Marcial: “The Value of a Glass of Milk”

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This year, NPH El Salvador has enabled a year of service youth to gain experience on the farm. Initially, Marcial was skeptical. Now, he has learned the hard work it takes to produce a glass of milk for his NPH family.

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Casa Sagrada Familia is a beautiful place to live. It is home to 102 children who come from vulnerable situations and belong to the NPH El Salvador family. Located off the main highway between the busy city of Santa Ana and the small town of Texistepeque, its large green pastures provide many places for the children to play and explore.

One of the biggest sustainable programs at NPH El Salvador is the farm, which helps to feed and nourish the residents. Here they raise 81 head of cattle, plus five donkeys. The farm grows corn on 24 acres, with almost 28 acres growing sorghum. Besides feeding the children, the farm is also an important educational tool, a place where they can learn how to grow crops and care for animals.

The year of service is an innovative program implemented in all NPH homes, presenting an opportunity for high school students to gain work experience, developing their skills by carrying out different functions in the home. It also teaches the youths the importance of serving others and offers them a chance to give back to the NPH family. This year there are 28 youth doing their year of service with NPH El Salvador, consisting of nine boys and nineteen girls. Some of them take care of younger children, others help in the chapel, the clinic, or the school. Recently, NPH El Salvador opened a new area where young people can carry out their year of service: helping on NPH’s farm, which requires that the youth to visit the farm daily to assist the farm workers.

One participant in the farm program is 18-year-old Marcial, who had to overcome some early doubts about the program. “When I was asked if I wanted to do my year of service on the farm, I thought it would be difficult. However, I like to overcome challenges. I decided it would be interesting to learn something new, so my answer was yes,” he says.

Marcial describes how he came to enjoy the work. “At the beginning, I had to get used to doing the simple jobs, like cleaning up after the animals and simple harvesting. Physically, it was a bit of a shock to the system. It was tiring and I needed a lot of training. However, while there is still so much to learn, I am focusing on the more technical parts of farming. I like to milk the cows, I find it very interesting. I also like to there when the vet comes to check the cows. I enjoy learning about their wellbeing.”

Jaime Flores is the farmworker in charge of the milking process. Jaime began working at NPH in 2015 and he says that he really loves his job. Jaime has trained Marcial to be a good helper on the dairy farm. Together, they do different activities, like preparing the cows’ food, milking them, taking the cows out for a walk in the field, cleaning the barn, etc.

Jaime says, “We are very happy with Marcial’s support. He is very intelligent and very helpful. He has learned a lot in a short time.”

Marcial also likes providing food for his fellow NPH brothers and sisters. Currently, the farm produces nearly 1,000 gallons of milk per month that serves as an important source of calcium for the children. For NPH El Salvador, producing milk locally for the home has become even more crucial during the COVID-19 pandemic, because in El Salvador a pint of milk that used to cost US$1.42 now costs US$2.46. With increasing costs all around and a limited budget, every penny saved is important.

Like for many children at NPH, Marcial’s life hasn’t always been easy. He was born in the Cabañas department, a region near Guatemala that is famous for its coffee, sugar cane, and dairy products, some 165 kilometers from Casa Sagrada Familia. Marcial’s father was never around, so his mother had to raise him alone in a poor rural village suffering extreme poverty. Later they went to live with Marcial’s great-grandmother in a nearby city. Marcial’s mother became increasingly absent, leaving him in the care of his great-grandmother.

When she could no longer take care of Marcial, his great-grandmother looked for someone who could raise the boy properly. That’s when Salvadoran social services stepped in and sent him to live at NPH in 2013 when he was 13 years old. Thanks to the care and guidance he received while growing up at Casa Sagrada Familia, he is now a young man with opportunities for a better life.

These days, Marcial prefers to focus on his future. He recently graduated from the Complejo Educativo Profesor Armando Acevedo Acevedo high school. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he received his diploma in a small ceremony at the school in the Santa Ana community, along with other four NPH youth.

Marcial is very skillful and his passion to learn new things makes a big difference in what he does. He says, “One of the things I most like about NPH is that I have the opportunity to study and learn, not only subjects in the classroom but also useful skills for my life. However, I am quite good with numbers, so I’d like to study accounting at the university when the time comes.”

Marcial has come to value the hard work that people do on farms. Now he realizes that their work provides a great benefit for him and his brothers and sisters at NPH. He is glad for everything that he has learned in his year of service. “I really like what I do at the farm because I have learned to truly appreciate the results of the work done by the farm’s employees. They do a great job. I have discovered the real value of the glass of milk that we all drink for breakfast and dinner because I now understand all the work that it takes to produce it.”

*Name changed for privacy reasons.