Social issues provoke student involvement in El Salvador

By Grayce Turnbach
September 29, 2006

On June 19, 2006 Meghan Hurley, senior English and communication major, departed for her international internship in El Salvador with Catholic Relief Services.

“When I came to Cabrini I wanted to be a wedding planner,” Hurley said. During her sophomore year she picked up a social justice minor “so I kind of did a big turn around.”

Hurley got involved with the Wolfington Center and the community outreach programs.

“The deeper I got into it, the more I liked it,” Hurley said. Her involvement with the Wolfington Center presented her with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. In the fall of her junior year she was offered an international internship to El Salvador with CRS, who had just finalized a formal partnership with Cabrini.

“Who can say no to that?” Hurley said.

“When I arrived at the airport I just stood there. I didn’t know where to go or what to do,” Hurley said.

From there on out Hurley stayed in Santa Catarina Masahuat with a woman named Lorena and her three sons for eight weeks.

Throughout her stay, Hurley became involved with a “youth group” or jovenes in Spanish, of teens ages 15 to 23, which were formed by CRS in 2003.

CRS is the official international relief and development agency of the U.S. Catholic community. According to the CRS website, their purpose is to assist the poor and disadvantaged, help alleviate human suffering and foster charity and justice throughout the world.

The purpose of the jovenes group was to organize the youth so that they would not turn to violence.

“Violence is one of the biggest problems there,” Hurley said. “The government isn’t really addressing the problems of the people, which makes it hard to get anything accomplished.”

Hurley was also able to become involved with an AIDS program there which she described as a very moving experience. According to Hurley, AIDS patients in El Salvador are viewed as they were here in United States back in the 1980s.

“There is a lot of discrimination against people with AIDS,” Hurley said, “but what people don’t realize is that the people who have AIDS are no different from the people who do not have it.”

El Salvador is a developing third world country so, “it was very inspiring to see how hard they work for something that would take so little effort for us to accomplish here,” Hurley said.

When asked about the littlest thing that made the biggest impact, Meghan referred to a boy named Erick. Erick is 18 and is completely in charge of the care of his four youngebrothers and sisters, goes to school, and is vice president of the jovenes group as well. Lorena, the woman whom Hurley was living with, once said to her, “He has such a hard life.”

“To hear her say that about him was very humbling,” Hurley said.

“It’s amazing what the poor can do for the poor,” Hurley said. “They are so giving and grateful for what they have that they are willing to help anyone in anyway they can.”

Meghan spent her time building relationships with numerous people.

“They welcomed you right into their lives,” Hurley said. “It was overwhelming because if you really think about it, if one of them were to come here we wouldn’t be as accepting.”

“Their struggles were my struggles,” Hurley said. “I learned a lot of humility and not to take things for granted.”

After graduation Meghan would like to go back to El Salvador.

“It was the most rewardingly difficult thing I have ever done.”

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Grayce Turnbach

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