I was impressed by the thoughtfulness staff members bring to working alongside outstanding local partners. Additionally, at every stage of the trip there were opportunities for respectful, authentic dialogue with community members. The Friends of CoCoDa delegation cemented in my mind that the organization’s unique approach embodies community driven development and cross-cultural learning at its very best.

One of the participants in the March delegation, wrote, “Before landing in Nicaragua, I read about North Americans that flew in, did unsustainable work and called it global health, the caped villains. These misguided heroic efforts disregard the local leaders and advocates that work - with blood, sweat and tears - to take care of their people and give them a voice. These are the unsung heroes, the heroes without capes; and in Zacataloza we met many such heroes.

My time in El Salvador has been an unforgettable experience. During this trip with CoCoDA, I have had the opportunity to learn about the history and culture of El Salvador, enjoy its natural beauty, and practice Spanish, both with the Pájaro Flor Spanish School and with the people I have met along the way. Not only have I gotten to learn about the Salvadoran healthcare system through weekly clinical rotations with local physicians, but I have also gained even more experience hearing the stories of their patients and spending time with the community of La Mora. I would recommend this trip for anyone interested in traveling internationally and learning about the rich, diverse culture El Salvador has to offer.

El Salvador is a country of resilience, strength and love. The people of this country have taught me that life is not easy but that you have to always face adversity and keep your head up. The land is not only beautiful but the hearts of the Salvadorians are big and open to welcome those that want to learn. They do not shy away from their history but instead share how mistakes have been made and how they want to keep their story alive to keep themselves motivated for a better future. I thank the patients that allowed me to listen to their stories, be a part of their patient care and taught me something new everyday. I thank my host family for welcoming me into their home like if I was a family member and taking the time to get to me as we played cards at night. El Salvador is a rose that grew from concrete, and it’s roots are deep and it’s growth is limitless.

It was an honor and pleasure to spend February in the clinics and communities of Suchitoto and La Mora. From making traditional salvadoran food with my host family, to exploring the beautiful streets of Suchitoto, to touring sites of the civil war with survivors. I have learned so much about the rich, vibrant culture here as well as the violent conflict and the role of my country. I can't thank enough my host family and other community members for their time, space, and openness with their stories. I'll never forget my experience here, and I hope to be more compassionate informed citizen and doctor because of it.

I had no idea what to expect when I signed up for the Global Health Electore trip to El Salvador, but I wanted to learn more Spanish and submerged myself into the culture, something I never got the opportunity to do. It was an amazing experience learning about the rich history of El Salvador and seeing how beautiful San Salvador was initially. Then we arrived to La Mora and all the families welcomed us with open arms and treated us like their own. It was a culture shock living amongst people that did not have the most but their joy and happiness was as if they were never lacking. This stuch out to me and I will continue to utilize this perspective throughout life. La Mora, Suchitoto and the city of El Salvador is rich in culture, beauty, and uniqueness. After spending about a month here I am excited I was able to come on this trip. I wan to thank my host family and all the host families from the bottom of my heart for letting me live, learn from them, and share laughs and smiles with them. This was truly an experience of a lifetime. Lastly, I want to thank CoCoDA and everyone who helped to make this experience possible. I am forever grateful. Until we meet again.

When I started medical school, one of my top priorities was finding a program that would allow me to do a rotation abroad in a meaningful and productive way. I have always had a passion for Spanish and a deep curiosity for other cultures. In my opinion, the absolute best way to both learn and contribute is through complete immersion in the language, the communities, and the system. CoCoDA offered all of these opportunities. Upon our arrival to La Mora, I instantly knew that my experience was going to be pure and real. I could tell from the warm and welcoming attitudes of the host families. I am so grateful for those who opened their doors for us and allowed us to learn from their daily lives. Our clinical work in Suchitoto similarly offered an unfiltered perspective of the healthcare system in El Salvador. I am forever thankful to everyone who allowed us to observe and help during very intimate patient visits. I also truly enjoyed learning about the various traditions and beliefs that exist in the Salvadoran culture while practicing my Spanish skills. I look forward to incorporating my new knowledge and experiences with my future medical practices. It was an honor and a privilege to participate in the CoCoDA program in El Salvador; thank you to everyone who contributed to my rich and unforgettable experience.

When I was a small child, the US was backing the El Salvador government in a war against everyday Salvadorans who were tired of the abuses of their government. Advocacy was vital to the process of the US stopping our funding of this war and the peace accords that followed. In 2013 I had the pleasure of traveling there, learning more about what had happened and partnering with a community that was working to rebuild a school that had been bombed with American supplied bombs during that war. I give to CoCoDA because they are about the rebuilding of communities and they do it by working with local communities to find out what projects are important to them. I encourage you to learn more about what they are doing and their history and to give to support these projects.

There are so many mysterious fruits, nuts and living things in gorgeous patterns everywhere you look in El Salvador—an artist's nectar. (This one is a chirimoya.) I can't wait to bring my art and design students to explore this lovely land of contrasts and conflicts.

CoCoDA has allowed our faculty and staff to focus on education and reflection rather than logistics. They know and understand the local government agencies, non-governmental organizations and the communities. They facilitate learning experiences we could have never created on our own. They creatively solve problems and handle the unexpected. I know our students are in good hands.