Monday, August 29, 2011

Summer Intern Reflections


Katy Strader with Tamarindos

I feel both excited and overwhelmed at the idea of attempting to write a final reflection on my short time with the Tamarindos. John said to me daily, “You simply cannot put us or this place in a box. We are constantly adjusting to the needs of this ever-changing community”. How do I find the words to describe the immense welcome, love and grace that each and every one of them showed me from the moment Douglas picked me up at the San Salvador airport on July 20th, until my last night in Guarjila, where we celebrated as a community my despedida? We were all hopeful that night saying “see you later”, rather than “goodbye”.

I admit that at first I had no idea what to expect of my time in Guarjila. However, slowly but surely, my role developed into exactly what it was supposed to be, and I was able to do what God intended me to do while I was there. He showed me that it did not mean my English classes at the middle, high school or Tamarindo would go perfectly smoothly. Or that regardless of the fact that Rafa, Jaime, and Carlitos came to the Tamarindo with their beautiful smiles, that life at home was far from it. Life in Guarjila, and especially at the Tamarindo, is a beautiful paradox that is both pleasantly surprising some moments and heart-breaking at others.

The prayer of St. Francis (…where there is hatred let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon, etc.) that is written on the wall of the Tamarindo reflects this irony that is everywhere in Guarjila – a place, along with much of the world, that is so burdened by abuse, dishonesty, and selfishness, but yet the Tamarindos try to go against what is normal here and do those things that are much more difficult – like love, respect, and serve others. We are all called to be a light in the darkness. The Tamarindos are the light for the community of Guarjila and they encouraged me to be a light in Indianapolis, at Depauw, and everywhere I go. Thank you, Tamarindos - you showed me peace, love, pardon, faith, hope, light, joy, consolation, and understanding.


Sarah Schrading with Ingrid and Ana

This past Summer I took a trip to Guarjila, El Salvador, with my dad for 2 weeks. I planned on doing some sort of travel this summer, and I also wanted to do a service project. I'm a high school student from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and a bunch of my friends were going on "service trips" to third world countries, where they would be doing hard labor like building schools and clinics. I asked my dad about these trips and his answer was that they were very expensive, and that we should just take a trip down to El Salvador and visit John Guiliano (My father and John worked together in El Salvador during the civil war). I agreed to go on the trip but I wasn't completely sure what I was getting into. When we arrived in Guarjila, I soon met the two Interns that had come from Stanford to work at the Tamarindo, and they showed me around the town. On my first day there, I already had countless amigos. One thing I quickly noticed was how little some people had, but I never heard them complain. I thought about my world back home and how many people spend $150 on designer jeans and consider the world completely over if they miss a party…

My trip to El Salvador opened my mind on a whole new level. I'd find myself waking up at 4:30 in the morning to go work on the Milpa with my friend Gio and his brothers, something I'd never do when I was back home. I was also given the opportunity to teach English in a school with Amy and Peter, the other interns. Teaching kids at school was funny because they were my age, and were the same people that I would joke around with in the evenings at the Tamarindo.

What I found is that the Tamarindo gives the people of Guarjila a chance to dream. Growing up, I remember always saying that I wanted to be a ballerina or a doctor. The Tamarindo gives the youth a sense of confidence, high hopes for the future, and ways to accomplish their dreams.

Even though I was only down there for two short weeks, I believe that any place where kids have recreation, encouragement, education, and opportunities, that the world would be a better place. I miss everyone dearly and talk to my friends about the Tamarindos constantly since being back home. But John repeatedly told me, "This is your community now, Sarah." And I think he is right. I hope to return to Guarjila and to work and be a part of the Tamarindo next summer for a longer period of time!

Peter Salazar

As I reflect, I’m forced to confront the reality, frustrating though it may be, that I didn’t complete any great or magnificent works during my month there. What work this gringo did is nothing compared to that which the conscientious individuals of Guarjila carry out in patience and solidarity every day. I realize, now, that it wasn’t my place to give and teach alone, but also to receive and learn, truly learn, what it is to live outside of myself. I hope that I may have planted a few seeds, but I am nonetheless humbled by the goodness of many in this town in the face of trials and adversity.

More than anything else, my stay taught me what it is to live outside of myself, to be truly concerned and attentive to the needs of others before my own. This was a thing that I learned from observing the work that is done here. That’s why the label of a “community organization” just doesn’t seem appropriate. The Tamarindo is the result of people loving and caring for others, and for that it is at the same time simpler and greater than any organization could ever become. John often spoke of the “revolution”, and only now do I think that I realize what it really means: the work of building the kingdom on earth cannot be left to a particular political or social ideology, but only to the simple and magnificent love of people for their brothers and sisters; in short, seeing the body of Christ in all of His people. This idea, not any organization, has the power to create a revolution in the world in which we live. I thank them for teaching me that, and I hope that I can aid them and your vision in the future.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

It Is in Giving That We Receive


I woke up this morning thinking about Niña Tancho. Her real name is Transito. An unusual name, even for here. She is always leading her many grandchildren and daughters to the Tamarindo. We sometimes joke, “It’s food night, the Tanchos will be here.” And sure enough, they are.

