Madeline Zwicke, B/CS Habitat’s Volunteer Coordinator, is back in town after her recent “Global Village” trip to El Salvador to build Habitat homes down there. Her experience abroad was nothing short of life-changing.

“It’s the best experience I’ve ever had,” she said.

Madeline and a team of 18 other volunteers traveled to Suchitoto, El Salvador, the week after Thanksgiving to participate in the Christmas in Action Blitz Build. They were joined by another team of 14 volunteers from Canada, along with about 50 local international high school students.

In just a week they built five homes for five brothers and their families!

Madeline provided whatever labor was needed, from sifting sand for concrete to moving cinder blocks. It was hard work in very hot conditions.

The houses that Madeline’s team built are much simpler and smaller than Habitat homes in the U.S., but they are decent and will offer a safe, healthy environment for these young families.

The need for good housing in El Salvador is significant. Sixty percent of families live in inadequate housing and 34% live in poverty. Since 1992, Habitat for Humanity El Salvador has provided more than 7,400 housing solutions, providing simple, decent and affordable shelter for more than 37,000 Salvadorians. In 2014 Habitat built 519 homes.

While many of the local people lack material things, Madeline was touched by what they had in abundance – joy, love and gratitude.

Ask Madeline about her trip because she would love to share the adventure and what she learned. She can tell you about how the albañiles (masons) built the walls; or the constant supply of rice, beans and papusas the locals provided; or brushing her teeth with bottled water; or the tiny hostel she stayed in; or the cobblestone streets; or the Christmas tree lighting in the town square when it was 95 degrees.

But mostly she’ll tell you about the people and how they touched her heart. There were the other volunteers, both from her team and from El Salvador, who exhibited selfless service and cooperative spirits. There were the masons, whose own homes were so far away that during the week they lived at the construction site, sleeping outside. But still they worked tirelessly so that others could have homes. And then there were the kids who will live in the homes. They showered Madeline and the other volunteers with hugs and love.

“We can show our true love just with our actions,” Madeline said. “We don’t have to speak the same language.”

It’s a lesson Madeline believes we can apply in B/CS as well. “It’s the same thing with our families here,” she said. Many of B/CS Habitat’s partner families do not speak much English. But that is a barrier easily overcome by acts of love, service, friendship and smiles.

Though the trip to El Salvador only lasted a week, its impact on Madeline will last a lifetime. She is inspired more than ever to serve our local families.

And she’s already thinking about her next trip and how she wants to take others from B/CS with her!