Monday, May 4, 2020

Emergency Survey COVID-19-Community San Pablo Tacachico


Date: 17 April 2020
Municipality: San Pablo Tacachico
Communities included in report:
San Jorge, Las Arenas, Paso Hondo, Copinula, Barillas, Plan del Amate, Campanas, Los Rivas.
(Please try to provide details. If your program covers more than one canton or hamlet, please specify the differences in each community).   The San Pablo de Tacachico Municipality scholarship program is made up of various communities or cantons that were previously mentioned; there are eight communities in total.

1.      How have your studies been affected?
R/ Majority of young students have been affected due to the form of student work taken, since we are working on the subjects via online platforms, and many of us do not have sufficient financial resources to access the internet. My studies have been affected since we have started internships, and we’ve only had three days and the knowledge acquired can only be practical.

2.     Do you have access to the internet? Where and how? (telephone, computer, cybercafé, residential service, prepaid card)?
R/ Yes. Residential, but I get it this way because it is shared with a neighbour, and we each contribute a portion of the monthly payment. I consider that most of us are having problems in the way we connect to the internet, since it is via telephone which generates more costs, because the internet packages are expensive and give little time.  Due to the problem of the emergency, there are no operating cybercafes at the moment, and most of us young people cannot leave home.

3.     What are the young scholars doing in their spare time?
R/ Some are collaborating in their communities with sanitation campaigns, doing household chores, living with their families and enjoying every moment by their side. We take care of going out twice a week to buy food for our families, others do not leave home, and others have told me they are participating in collaborative sanitation activities for the wellbeing of their communities. I dedicate my free time to: doing homework, reviewing different materials in certain subjects, and exercise.

4.     If some scholarship students are involved in a social project or supporting something in the midst of the emergency, comment on it.  We understand that most cannot leave and have had to suspend their social projects; however, some have given us reports of help with disinfecting and support for security measures when entering their communities, helping families get the $300.00; helps young people with their studies etc. 
R/ I have been collaborating with ADESCO (community council) in the organization for sanitation of the community. According to young people, in the month of April, they have not carried out social projects since the emergency prevention measures do not allow groups of people and the recommendation to stay at home, which is respected, to avoid spreading the virus. If I consider all of us, we have helped people to see if they have benefited from the subsidy.

1.     How is it affecting families economically?
R/ The economy is affected quite a lot, because many families had income through informal sales, and the only businesses operating are pharmaceutical and basic basket sales, so there are people already running out of economic resources and food.  The families that are part of the scholarship program are all of limited resources, therefore we are all hurting economically, since in some families we do not have the income of someone who works and helps us meet needs.  It is a problem, because my family has had to suspend their jobs, we have no monetary income, since my mom worked in the school cafeteria.

2.     For the families that have milpa (corn harvest), will the be able to plant in May?
R/ It depends on how the situation continues to evolve, because if the virus spreads and the quarantine extends, it’s impossible to be able to plant basic grains, because doing it would imply risk for the health of the family and the country. Also that agricultural supplies are going to rise too much so if everything gets expensive, that means that we are going to be affected in agriculture. My dad will not be able to plant because he cannot go to the place where he grows the cornfield, because he cannot go that far and he has not been able to prepare the ground.

3.     Do you have access to supplies from the basic food basket? Are there difficulties in obtaining them? (explain)
R/ Yes. Yes, because you have to wait in long lines to buy them, since many of the businesses are closed due to the emergency. Another thing is that there is no income to be able to acquire them, there are too many difficulties to be able to obtain food, due to the lack of money and the situation we are experiencing due to the emergency (stores closed). Yes, there are difficulties because the prices are too high.

4.     The families in which they do not have a salary and social security, have they received the $300 government subsidy?
R/ Some families yes, but others have not benefited, since they do not have access to the internet and have not asked for the corresponding help from other people. Most of the people who have benefited are those who have a considerable income and the poorest families have not had anything.

5.     Have scholarship students helped coordinate access to the $ 300 for their technology skills? Explain who has helped, and how many families.
R/ Yes. To family members and people in the community. Most were supporting this, since it was a benefit for themselves and also helping other people, such as grandparents or people who cannot read or write.

