After our three groups finished our separate service sites, today we all debriefed as a whole group about our placements, what we learned, and what we learned about ourselves. My group presented first, and it detailed what my 10th blog post summarized. The second group went to work with women who faced/currently face injustice issues and their summary was very powerful and educational to the group. The final group briefed us on their experiences in an elementary school, the surrounding community, and how affiliated gang members fit into this social structure. Again, it was enlightening and provided a rich context of life for affiliated El Salvadorians.
With our final lunch at Hotel Oasis finished (because the beach would be our last overnight stay in the country) we had our last formal presentation by AMATE of the LGBTI community. Unlike the United States where LGBT”Q” (queer and/or questioning is used) the “I” stands for intersex, where both genitals are represented. In summary, the discussion was very enlightening because as a heterosexual male, I have much to learn about the struggle of this community. With every comment and statement made, I thought about how I could be more of an advocate and be inclusive for understanding the needs of this community, especially because I will be sure to encounter many students in my profession of Higher Education and Student Affairs who identify in this way. While many of my classmates were able to provide factual statements and comments, my contribution was mostly through questions, meaning I am not as informed as I should be, especially with my chose profession. In the future I will inquired and learn more about this topic to be as inclusive as possible–because I accept all individuals and believe like religion, politics, etc., differences should be embraced and all should be accepted, especially with love as the core factor in this case.
After out group reflection and final formal presentation, the entire group was able to visit Shicali, a ceramics store where the items are all handcrafted by a person with special needs or a disability. When I looked at these items I was reminded that everyone has talents and abilities no matter their outward appearance; the internal drive to positively contribute to society is all one needs to make their abilities known and I was glad this business conveyed that. Additionally, I have a brother with low to mild special needs, and I was reminded of him and how he also conveys this notion as he obtains his bachelors degree and follow his dreams. I was more than happy to buy from this business because it is concrete proof of the extraordinary abilities of persons with special needs, not to mention the proceeds would go directly back into the community.
The Wall of Truth was our next stop, a detailed, beautiful wall that told a powerful story of El Salvador. 10% of the wall was covered with visually crafted scenes that told a historic story, with the remaining 90% dedicated to those who were affected prior to the Peace Accord, which included some (not all) stacked names of missing/murdered El Salvadorians and those who were thankfully rescued and/or found.
The power of the truth has become strikingly influential for my study abroad experience. Many El Salvadorians tell testimonies, write literature, and share experiences all focused on the truth to reflect on it, explain the repercussions of actions, and debrief about how this experience affected themselves and others. This, little did I know, would be a huge life lesson I embraced personally on this study abroad experience.
I was able to grow both personally and professionally on this study abroad experience, and after a day of buying final souvenirs and having dinner with my great classmates, it became very apparent how important the truth is, especially when it effects others. Mistakes happen, and how you deal with them and learn from them matters most, in addition to accepting the attached consequences. I can wholeheartedly say that honesty is indeed the best policy, and thinking about actions before making decisions is one of the most powerful tools humans have at their disposals. Just like the Wall of Truth, honesty is best conveyed openly and in its entirety.