They rarely say anything. They are overly polite in the food line. They often (on the sly) fill a bag or two with food to bring home. We never say anything about it. Tancho and her daughter may come with five little ones but we know there are others at home waiting for their return. We know that what they get at the Tamarindo is probably all the food they might get until their next meal (or maybe until the next day).

You know, as "sophisticated" as Guarjila seems to be getting - with a highway coming, kids with new clothes (not to mention the slicked back hair), crazy new smart phones, Facebook and Twitter pages - there are still those in need, great need.

So there is Tancho, who almost weekly asks for $25 for food. She speaks really slowly and looks you straight in the eye. How could anyone say no?

But who is Tancho?

She is the first person to get up when a stranger walks into the room to greet them with a firm handshake or most probably a huge hug. She is the first person to get up after a community soup or spaghetti night to wash the huge metal pot we have (which is always burnt black from being used over the open fire).

She is the woman that spends her days not only caring for her own “challenging family”, but also the one who walks the town, house to house, visiting the sick and most in need.

She is the woman at community prayer who is not challenged by knowing who to pray for; she usually has a list of people she visited that day.

She is also famous at the Cerro Verde National Park, where she climbed a volcano barefoot (the Park Rangers were amazed at how she was able to do that).

She is the woman who believes when most of us just wonder.

There is a painting on one of our walls which says, “It is in giving that we receive...”

As the oldest Tamarindo (no one really knows her age), Niña Tancho is the woman that gives. And hopefully from all of us, she gets something in return.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Tamarindo Band Fundraiser at the Claddagh Pub!

The Tamarindo Cover Band (Mary Sukup, Chris Dietrick, Tom Funk, Mike Qualters, Chris Funk, JT Funk, Alexa Sifuentes, Ryan Funk), composed of board members and those who love the Tamarindos, played last Friday at the Claddagh in Indianapolis.
It was a fun night at an outdoor venue with great music, food, and friends of the Tamarindo and they were able to raise money!
Thanks to all who donated and sang along to the classic songs! :)

video

Mike Qualter's Ironman Fundraiser

Mike Qualters, president of the foundation, is doing an IRONMAN this upcoming weekend to raise money for the Tamarindos! Click the link below if you'd like to make a donation and see his campaign! What a great thing to do - a 140 mile triathlon!

http://www.imathlete.com/donate/MikeQualtersIronmanForTheTamarindoFoundationInc?z=1314028589861

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Sports Save Lives


We received the news that Mauricio Funes, President of El Salvador, will begin a draft into the military for kids ages 16+ that are at risk of falling into gangs. He will begin this program looking for 5000 recruits in 25 counties that are most effected by gangs.

I’m concerned that we are falling back into the days when the army would stop buses and pull “strong looking boys” off the buses and send them off to the military barracks (“you are in the army now”)....without even contacting their families.

What set of criteria will they use? What constitutes a potential gang member? Someone with a tattoo or a piercing? A kid who is just hanging out on a corner?

When will this "solution" spread to places like Guarjila? How many of our kids will be taken away as they will be judged to be a potential public safety problem? (I’m sure a few of my hockey players could be judged by authorities to be a threat to society)

This news motivates me more to create the new Tamarindo Center where we will engage kids 24 hours a day if necessary. Sport can change a life!

As all this news comes in, our “kids” continue to prepare for a series of hockey exhibitions in San Salvador and a date with the Guatemalan National Inline hockey team. (Margaret Miller and the students at St. Francis have been so generous, helping us get new skates for our players).

What we do may seem small and insignificant, but sports are a powerful tool. I know that it can pull kids off the street at night. I know it can keep them away from a joint, a bottle, or a needle. I know it can motivate kids to aspire to greater things. I know it can make a kid that hates himself find self worth.

So when it’s night time in Guarjila and the authorities are in search of new recruits, let them follow our kids to the Tamarindo. Let them see what can be done. Let them know that kids at risk have an alternative to a military barracks, a penitentiary or the cemetery.

Please pray with me today for these kids in El Salvador (the one’s that look good, and the one’s with tattoos), and let’s pray for the resources to build a new Tamarindo Center. These kids need us.