6.     If families do not appear on the list, do students help fill out the form? Have they been successful?
R/ So far, all the people consulted have obtained the benefit. Of course, all the people who have not benefited have been helped to fill out the form.

1.      How is the current mental health of families affected?
R/ It is affecting a lot psychologically, since many people are not accustomed to being alone locked up and this causes a desperation or anxiety to get out and continue with the routine of before the virus will affect. Many families are also scared and afraid about covid19, that is why they do not leave the house, but some more than afraid are mentally terrified and that is very damaging to the health of each of them.

2.     Do they have access to clean water?
R/ Yes, most families have drinking water thank God.

3.     Are there diseases in the community?
R/ Only chronic diseases, so far in the community there is no case with the COVID-19 virus. That is why everything is going well. Preventive measures are being taken to keep our communities healthy.

1.     What do you think about the measures that the government has taken (social distancing, subsidy, mobility restriction, detention in case of non-compliance with the measures, confinement of people in quarantine centers, among others)?
R/ For my point of view they are very good, since the president made the decision on time to quarantine and close all entrances or exits, to avoid contagion from many Salvadorans and seems he is concerned about Salvadoran people suffering from this disease. We only have to obey so that his strategy works for him. And if you have people in a containment center, it is those who do not want to obey and are making disorders in the streets or unnecessarily leave the house.
  • The distancing helps us not to acquire the virus easily.
  • The subsidy has benefited many people who are poor.
  • Mobility restriction, it is fine because there are vehicles that circulate in areas where there are already positive cases of the virus and if they enter communities where there are not yet positive cases, they can contaminate the inhabitants of the area. 
  • Detention in case of non-compliance with the measures, although it is a good measure because there are people who leave their homes without any need, they should be less rude.
  • The communities have been closed to prevent people from entering other areas and at the same time they are being fumigated.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Testimonies from communities about how they are being impacted by the COVID 19. Third part.



• Food supply: 
Most of the suppliers of the local stores in the community have stopped their work, so we did not find the main foods of the basic basket available, and we know that some of the families in the community live day-to-day. 

• Lack of transportation: 
People looking to buy to supply their homes with food now find it very difficult since most of the public transport stopped working weeks ago and only two pick-ups are working. It is worth mentioning that the traffic police have limited them to transporting only 12 people since they are abiding by prevention measures to avoid crowding of people, and families who have vehicles do not help the rest to move because they are afraid that the police will fine them and even take them to the detention centers as punishment. 

• Businesses have declined greatly: 
The community is known for having enterprising people. The pandemic has affected all their jobs. Those who sold food have not obtained suppliers and have closed their businesses, and even if they could find it, they would not have sustainability because now they can only sell at home. We know that this virus has affected people the same worldwide, and some of the families that received remittances have stopped receiving them, and now they have no way to support themselves and even to buy basic food. 

• We have not received help from the authorities such as the mayor’s office: 
In most of the nearby municipalities, the mayor's office has helped families with food, masks, disinfectants and other articles for daily use. 

In our municipality we have not had the same luck. We know that the government launched a program to benefit with financial aid to the neediest families in the country, although here in the community there are many people who live day to day who, unfortunately, were not benefited, and it is very sad to see that the authorities do not provide their support. 

• The fear of leaving our homes: 
Most of us are scared all the time. The police make rounds in the community many times a day, hoping to find someone outside their home to take them to the detention centers, and even when people go to their work in the fields, they are afraid because they always catch their attention. 

**One positive thing is that the families in the community are abiding by the preventive measures. There are no crowds of people and they are leaving only to carry out necessary activities. Many families in the community are very united, raising their prayers to God daily so that this pandemic ends.


The youth from the scholarship program of Tehuiste (Up and Down) present the same obstacles. 

In the case of university students, they have difficulties with the use of online platforms, as these are new systems for them; the virtual modality is being implemented in universities to avoid delay in the school cycle. However, most young people living in the countryside do not have residential internet, and they lack the technical tools and competences to work in the world of Information Technology. 

The pressure of teachers to receive regular assignments makes the situation more complicated. Most students mention the lack of tutors to clarify doubts. So it is more difficult for them to understand the topics and, therefore, the homework in general. Besides the problem of internet access, students lack computers and other means. 

