Students write daily reflections about time in El Salvador


Science teacher Ms. Maureen Pappas, juniors Libby Kolbus, Katie Guymon, Libby Kolbus, Claire Otolski, director of campus ministry Mrs. Carol Wagner, Colleen Scheer, Sarah Meek, Belle deCastro, Meghan Koers, and math teacher Mr. Aryn Stack pose in front of the Center of Art for Peace in El Salvador during their immersion trip over Thanksgiving break.

Belle deCastro

Beyond the BCHS community, there is a world out there that lies unknown to most students. This Thanksgiving break, seven girls and three adult chaperones were afforded the opportunity to experience an immersion trip to El Salvador.

Juniors Katie Guymon, Libby Kolbus, Belle deCastro, Sarah Meek, Meghan Koers, and Claire Otolski were accompanied by director of campus ministry Mrs. Carol Wagner, math teacher Mr. Aryn Stack, and science teacher Ms. Maureen Pappas to Guarjila, Chalatenango, El Salvador. On this trip, they were immersed into the Central American culture, traveled to many religious sites, and developed personal relationships with the Tamarindos.

The Tamarindo Foundation was founded by executive director Mr. John Guiliano. The Tamarindo mission was inspired by faith and grace, and the goal is to “break the chains of poverty and forced migration in El Salvador.” Birthed out of the close of the El Salvadoran civil war, the Tamarindo foundation was founded in 1992. Since then, they have been working to open the door for prosperity, family, community, and faith within El Salvador.

BCHS has been sending groups of students to El Salvador for about 12 to 14 years. Led by Mrs. Wagner and Mr. Guiliano, students have experienced love and pure joy through the Tamarindos. All throughout the week, the students wrote reflections each day that portrayed all the emotions they felt corresponding with a daily theme.

Day 1 Reflection: beauty – by Sarah Meek and Isabelle deCastro

From the moment we stepped off the plane, we saw the beauty in El Salvador. Driving to Guarjila was one of the prettiest sites we have ever seen. The Tamarindos welcomed us with open arms and we are very grateful for their hospitality. We are so excited for the rest of the week and to embrace this experience with open minds and open hearts!

Day 2 Reflection: breaking the bonds of poverty – by Colleen Scheer and Claire Otolski

As the Bishop Chatard community spent our second day in El Salvador, we made one of our most favorite memories on our journey. Our BCHS group and the Tamarindo community all traveled down to the Sumpul River. We did not come here to bring material items, we are here to immerse ourselves – to experience a new way of life. We are here to share in our faith and embrace the love and gratitude of the the Tamarindos. We would not be helping fix at the root if we had brought material items: food, clothes, etc. The past 12 years the BCHS community had spent in El Salvador, we have had a goal of empowerment, achieved through sharing in the lives of the Tamarindos and seeing the face of God.”

Day 3 Reflection: forced migration – by Meghan Koers and Katie Guymon

Through the use of art, the Tamarindos, with the help of the BCHS community, were able to express who they are within their pieces. Mrs. Carol Wagner gave light to the Tamarindos and allowed them to be the masterminds of their own works. The Tamarindos were able to thoughtfully express what they wanted, which lent itself towards the idea that the Salvadoran community has all that anyone could need, they just have think and find it. Their safe community is full of opportunities, people and adventures to help them on their journey. When making the mandalas, the Tamarindos helped each other with ideas and designs. When someone is truly in need, the Tamarindos are there to help. They have each other’s backs to fall on. Through the help of art and other resources and people coming into their lives, there’s no need to go anywhere but El Salvador.

Day 4 Reflection: making alternatives – by Isabelle deCastro and Libby Kolbus

Although waking up gets a little tougher each day, embracing the day with an open heart and open mind allows us to fully receive and give love to all those we encounter. By keeping this message of love close to our hearts, we are able to see the endless amount of good we can do here in El Salvador. Today, John talked to us about his inspirational journey that began the Tamarindo Foundation. In a time of war and despondency, he still saw all the love in everyone that kept him rooted here to fulfill his vocation of love and service through the “Tamarindo Foundation.” His seeking and spreading of the truth inspires everyone he meets.

Day 5 Reflection: faith grace inspiration – by Meghan Koers and Sarah Meek

Leaving Guarjila was so hard. Harder than we could have ever imagined. Our hearts were filled with so much love and our connection with the Tamarindos will stay strong through our faith. On our way to the monastery we had a hard time opening up to our faith and feeling inspired, but once we got there and sat there in front of the San Romero statue we were overcome with peace and grace. Our relationships with each other are stronger than ever before. Through the grace of God our faith has grown more in the past week than it has in a long time. For that, we are thankful.

Day 6 Reflection: joy – by Isabelle deCastro

I’ve been happy before. I’ve experienced happiness in all sorts of things: family, hanging out with friends, holidays, getting a good grade in a hard class, having no homework, etc. Happiness ranges all over the place, from the simplest of smiles to the complexity of relationships. However, no one usually describes happy times as “joyous” times. In that sense, I’ve never really experienced “joy.” But this past week spent in El Salvador with the Tamarindos, I truly felt the purest form of joy. Coming home was hard because I was sad to leave all my new friends. But whenever someone asks me about my experience in El Salvador, all I feel is a grin sneak on my face and pure joy in my heart. I’m forever thankful to Mrs. Wagner, John, and the Tamarindos for helping me learn what pure joy is and how I can share it with others.