Hermana Mirna leading construction of the tilapia pond.
On June 1, the GROW team got the see, for the first time, one of the projects our GlobeMed chapter at Amherst College funded with campaigns yearlong: the fish pond! Located thirty minutes away from Rigo’s house by car, we arrived at a home located on an uphill plot of land a few steps above the unpaved and rocky road on which we drove. The fish pond was there, at the back of the home, in all its glory: dug by the homeowners and volunteers of Pastoral de la Salud in their backyard, it was one meter deep, one and a half meters wide at the top, one meter wide at the bottom, and two meters long. At our time of arrival, there was nothing in the pond; actually, the pond was not even finished. The shape was there, but it still required a cement overlay and fencing to stabilize the structure once the water and the fishes were added.
The GROW team worked on the pond for three hours, two before and one after lunchtime. In the beginning, we stood at the side and observed the process of finishing the fish pond—the measuring and cutting of metal diamond fence wire to line the fish pond, the digging of a canal leading out of the pond used to exchange dirty water for clean water, the creation of the cement mixture—but slowly we became more involved as time passed and we grew accustomed to the people and the setting. It was warm when we worked, as it is always in El Salvador, with the sun shining above and the relative stillness of the air; it was something we pushed to the back of our minds as we measured and cut the needed segments of metal diamond fence wire, removed dug up dirt from the canal, and helped cover the pond walls with cement. Philip and I alternated between shoveling dirt out of the canal and using a double shovel holer to give it shape, while the ladies shoveled extraneous dirt out of the pond and lined it with cement. It was tough and sweaty work. The people who gave the pond were not finished when we left, but it was close! It was missing one side of fencing, and the canal simply needed to be fleshed out.
We contributed in a tangible way to the progress of our partner organization that day—one that we could see—and that was very gratifying. We witnessed the coming to fruition of a plan towards which over forty students hundreds of miles away spent hundreds of hours altogether funding. I was impressed by the effort the family and volunteers put towards the construction of the fish pond. Everyone worked diligently, and when they met us, greeted us warmly—with smiles and handshakes. It was wonderful to see the support our chapter provided El Pastoral come to life before my eyes, and that made all the work (and physical labor) totally worth it.