The solution, for the moment, has been to do their tasks on their cell phones. Although the deadlines placed by the teachers are very short and the internet connection is constantly lost. The bad signal provided by telephone companies in the area where they live complicates the situation even more. 

On the other hand, universities, despite the central government's call to waive payments, are still requesting payment of the fees. For example, the Lutheran University has sent a message to all its students, inviting them to make their payments. In it, they are informed of the bank accounts and the places where they can make such payments. 

Everyone knows one measure to reduce contagion is to obey the state of emergency for 2 more weeks, so leaving our homes is risky since the armed forces and the PNC are on the streets controlling those who do not obey the measures implemented by the central government. 

The fact of being quarantined and not have the full freedom to leave the house, in the voice of the young people, puts one more burden on all the aforementioned problems. Most students report going through episodes of depression and discouragement, mainly with their studies. Being used to a face-to-face methodology and, suddenly, being involved in a radical change has had a negative impact on their performance in class. 

Another point is the job instability of their parents, siblings and other family members, it is a concern that generates hopelessness in their studies. The few resources they have are being used up and there is no possibility of acquiring more. 

Text quoted from Jessica Servellon "Every day that passes we have the concern of how we will survive this pandemic, my family is concerned, bewildered, since at the moment no one is working, nor do we have help; we are running out of supplies and we do not know if we will be able to acquire more, the situation is very ugly, we do not know what else to do, we cannot go out looking for work, most work places and companies are closed because of the pandemic. All that's left is to wait... and have a lot of faith that things are going to change for the better." 

No COVID-19 contagion has been confirmed in Tehuiste so far, but all government measures have changed the lives of its inhabitants. 

The transport service (Pick-up) works with irregularities, agricultural work has been drastically reduced and the supply of food at the market of San Rafael Obrajuelo, where most people get their supplies, has decreased their products and increased their prices. Free movement and market entry without proper permission and the use of a mask is prohibited. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Testimonies from communities about how they are being impacted by the COVID 19. Second part.

CIS Reports from Communities

Romero Community


The movement of people has decreased, since quarantine was decreed in the country. The city council member of the area moved through the communities sticking posters on the measures to take when facing Covid-19. 

A greater police presence is observed than previously. They have traveled with greater presence in the main streets of the urbanization and in the main street of Paso Puente. They have been talking to people telling them not leave their homes and have even forced families who own stores to close, starting at 6:00 pm. 

The presence of gangs has decreased, as has public transportation. Most families take prevention measures into account, although some young people are gathering to play soccer in front of the library in Romero. 


It is difficult for all students to submit homework on time because not everyone has access to the internet, smartphones, or computers where they can receive their classes, or the learning of a subject reaches a level [where they don’t understand]. 

With everyone in the same space in the home, without adequate conditions to receive classes does not favor learning. Adolescents and children share the feeling of being worried about the loss of school days and important activities in academic life such as the PAES [national exams]. 

In the Romero community, the initiative was taken to download the tasks of the Facebook group of the educational center where the children attend. They were placed at the gate of the communal house so that from kindergarten to high school they had access to them. But it is not the way to motivate learning. There too many assignments when you cannot even go out to a cybercafe! In addition to the fact that fathers and mothers do not all have the patience or the knowledge to support their children in school tasks that the teachers have not explained. 


It is a very difficult situation for everyone, but mostly for families who live day to day, such as informal vendors and those who work in various trades (washing, ironing, cleaning), and now with these restrictions they have been harmed. 

In the community and surrounding areas, people always pass by selling bread, tortillas, vegetables, atol, among others. But going out to sell does not provide assurance that they will earn enough income. It's maddening! Not everyone can go out to work, they are very few. 

Some families who are known to receive remittances subsist on them. They are extremely concerned that they no longer have it. Local fruits (cashews, mangoes, jocotes, bananas, pitos) are serving as a support, partially making up for what cannot be bought in the market (where there is not much access, there are shortages and high prices). 


For years employment, studies, technology and other factors have generated conditions where family coexistence has decreased. Consequently, this quarantine is a challenge and a space of stress for many. 

It is observed and experienced that interpersonal relationships with the family are difficult to manage when there is no control over it. Adolescents and children are frustrated by not being able to go out or resume the routine they had. 