With great thanks,

jg


Pray for Fr. Dean Brackley, SJ



Friends,

I just received a note about Fr. Dean Brackley, SJ, who was diagnosed
with cancer in his liver. Dean is a Jesuit priest at the UCA who came here in
1990 after the murder of the Jesuits at the University. What good thing can’t be said about him? What hasn’t he done?

He is theologian...writer....spiritual director....retreat
master...pastor...inspiration...public speaker...community
organizer....priest...friend. He is so many things to so many people.

He will be receiving treatment here in El Salvador and his doctor says he can be treated. I know that cancer isn’t a death sentence. I know that Dean will continue to
be a witness to life and to love, as he has done so year after year (in El
Salvador, the South Bronx, and other places).

I ask that our Tamarindo Community around the United States pray with
Dean....for holy indifference, as St. Ignatius would say, “... not
preferring health to sickness, riches to poverty, honor to
humiliation, long life to a short one.” May he be given the grace to
continue his witness and to be given the strength to deal with
whatever special circumstances that may come his way.



Friday, August 12, 2011

With Confidence We ASK

Last night we reflected on the persistence of a woman. She had a sick daughter and went to Jesus and begged for his help. The companions of Jesus felt that this women was very annoying and they wanted to send her off. Despite the difficulty, she kept asking. Eventually, her cry was heard and her daughter was healed. It's a beautiful story about the persistance to keep asking.

Jaime said that he felt that the beauty of the story was that she wasn't asking for herself but for her daughter. It made me think of Fr. Dean Brackely who is struggling with cancer and writes to all of us to pray for the people of Somalia.

Then Luis brought up the story of our very own Dr. Carlos Alfaro (who is an orthopedic surgeon). When scholarships were made available to study abroad to study medicine, Carlos went everyday to the office where the scholarships were being administered. I don't think the secretary liked him (nor the scholarship committee); he couldn't even get in the door. But everyday he went; and everyday he was told, "NO". The first year went by and he was rejected. The second year he continued - this kid went everyday. He asked and asked. Finally, the director granted him the scholarship (he probably just wanted to get him out of the country at that point)! Because he persisted, today he is a doctor.

So what's the point here? Under this tin roof (our crumbling Tamarindo Shop), we have the confidence to ask for help... we need God and each other. We are not deterred by difficulty, failure, fear, trouble. We are like that woman who kept asking. We will keep asking... and keep working, keep loving, keep creating, keep giving.



.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Thoughts on Mediocrity

Yesterday at 5:30am, our hockey team loaded the truck with bags of equipment, sticks, goals and all other necessary "stuff" we need for our workouts. It's not easy moving a whole hockey team for a trip to the city, but it's something we do every week because we want to play and we want to get better. By 6:20am, with all our gear loaded, we filled up our bus with players and managers and we were on our way to San Salvador's National Sports Palace for practice.

When we arrived two hours later, we learned that we had been bumped from the facility for the HSBC International Table Tennis Tournament (meaning no practice for the national team yesterday). So we climbed back onto the bus and started to head back home when we were stopped by the police.

The cop wanted to know where we had gone (he saw us on the other side of the road on the way in earlier that morning) and wondered where we were headed with two hockey nets on a Saturday morning. After I explained the whole hockey-table tennis mix up, he began asking me questions: "So no practice today coach? No big deal for you right? They pay you the same if you practice or not?"

No practice....they pay the same. I was troubled by those questions he posed, and so began a morning reflection on living in the realm of the mediocre.

Obviously for that officer, what he does, or how he does it, really doesn't matter to him. Eight hours (or ten or twelve) of work are just that - hours to work, time to be filled. What seemed more important for that mediocre cop was his salary; not his performance. A good job or a bad job brings in the same result.

So the same goes for a mediocre athlete - having practice or not, training to get better, winning or losing, has little importance. Similarly, a grade of an A or a C is the same for the mediocre student. For mediocre governments or political systems - providing the basics is enough; with little room for the soul, for beauty, for creativity, for real human development. In other words, just do the minimum. Fill your quota. Do just what you have to do. Just get "it" done are the mottos of those who chose to be mediocre.

Here is the essential problem we face in Guarjila, in the rest of this country (and in many places around the world) - institutions and people who have no real investment in their jobs or how they do them. To them, a job is a job, a shift is something to "get through." The only question asked is, “What's in it for me?”

In the Tamarindo, one of our goals has to be to destroy this culture of mediocrity. Kids can't just show up here to fill their weekly obligations. A body in a seat just isn't enough. The Tamarindo isn't a "drop in center". It's a group of people, a community, committed to changing themselves, each other, their town, their country...and the world.

