East area teens seek used prom dresses to sell, proceeds to feed Salvadoran families

Natives of a small community in the Bajo Lempa region of El Salvador are facing an impending famine. Ninety families, or more than 700 people, will be affected. A local group of teens who recently visited the people refuse to let them starve. They have less than two weeks to raise $27,000.

About 46 students from area high schools, including Fayetteville-Manlius, Jamesville-DeWitt and Christian Brothers Academy, returned home last month from a seven-day stay in El Salvador as part of an annual mission to help this poverty-stricken community. Since 2006, more than 150 kids and adults from Syracuse have traveled to the Bajo Lempa region under the leadership of Young Life Syracuse East, an international organization that works with teenagers, and Holy Cross Church in DeWitt. Their mission is to fulfill the families' basic needs and create a better future. Projects they've completed include providing clean water to families, constructing more than 30 chicken coops and establishing two medical clinics. This year their main projects included building a chapel and painting the school they built last year.

"Since we've been going to [Bajo Lempa] for five years, our relationships we have with [the locals] are really strong," said Holy Cross Church Youth Minister Andrea Jacobs. "That's what we try to teach the teenagers, too. It's not [all] about the work, it's about the relationships we have with them."

This year, the group learned of an impending famine that would hit their friends in early May. A flood last year destroyed the crops on which they rely for food and income. They've been living on their reserves and using the little money they have left to buy food to feed their families. By May, the food and money will run out.

That's why the money being raised here, and the timing, is critical.

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