Some parents state that the lack of entertainment resources (television, cable) is a limitation to keeping children from entering into an extreme level of boredom. Or, on the other side, the children are overloaded with energy and with a lack of knowledge of recreational activities to do as a family. Children act very active where the emotional control of the parents is threatened ("how imperfect he has become" many parents say, although it is not that). It is just the accumulation of energy in children and they need to let it flow through games and physical activities. 

For those who have access to this entertainment, they neglect to live together as a family. 

There is a greater presence of arguments between siblings, children and parents, as a result of poor communication in families, and the spaces in the home that are shared. Increased sensitivity to noise, homework and academic arrangements create conflict. 

As for the news, people worry and are affected emotionally knowing everything that the media broadcasts. 

Suchitoto Center

As a scholarship program, we were affected by the pandemic since as of this date we have not held the March meeting because we are not allowed to meet in Suchitoto or in the communities. I want to comment that the program is made up of young people from different communities of the Municipality of Suchitoto. The scholarship holders, in order to receive economic support, must travel to Suchitoto. The pandemic and the measures affected all of us since public transport passes irregularly with a margin of one hour on weekdays, and on weekends they do not pass due to the household quarantine. The local government has imposed a measure allowing people to go out only twice a week and carry a document justifying the trip. In addition, in the communities, the PNC [National Civil Police] are monitoring that no one moves from one community to another. 

The measures imposed by the central government affected mobility in Suchitoto and the communities. In the institutions no one is working; the offices are closed until further notice. The committee evaluated and suspended the meeting twice in agreement with the CIS Promoter. The scholarship holders have not been going to schools and universities since March 11 of this year, which is when the alert and sanitary measures began. As a committee, everything was complicated for us since as of this date we have not been able to obtain all the profiles because in some communities there is no internet signal and the scholarship holders cannot travel to another community. Social projects are paralyzed. Mothers of families are afraid of the disease.

Affected Activities:

  • The high school classes are being carried out according to the work guides that the mother in each family received. They are paying money for internet to do the labs and periodic exams. The National Institute [High School] of Suchitoto has a virtual network; therefore, they put the assignments that they must do every week on the platform.
  • Zulma and Ernesto, both university students, are from the Valle Verde community. They have an internet problem due to the area where they live. With Ernesto, a family member from San Salvador helps him send his homework assignments since he has given him the portal password to review and indicate what tasks and activities he has. Zulma is a university student. She is in her first cycle of the career. For her it is very complicated because the area where she lives is not good for the internet. She has missed several assignments and classes online. She is trying to catch up and seek support, since she told us that she does not want to quit the cycle due to technical problems, although she has already missed assignments.
  • The mothers of families are concerned because some make their living from agricultural work, and due to the problem of the pandemic, the men are not working. The basic basket has suffered an increase in prices. At the moment, there is no work to be found.
  • The UES university students are carrying out their studies, since they have a virtual classroom, but they comment that they need the teacher's explanation, because there are topics that they do not understand. But they try to complete all their assignments on time. They also say that they are spending up to four internet packages per week on the Internet.
  • Silvia, a student at the Technological University of El Salvador, is a beneficiary of the apartment. She tells us that she has found it very difficult with some subjects since she is studying them virtually and that she does not understand some things. Also, in the apartment she had Internet; on the other hand, in her community sometimes she cannot find a store to use internet packages.
  • The fees of the private universities must be paid on the dates given according to each university’s instructions.
  • Social projects are currently suspended. Some scholars are helping children from their homes to carry out their assignments in groups of four children.
  • Regarding the scholarship profiles: to date we have not received all the profiles, since this was the main activity to be carried out for the month of March. The scholarship holders have not responded because of the delay. We are trying to solve the problem since there are profiles that are not well done.
  • Public transportation does not pass every day and can only carry around 25 passengers. They pass every hour and a half.
  • In Suchitoto, only the financial system and the City Hall are working.
  • The committee will take all measures so as not to put anyone at risk and respect each of their decisions. We will seek strategies to deliver the scholarship money and not affect anyone.
Translation from Spanish 4/5/2020

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Testimonies from communities about how they are being impacted by the COVID 19. First Part.


