Aid caravan takes break in Towson Trucks bound for El Salvador

The Latin melody of "La Bamba" could be heard yesterday when the trucks pulled into the parking lot of the Maryland Presbyterian Church on Providence Road near Towson.

A banner tied between two trees read: "Bienvenidos amigos de El Salvador." Welcome, friends of El Salvador.


The flatbed came down from Maine. The box truck was from New York. The old vegetable truck was driven by a man from New Jersey, but it wasn't filled with lettuce or carrots.

Like the other trucks, it contained medical supplies, school materials and tools destined for refugees recovering from 12 years of civil war in El Salvador.


Organizers -- many with ties to various U.S. churches -- are calling them part of the "National Caravan," an effort to transport 120 tons of aid valued at $1.6 million into the small Central American nation.

The caravan stopped in Baltimore yesterday to pick up everything from personal computers to power tools to pencils to cases of Kaopectate to help in the reconstruction of El Salvador's war-torn countryside.

"I have seen God and heard his voice through the people of El Salvador and, especially, from you people here," Bishop P. Francis Murphy, of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore told the 50 people gathered around the trucks.

He told them they should be proud that they influenced U.S. policy to help bring about last February's cease fire, but he reminded them that the suffering continues in El Salvador.

The Rev. Roger Gench, of Brown Memorial Presbyterian Church in the Bolton Hill area of Baltimore, said his church's "sister parish," Parroquina Madre de los Pobres, is on top of a garbage dump just east of San Salvador, the country's capital city.

It is a sanctuary for refugees driven from their homes in the countryside by bombing during the war.

"Getting those people from the top of those trash dumps to where they were born is a big part of the reconstruction. It's not going to happen overnight," he said.

The 35 vehicles in the caravan are to make 112 stops along 10 routes across the country before meeting March 7 in San Antonio, Texas. They will then drive through Mexico and Guatemala and deliver the goods to El Salvador. The trucks will stay in El Salvador for local use.


The effort, coordinated at the national level by more than a dozen organizations, including Pastors for Peace, involves about Baltimore-area churches as well as local political groups with interests in Central American affairs.

Driving the "Maryland truck" will be Karen Gustafson, of Randallstown, and Jim Small, of Taneytown. They will be driving it, that is, when it gets here.

It seems the recently purchased big rig is in Chicago, awaiting parts that will modify the transmission so the average person can shift the gears.

The 25 boxes were loaded onto the "New York truck" yesterday " for show, and then unloaded.

Kathy Schaafsma, of Baltimore's Central American Solidarity Committee, said six times as many boxes were at the group's office, where they will be loaded onto the Maryland truck tomorrow and sent on their way to rejoin the caravan.