Students, faculty, and staff helped build two homes in El Salvador during a winter break service-learning expedition.

They also learned about political, social, and economic issues in the Central American nation during their two weeks of travel, study, and service.

Encounters with former guerrillas and military combatants in the civil war of the ’80s gave participants a firsthand look at what was at stake, and they traveled to sites significant to the 12-year conflict.

At the University of Central America, students toured the site where six priests, a housekeeper and her daughter were assassinated, a transgression that triggered a congressional investigation led by the late Congressman John Joseph “Joe” Moakley. The armed forces were implicated, and the United States cut off military aid, leading to an eventual peace.

Working through Habitat for Humanity, the delegation worked on the construction of two houses in the village of San Vicente. There they met the families who would be moving into the new homes.

From the El Salvador blog:

“Our host community, San Vicente, was among the most hard-hit by the landslides in November. Just days before the horrific news out of Haiti, we were touring (Salvadoran) neighborhoods reduced to a pile of boulders. It was hard to digest the fact that, over the span of three hours, a severe rainstorm resulted in over 300 people dead and thousands more homeless in just the San Vicente area. Relief efforts were still under way when we arrived, and rebuilding will surely take several years.”

Alternative Winter Break trips to El Salvador have occurred annually since 2007 through the efforts of the Moakley Institute and S.O.U.L.S., Suffolk’s Organization for Uplifting Lives through Service.