Teacher helps rebuild after hurricane


July 02, 1999|By Donna Abel | Donna Abel,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

IMAGINE YOUR HOME, your school and part of your hometown washed away by a raging river during a hurricane.

For residents of Chilanguera, a poverty-stricken town in El Salvador, that nightmare became a reality when Hurricane Mitch roared through in October. Of the 2,000 townspeople, 180 residents were killed when the river deluged the town.

Mount Airy Elementary art teacher and Westminster resident Pat Aaron was among the 14 members of the 29th Aviation Unit of the Maryland Army National Guard who worked June 5-19 in El Salvador to help the town rebuild roads, bridges, homes and schools.

Aaron is a 28-year veteran of the Maryland Army National Guard and flew helicopters in El Salvador. Aaron also helped with reconstruction.

The National Guard was one of many organizations sent to the region as part of Esperanza Nuevo, an overseas deployment training exercise. The exercise is designed to provide humanitarian and civic assistance to victims of Hurricane Mitch and provide real-world training for soldiers.

Plans include construction of schools, medical clinics, bridges, wells, and restoration of a river channel destroyed during the floods.

"Our job was to support the engineers and the medical people. It helps the people affected by this disaster and it's good training for us," said Aaron.

Aaron took many photographs of the rebuilding efforts, the countryside and the locals, and kept a diary of his experiences.

"The people there are friendly but they are very poor. They have a lot of pride in what little they do have. The children are always kept in clean clothes," he said.

Most of the people live in houses with thatched roofs and dirt floors. Some are made from old sheet metal and bits of construction materials. Most houses have bars on the windows instead of glass, which is expensive.

The base camp for Aaron's unit was in a valley with the 7,000-foot San Miguel volcano in the background. The land is very green, and surrounded by volcanic mountains.

It was not unusual for cattle and other livestock to wander through the camp, and children would visit begging for treats soldiers might have brought with them from the United States.

The rebuilding project will end next month and the soldiers and medical personnel who remained in El Salvador will return home. Aaron is happy to have had the opportunity to help the residents of El Salvador.

"It's a great feeling to know you've helped someone who has gone through something like that," he said. "I'm glad I've had the opportunity to do that and to meet the people of El Salvador. It makes you very thankful for what you have when you experience something like that."

Poplar Springs picnic

The community is invited to an evening of relaxation and entertainment at the annual Poplar Springs United Methodist Church picnic starting at 6 p.m. tomorrow.

Food, games, and music by the Browningsville Band will be featured. The picnic will be held rain or shine at the church on East Watersville Road in Mount Airy.

Society's new director

Janice Ann Kispert of Winfield has joined the Historical Society of Carroll County as its new director of advancement.

A Carroll County resident for more than 25 years, she holds a bachelor's degree in business/marketing from the College of Notre Dame of Maryland and is pursuing her master's degree in marketing from the Johns Hopkins University.

Kispert will be responsible for marketing the Historical Society's publications, exhibition programs and special events as well as developing new programs and patron solicitation initiatives.

Donna Abel's Southwest Neighbors column appears each Friday in the Carroll County edition of The Sun.

Pub Date: 7/02/99

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