Who else is stepping into March wearily? It is one year into the pandemic and we are all tired.
In El Salvador, children can be seen everywhere all the time because schools have yet to open for in-person classes. There are still people on the side of the highway waving white flags, but thankfully far less than there used to be. Lots of people are looking for work, or for extra work to make up for income lost over the strictest phase of the lockdown. Others are still searching for ways to pay for damages to their homes and property suffered from the tropical storms that slammed El Salvador last year.
Our clients are facing some new challenges too, and many people have joined our daily lunch line where we serve meals to go because we can’t host large groups inside our building. According to a recent report by the World Food Programme, hunger is on the rise across Central America with 4 times as many people struggling with food insecurity than there were two years ago, and over 1 million people in the region facing an emergency food crisis. We know people are hungry for more than just food and so our team stands outside while people wait in line…sharing live music, talking, sometimes playing games. It’s not the same as sitting down together to share a meal face to face but it’s still a space in the day to touch base, and to share support during a difficult time.
Lots of upstart informal businesses have sprung up around the city as Salvadorans use new ideas to come up with new sources of cash. In many ways, this has been a year of us learning from all we see around us in El Salvador…resiliency, innovation, and above all tenacity. What a privilege to learn from our neighbors and friends who have always dug in deep during times of crisis, war, and natural elements raging out of control.
Some of our clients have been the very best teachers… we are one year in and no women who have suffered exploitation and trafficking have returned to the streets in desperation. They have vowed never to go back, but to just keep moving forward even when it’s hard.
We are one year in to leaps and bounds in recovery. El Salvador’s quarantine established a structure that provided the springboard for 11 of our clients to stop consuming drugs and alcohol and to set their sights on a new life. They turned two months in our shelter into a year of sobriety. One year in and they aren’t looking behind them…only looking at the new path ahead.
A year ago New Dawn went virtual, but healing still happened and three residents have graduated since the pandemic, and more are on their own road to finding health and freedom. One year in and we have a healthy team working to support each other, and to support our clients. We are one year in to none of us walking alone, but knowing God’s hand is on us and we are here for each other.
We don’t know how much longer until we can hug, and feel free, and worship, and play without a lurking fear or a mask over our faces. But we do know that we are still moving forward and though we may be weary, we aren’t defeated.
In fact, at one year in, we just may be stronger than we’ve ever been.