Here we have more than just a responsibility to show up. Here we are required to give of ourselves and commit to excellence. Here, "love is the measure," and success is equated by one's ability to be generous.

So we thank that cop for this week’s reflection point. Yes, it does matter if we practice or not. Yes, it does matter what we do and how we do it. And yes, being a Tamarindo means that we always strive to be more than just mediocre, but rather strive to give our BEST.


Friday, August 5, 2011

Peter Salazar's Reflection on the Tamarindos

Spending the last month in the constant company of the Tamarindos, I find myself thinking a lot about the true nature of what we in the States so loosely call an “organization”. Whenever I begin to tell anyone about my time spent there, I find that the only way to give them a satisfactory answer is to say that I was working (or even, I shudder to think, “interning”) at a community organization that provides opportunities for disadvantaged youth. And the people are generally happy with that explanation, and continue along their merry way with the thought that someone they know was helping the poor in a backwards, Central American country. And yet it greatly saddens me to do this, since it doesn’t even come close to being able to explain my stay. That month spent amongst you was much more than my giving my time as a teacher or organizer. The true value of those days, I have come to realize, lies in the time spent – though it was much too short – living in your midst, growing closer in friendship and understanding with people of a background radically different from my own.

As I reflect I’m forced to confront the reality, frustrating though it may be, that I didn’t complete any great or magnificent works during my month there. What work this gringo did is nothing compared to that which the conscientious individuals of Guarjila carry out in patience and solidarity every day. I realize, now, that it wasn’t my place to give and teach alone, but also to receive and learn, truly learn, what it is to live outside of myself. I hope that I may have planted a few seeds, but I am nonetheless humbled by the goodness of many in this town in the face of trials and adversity.

Before I left, I asked John a question that had been bouncing around in my head for a good part of the month, namely, why it is that he had never expanded the Tamarindo to other locations in an effort to spread its benefits elsewhere. To an extent, I think that I now understand why it hasn’t, and why the Tamarindo wasn’t a foundation from the start. More than anything else, my stay taught me what it is to live outside of myself, to be truly concerned and attentive to the needs of others before my own. This was a thing that I learned from observing the work that is done here. That’s why the label of a “community organization” just doesn’t seem appropriate. There is no faith here in the apparatus of an organization and its ability to attain funding or expand. The Tamarindo is the result of people loving and caring for people, and for that it is at the same time simpler and greater than any organization could ever become. John often spoke of the “revolution”, and only now do I think that I realize what it really means: the work of building the kingdom on earth cannot be left to a particular political or social ideology, but only to the simple and magnificent love of people for their brothers and sisters, in short, seeing the body of Christ in all of his people. This idea, not any organization, has the power to create a revolution in the world in which we live. I thank you for teaching me that, and I hope that I can aid you and your vision in the future.


Love,
Peter Salazar

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Quitters Never Win and Winners Never Quit

Companions,

At last night’s weekly Friday night meeting, we discussed the difference between winning and losing (in life, studies, work, family and sport). And it all came down to giving up or pushing through.

It was just a few days ago when I watched three women quit during a soccer game. They just stopped playing. They were behind by a score of 3-1 with a half still to play and just walked off the field.

There was something really disturbing for me about watching that happen - as if it was just ok for them to give up - as if it was out of habit - things get tough, walk away.

What was it that made them give up so easily? Was it that same voice in the heads of many of our kids who frequently give up so easily? The ones who hear: “You can’t...” “Why try?” “You must be kidding, ...” “Loser.” “You’re from Guarjila, what can you do?”

I have seen it many times before. Things get started with good intentions but then are left behind out of laziness, fear, apathy, not enough support, or lack of self-confidence. Kids quit teams; community projects are started and then just left unfinished; dreams never take root... Life goes on from a street corner, but without the feeling of accomplishment or self-love, waiting for another day to end.

So we asked the question last night - What is the difference between winning and losing? The Tamarindos’ response was: preparation, discipline, love, sacrifice, attitude, hard work. This is what it takes to be a winner.

I once read somewhere that, “The difference between the winner and the loser is the winner’s willingness to do the things the loser refuses to do.” So we refuse to accept “losing” here in the Tamarindo. We reject others’ sympathy or any excuse to not try. We reject the labels given to us like poor, disadvantaged, third world, second rate....

We decide that we won’t make excuses. We stand up. We sweat. We work harder. We study harder. We play harder. We do all that we are capable of doing to win – in school, on the field, at home, as a Tamarindo.

Like Phil Pepe (a sports writer) found on a locker room wall, “Quitters never win and winners never quit;” we refuse to quit, although sometimes the clock will run out on us, and sometimes the score will be against us. Bien. We go on. And we come back for another day as winners.