by Cynthia Castellon
Marlboro, Massachusetts USA
Our family consists of myself and my husband, who was born in El Salvador, and our three children, Mito, Daniel, and Missy. This past summer we traveled to El Salvador for a two-week visit, the first time the children had been outside the United States. They couldn’t speak the language, but that didn’t stop them from exploring the neighborhood and trying to communicate with the local people.
Life is quite different in El Salvador. The houses are made of clay and many have dirt floors. My father-in-law’s house had no running water and an outhouse toilet, as did all the houses on the same street. We had electricity, though some neighbors didn’t, and those folks went to bed and rose with the sun.
Most of the animals were kept for food purposes, and the children were excited to see chickens and pigs running loose in the streets and yards. Talking to neighbors, I learned that they also kept dogs so that no one would steal the livestock and the few luxury items they had, maybe a TV or radio. Our son Danny just happens to love dogs.
The family living next to the home we were staying in had several dogs, with two five-week-old puppies. The family living one house beyond them also had several dogs and four puppies. Every one of the puppies was skin and bones. Danny’s father explained that those were “common” dogs and that the people were too poor to feed themselves, never mind the dogs.
Well, 9-year-old Danny wasn’t having that! He counted the money he had earned all spring and insisted that we buy dog food with it. We had to drive 10 miles to find a store that even had dog food, but Danny fed those puppies every day for the two weeks we were in El Salvador. When we fed the puppies, we always took food for the family, and often we’d sneak money to the kids so that they could buy a cookie or ice cream.
When Danny returned to the United States, he didn’t just forget about those puppies, he continued to earn money and send much of it to El Salvador. We send the money to a responsible relative along with extra money for the families.
I’m proud of the change in Danny’s attitude since that vacation in El Salvador. He saw people who live a life that is so different from his life here in the United States, and he hasn’t forgotten them. He made friends with people from another country. To see a 10-year-old “tough” boy feeding starving dogs in another country, taught me that not only people may need help, but that animals need help also. But don’t tell Danny he’s “softhearted” — you’d ruin his “tough man” act. It’s all in a kids days work.