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Ticknor describes El Salvador trip to Kiwanians

Monday, July 2, 2012

Monettan Matt Ticknor offered details about his trip to El Salvador as part of the Thrivent for Lutherans team working with Habitat for Humanity at last week's meeting of the Monett Kiwanis Club.

Thrivent Builds, a partnership with Habitat, represents a $125 million commitment over the last four years. The financial services company has agreed to renew its commitment for another four years, Ticknor said. Thrivent plans to build homes in Joplin during three weeks in August.

The team of 25 local Thrivent representatives, including Ticknor, that went to El Salvador divided into four groups to work in Ahuachapan, a small rural village near the Guatemala border. Two interpreters with Habitat worked with them closely.

Ticknor said the story of the villagers impressed them. Two of the last three pastors at the local church had been killed. The latest had been kidnapped. The villagers raised so much protest in response that the kidnappers released him.

A member of the family who will live in the Habitat home worked side by side with the Thrivent team at all times. The home Ticknor worked on was being built for a man named Josť and his family.

The hardest part of the process in working with Habitat is for a family to meet the financial qualifications to make house payments of $60 a month. Josť tried to get a house for two years but did not make enough money. He secured a loan to start a business making knit collars for a garment maker's shirts. The job he added raised his income to where he qualified for a Habitat home.

There is no middle class in El Salvador, Ticknor said. People are either wealthy or very poor. The country has six active volcanoes that destroyed 60 percent of the nation's homes five years ago.

Since the civil war ended in 1991, Habitat has built 9,800 houses in El Salvador. Thrivent has contributed to 300 of them. The nation still needs 400,000 homes, Ticknor said. El Salvador is the smallest country in Central America and the most densely populated, with 300 people per square mile.

Because of the frequency of earthquakes occurring with the volcanic activity, extra effort was made to make the new homes resistant to ground shifts. Workers hand dug foundations three and a half feet deep to pour concrete foundations with rebar. Ticknor said houses take two months to build and should last about 30 to 40 years.

Ticknor said the 900-square-foot homes are built with indoor plumbing but the village in which he worked had no running water. Each morning families would go to the community well to bring water to the homes.

The sewage system for the neighborhood collects into a central location and provides fertilizer for the nearby coffee plantation. Ticknor said Starbucks buys its coffee from local growers.

Many local people participate in the Habitat home construction, creating additional jobs. In addition, the money provided by the Thrivent and Habitat workers further stimulates the local economy. Ticknor said the Thrivent volunteers pay $900 in air fare and $1,000 for expenses, one quarter of which is covered by Thrivent.

Ticknor said he hopes to lead another team to El Salvador next year.

Kiwanis president Eric Kean presided at the meeting and introduced the speaker.

The Monett Kiwanis Club meets at noon on Tuesdays for a meal and a program, usually at Happy House restaurant.

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