When our colleagues in El Salvador told videographer, Jeremy Denief and myself that it was going to take us 45 minutes to drive just a few miles up the mountain to one of our feeding sites in Ahuachapán, El Salvador, I did a double take.
“Forty-five minutes?” I asked. “How is that possible?”
Arely Hernandez, one of our feeding site coordinators in El Salvador, laughed.
“You will see,” she said with a smile. “It’s an adventure.”
It usually is an adventure when we visit any of our feeding sites around the world. Yes, part of that adventure lies in getting to our destination, but the true adventure is in discovering stories of the children we’re feeding every day. Today was no exception.
We’re in El Salvador to capture stories of compassion to report to our feeding partners who sustain our efforts here and in 10 other countries. As we pulled into the town of Atiquizaya at the base of the jungle-laden mountain, we stopped for a moment and an elderly, skinny gentleman stepped out and got into our truck.
“This is Don Miguel,” said Arely. “He’ll be our guide up the mountain. He knows everyone here so we will have no problems.”
Arely went on to explain that Don Miguel was 90-years-old and well respected in the community. His hands were like leather and he sported a straw-hat that rounded out his character perfectly. As the truck left the pavement and began the ascent up the mountain, I noticed Don Miguel’s hands slowly guiding Nancy, our driver, back and forth through the increasingly gigantic ruts in the road.
It was immediately clear why this drive would take forty-five minutes. The five of us were tossed about like rag dolls as the truck careened in and out of ditches, potholes and drop-offs. All the while, Don Miguel’s hand remained steady on the dash, guiding our way.
Finally we reached our destination – Tapacún school – a modest structure made of bamboo and mud resting on the edge of the mountain. The children were waiting on us and greeted us before we even had a chance to get out of the truck. Boy, were we glad to be out of the truck, but immediately we were even more content to see the smiles on the faces of the 75 kids we’d come to meet.
As the very impoverished students of Tapacún made their way through the lunch line to get rice and beans provided by Convoy of Hope and our partners, a young boy approached Arely with an empty plate.
“My name is Mainor,” the 10-year-old said in Spanish. “I just wanted to say thank you for the food and [thank you] to the people I don’t know who feed me here.”
He paused a moment, then glancing over at his teacher said, “May I have some more? It’s very delicious.”
She said yes and Mainor had his plate full of rice again in 30 seconds.
I was so glad she said yes.
Turns out that Mainor often goes hungry at home and when his parents can’t afford to put food on the table he scours the fields for fruit that’s already fallen to the ground. But he now has comfort in the fact that he can come to this rural school every day and get a nutritious meal.
After saying our goodbyes, Don Miguel once again began guiding the truck through the rough dirt road. Another adventure? Yes, perhaps. But, once again, we were reminded that the real adventure in being a part of Convoy of Hope is meeting kids like Mainor.