SLHS Students Travel to EL Salvador to Spread Kindness and Care


Jaxson Berg, Reporter

After a three-hour charter bus ride; eight total hours of flying; and a two-hour school bus ride, nine Spring Lake students arrived in the city of San Salvador, El Salvador in preparation for a week they would never forget. Among these nine students was myself, Jaxson Berg. This group of Interactors (members of the Interact Club), along with Rotary members from around the country, had been preparing themselves for months to go to El Salvador to build homes for the people in Talnique, a small town near the capital city. This trip has been around for nearly two decades and began as a one-hundred-home project, but has expanded into so much more than that.

Many of the students, going on the trip, did not know what to expect or what they would gain from going on this journey. Senior Sarah Sevener said, “I honestly had no idea what to expect, and I think that made the experience even better.” She went on to say, “Because I had no assumptions, everything was a new experience.” The students going on the trip had been briefed on the main components of their stay while in this foreign country, however, Doug Mealy, the faithful leader of the trip, continually said that things change fast when you are down there enveloped in their culture. 

While the trip we all attended was mainly to build homes and put “Service Above Self”, the Interact slogan, it was also designed to open students’ eyes and minds to the world around them and the poverty some places, like Talnique, live in. Jordan Smith, a junior, said, “Being surrounded by a new culture has made me realize how much we really have.” There are many culture shocks that come with traveling to a new country and engaging with the people and experiencing their way of life, even for a relatively brief period.

One of the things that I personally am taking away from my time in El Salvador is the friendships that I made with the locals and the 27 other students from around West Michigan who also attended this service trip, and the other attendees agree. Sevener stated, “Besides the people I met from El Salvador, it was so cool to connect with like-minded teens from all over West Michigan on the trip.” Every person on this journey made friendships that they will never forget and each person felt welcomed as a part of a community of service. Smith also noted, “The heart these people [El Salvadorians] have for others is so big and I found they just wanted to give, even when they have nothing.” The local people were also very welcoming and were not slow to try and communicate with us students despite a language barrier, which is something that many American citizens do not possess. 

This trip is annual, as far as we all know, so that means next year they will be taking new students with them on this once-in-a-lifetime trip. It may be nerve-wracking to think of leaving the country knowing few people to build homes in a dirty, hot environment, however, our students have some things to say if you are on the fence about taking the leap. Sarah said, “This [trip] is one of the best decisions I ever made,” and Jordan stated, “El Salvador feels like a second home.” So, be bold and trust that this trip might just be the best decision you will ever make.