us in England earlier this year during Lent.
We joined the community for a Eucharistic service. During his welcome Fidel said:
“Here in Puentecitos, we are strong Catholics. We have got strength from our time with you and our sharing of stories. We are grateful for the beautiful chalice, altar cloths, stoll and other items you gave us in England for our church. We learned from our time with you and have copied your idea from St Margaret’s Parish in Twickenham and are now growing items in our church garden.”
Every Thursday afternoon they hold a holy hour to remember their CAFOD friends in England. The young people from the community then taught us some hymns, with actions, led by brilliant young guitarist, Carlitos, from the community, who is visually impaired. We then presented them with exchanged gifts from Connect2 parishes and schools in England.