I went with a group of eight high school students (five from Pittsford and one each from Webster, Penfield and Brighton) to spend our winter school break in the small community of Taura, El Salvador.  The service trip was sponsored by Young Life, an international, nondenominational Christian outreach to teens and consisted of 19 people, including four local college students and seven adults, along with the high school students.

The community of Taura is only 15 years old, having been founded by refugees of the civil war in the 1990s.  The relationship with Taura is the result of a Young Life leader from El Salvador who felt a need to bring high school students down to his native country to expose them to his culture and in turn help his Salvadoran people with service work.   Syracuse teens have been making the trip for five years now, forming a strong relationship with the community of Rancho Grande, which is a mile from Taura.  The program has made such a difference in the lives of Rancho Grande residents, that Dan Ormond, the Rochester Area Director of Young Life, started bringing Rochester teens to Taura last year along with the Syracuse group.

As a result for a need for a building to school Taura’s kindergarten through second grade school children, we renovated an old, vacated building in need of repair and painting for this purpose.  The government of El Salvador has agreed to provide a teacher, after the building is suitable to use.  Since one of the adults was a medical doctor and another was a nurse, we were also able to setup a medical clinic in the local church and make use of the medical supplies we collected before we left and brought down in suitcases. 

I got up at 3:00AM to get to the airport at 4:00AM for my 6:00AM flight with everyone, including the Syracuse group.  We went through Atlanta and on to San Salvador.  Riding on a bus that barely fit twenty people we rode into the community of Rancho Grande.  The whole group knew there was an amazing experience to come in the near future.  The bus arrived to a welcome held by the community kids, most of which were holding signs welcoming us in Spanish.  From there we were taken on a tour of Rancho Grande and to a small welcoming ceremony.  After that the Rochester group split from the Syracuse group and went to Taura.

After a warm welcome from the Taura residents filled with hugs, singing and confetti (not in that order), we played with the community kids and then went to bed.  This was just the first day and I could go into great detail about the whole of the week but I’m trying not to write a novel here. 

As the week went on, we focused on our main school renovation project.  We scraped melted stickers and concrete off the bricks.  We washed and painted all the walls, inside and out and put on a new roof.  While we were doing this the kids were still around us, watching and trying to help whenever possible.  I suppose one of the endearing qualities of these people is that whatever the job, big or small, they were willing, even eager, to help.  We also worked to set up and run the clinic, further entertained the community’s kids and even found time to eat three meals a day.

Playing with the kids was probably the thing that touched me the most out of everything.  The kids there are a vital part of the community; for they spread their joy to everyone, respect their elders, and are the bright future of the community.  Never have I seen kids so excited to go to school, or kids so willing to help with whatever is necessary to finish the school. 

It was difficult leaving the village, but we worked hard and were tired.  We left some of the medical and all the school supplies that we had brought down with us and said our goodbyes.  We went to a hotel in San Salvador to relax on the last day.  Some of our group even had a hot shower.  The next day we flew back to Rochester through Atlanta and by the time I got home it was 12:30AM.  The following morning I took a nice long shower and end enjoyed the privacy of a bathroom without being pressured to get out because someone else needed to use it.  I had also grown rather weary of Central American food, especially beans.  I couldn’t believe it when we had taco salad for dinner that night!

Overall this experience has permanently changed my life forever in ways that I’m still trying to figure out.  The kids and the people have taught me lessons about life that will live in my heart for the rest of my life.  The main one is that simplicity is the key to happiness.  These people who have nothing seem to enjoy everything and have such happiness that nobody can match.  They live off of the land and the Lord and are grateful for it.   They have each other, the land, and the Lord, and that’s all they’ll ever need, and maybe that’s what everyone really needs, and nothing else.


Here are some pictures I took of the trip including the work, the play, and the people I met.

01The bus from the airport in San Salvador to Rancho Grande.

It barely held twenty people.




02 The Rancho Grande community welcoming us



03A rooster - AKA broken alarm clock.

The roosters in the area would crow at all times of the day and night at times waking us up too early in the morning.








04Gage scraping concrete off the brick wall of the school to prepare it for painting.








05Gage and Kyle preparing a brick wall of the school for painting.











06Dan Ormond, our leader, working on the roof of the school.











07Gage working on the roof of the school.











08I was instructing Oscar on how he could help us do the work on the school.

A lot of the kids of the village wanted to help and we were able to have some of them assist us as appropriate.






09Little Dennis with the drill.

He was not really helping, but wanted to look like he was.









10Working on the outside of the school.

Starting to get the paint on.





11Linnea painting the school








12The school with a new roof and fresh paint.





13Everyone in front of the renovated school.

This is the Rochester contingent of Young Life that worked in the community of Taura.


14Having fun at the new school.

15Some of the kids in Taura.

The kids were just such fun and we really enjoyed each other's company even though we spoke different languages. We had an interpreter to help us out.


16More Taura kids.






17Jump rope with the kids.

That is me in blue.




18More jump rope.

I am jumping with Oscar who lives in Taura.









19More jump rope.

We even did it after dark.









20Playing soccer with the kids.

We all received the green t-shirts to commemorate the trip.




21 Kyle performing for the community kids.

We all enjoyed the simple acts and games that entertained these children.


22Here I am tossing Oscar around which he seemed to enjoy.











23Freddy, a kid in Taura











24Little Dennis.

I'll never forget him.










25Marvin, one of the kids in Rancho Grande