CENTREVILLE — Local businessman and entrepreneur, Sveinn Storm of Storm Brothers Ice Cream and Shore Nuff Farm, brings hope to the department of Morazán, a region located in the northeast of the country of El Salvador. Eleven or twelve years ago, Storm made a trip to the area with a friend. The purpose of that trip was to build stoves for the local people that were much more energy efficient than what they were using at the time. “It was one of the hardest hit areas during the Salvadoran Civil War which took place between 1980 and 1992 and while the armed conflict is long over, conditions have not significantly improved.”

That trip was the impetus for Mission To Morazán, a 501(c)(3) corporation founded by Storm approximately five years ago, the evidence of the God given burden Storm has for the people of the department of Morazán. Through numerous trips over the last eleven or so years, Storm was able to determine, among the many serious needs of the people of the region, the direst needs are clean water and food. Additionally, the most severe problem is bacteria and parasites.

Storm notes that “although El Salvador gets nearly six feet of rainfall per year, it has serious water problems. During the dry season, many parts of the country suffer severe water shortages, but the worst problem is that almost 100% of the country’s water sources are contaminated. This causes the deaths of thousands of Salvadorans every year, with most of them children. The almost universal contamination with fecal (pathogenic) bacteria originates from infiltration of human or animal feces into the water. The cause is not only a lack of wastewater treatment but also a lack of groundwater protection. Latrines and pastures next to wells and streams are common sights.”

When the mission was first started, Storm “learned that several little children in Morazán had died from leptospirosis (one of the many types of bacteria found in the water).” To combat this problem, they “devised a simple in-home water filtration system which removes 99.99% of the contamination. It is made up of two five-gallon food safe plastic buckets with a ceramic filter. The water is poured into the top bucket and is gravity fed through the filter to the lower bucket which has a faucet.” This process takes approximately twelve hours. By locally sourcing the components needed for these filtration systems, Mission To Morazán keeps the cost to between $16 and $18 dollars per unit.

In addition to the filtration systems, Mission To Morazán builds pila for the residents of the community at a cost to the Mission of approximately $300 each. A pila is a cinder block or concrete lined storage tank with a lid that collects rainwater. Each pila is approximately 6 ft x 3 ft x 3 ft. Because the retained rainwater is protected from the external environment it is much safer than water from the environment.

Hunger and malnutrition are widespread in Morazán, El Salvador. Storm indicates that the population lives largely in rural areas “and most families live on what they are able to grow themselves, or on the meager wages (approximately $2.50 a day) they might be able to earn as agricultural day laborers. There are few other options for work and extreme poverty is often the result. The toll this takes on children is particularly difficult to witness.”

On Storm’s Mission To Morazán facebook page, he shares the World Health Organization’s and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s statistics demonstrate the severity of the problem for rural Salvadoran children. More than one in four are chronically under nourished causing them to have significantly stunted physical and mental development as well as impaired immune systems. One of the saddest facts of life in Morazán that Storm encounters “is that malnutrition contributes to more than one third of all childhood deaths in rural El Salvador.” Mission To Morazán is taking steps to change these statistics.

According to Storm, prior to COVID, Mission To Morazán, provided “food to 35 to 40 households on a regular basis.” This number has more than doubled since early 2017. “We raise corn and beans on farmland donated for our use and purchase rice and eggs in bulk to keep our costs down. Our monthly expense to feed one person averages only $14-18.”

As COVID severely impacts our food security in the United States, Storm notes that “the impact of COVID also has added tremendously to the already existing food insecurity problem in El Salvador. Movement restrictions and shelter-in-place orders have made it all but impossible for people to earn any income. Job losses by the working poor have taken a huge toll as these people are seldom capable of maintaining more than a month’s supply of food.”

Storm stated that “it is especially heartbreaking to witness little children and the elderly going hungry.” As Storm mentions above, the Mission was “given the use of nearby land to start our own farm operation and not only does the farm provide jobs, it also gives us the ability to produce much-needed food for the poorest of the poor. With our food distribution program, we assess each family’s needs and prepare our deliveries to consist of enough corn, beans, rice, and eggs to hopefully last their household for a month. Prior to the COVID pandemic, Mission To Morazán was providing food for 35-40 families regularly and many more on an as needed basis. That number has now doubled.

In addition to providing food and clean water, Mission To Morazán provides homes, repairs to existing structures, assists with sending children to high school, creates and repairs infrastructure, works with local clinics to provide medication, provides Bibles, and has provided funds and transportation for funerals. Mission To Morazán, does all of this while incorporating what is sometimes called a “teach a man to fish philosophy.” Only those who have nothing or are too ill or elderly to contribute do not participate in the process of provision.

Those who are capable of working are enlisted to assist in the building of their own homes and harvesting their own food. Many are employed by Mission To Morazán’s compound in nearby Meanguera, on their farm operation, as well as in pila and other infrastructure construction. The Mission can pay significantly more than what people would make in local agricultural jobs. The homes provided are bound by a 15-year contract that disallows sale or rent of the house. This is just one safeguard to prevent unscrupulous individuals from attempting to take advantage of the Mission’s good will.

“Why start a mission in El Salvador when people in your own country are suffering?” Storm said, “I have been asked that question many times and I know it is not an attempt to understand my convictions, but rather to be critical of my efforts in Morazán. The simple answer is that God put it in my heart to care for people in El Salvador. It does not mean I do not care for those in need in my own country. It means that I also care for others.”

If you would like to participate in Mission To Morazán, Storm welcomes contact via the Mission’s facebook page. Additionally, the Mission’s facebook page indicates that they “are a small mission and run it on a volunteer basis. They do not have “administrative” or “fundraising” expenses.” They will send photos along with information about the person or persons you have helped. Your donations to Mission to Morazán are tax deductible and you will receive a statement of your giving at the end of the year. Their office address is 209 S. Commerce St. Centreville, MD 21617. As we move forward into 2021, our world . . . healing and hoping together.

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