Some buses of the public transportation service in Comasagua have increased the fare and have restricted schedules. 

Many families are being affected in their finances since women go to work in San Salvador or Santa Tecla, but now the work has stopped to prevent people from getting infected, but this has generated lack of food for poor families. 

Many cases of diarrhea and vomit have been reported too. The poorest families have not been included in the list of people who will receive the 300-hundred-dollar subsidy the government has announced, whereas some of the people who have been benefited are employees who do receive a salary (teachers and the like). 

San Rafael Cedros

I would like to inform you that we have had to stop the work on social projects and monthly workshops because of the current situation. It should be noted that the cases of illness increased during the days when students were starting to work on their activities. Because of that, we have not been able to give the students their scholarship money of March. We had planned to do it on March 22, but just that day the mandatory domicile quarantine came into force and, as a prevention measure, the scholarship committee made the decision to postpone the delivery of money. 

We are planning to deliver the money this week. We are aware that the economy of the families is not good because, due to the emergency, it is difficult for parents to go out to work and we know this money can help to pay for some basic needs. 

We are attentive to the situation in the municipality and, up to now, we can say that people are obeying the prevention measures the government has implemented. 

In terms of schooling, the work for students has not stopped since they are constantly receiving classes online and delivering tasks on virtual platforms so as not to lay behind in their activities. 

So far, there has not been any case that may cause alarm in our communities. 

Public transport is working so people in communities can mobilize to purchase basic things. 

When this situation finishes we will hold a meeting, first with the scholarship committee and then with the students, to conduct an assessment from the point of view of each of them and to report how they lived the situation with their families, what inconveniences they have had, etc. 

El Espíritu Santo Island

There are many difficulties that are affecting us, due to the disease and the quarantine that we are experiencing. 

1. Many of the people who are parents are out of work. 

There are people who are engaged in the extraction of shells. That is their only source of income, and they are out of work. 

The cooperative has stopped its work without receiving salary. 

The boatmen are also out of work because people do not leave the island. 

2. It affects the economy in the same way. There are families of our young scholarship students where only one person in the family worked, and today they are out of work due to the emergency. The situation that is being lived is unfortunate, since most of the rural people do not have an income. 

3. It is also difficult to obtain food, because you have to go to Puerto El Triunfo to be able to buy the necessary food. Not all the food is found on the island, and that is why you have to go out and buy it. 

This is the situation we are experiencing in my community said scholarship students from El Espíritu Santo Island.

Thursday, September 19, 2019


Equipo del Centro de Intercambio y Solidaridad que acompaño a la reunión: Luis Aguillón Coordinador del Programa de Agua, Delmy Linares promotora, Arturo Severo Coordinador del Programa de Becas y Formación y Leonor Acevedo estudiante en servicio social. 

La reunión se llevó a cabo en el Centro Escolar Bellos Horizontes, con una asistencia de 25  personas, la mayoría de los participantes fue de género femenino. 

Delmy Linares y Arturo Severo se reunieron con la Promotora de Salud del ECO de la Comunidad, para explicar los lineamientos del Programa de Becas y los requisitos para poder optar por becas para jóvenes. 

El grupo de asistentes en apoyo de dos jóvenes, una mujer y un hombre estuvieron llenando unos formatos para las/os interesados en adquirir filtros de agua. 

Luis Aguillón dio inicio a la reunión, mencionando al equipo del CIS que le acompaña y da el espacio para que se presente la estudiante. 

Él explica la importancia de la higiene, el uso adecuado de los filtros de agua y realiza la reflexión sobre cómo se genera la contaminación, como afecta al ser humano con enfermedades gastrointestinales. 

Luis les pregunta ¿Qué es el medio ambiente? A lo que el grupo hombres y mujeres responden con ideas como, los árboles, el aire, los ríos, el agua. Por lo que se realiza una retroalimentación retomando las opiniones: “nosotros nos vemos como separados… nos vamos a morir de tanto calor. Las tormentas, faltan árboles, estos son importantes porque mantienen el agua”. 

Les pregunta de nuevo, ¿Cómo vivir bien? Con alimentación sana y adecuada, evitando alimentos dañinos como la grasa, la carne, la coca cola afectan nuestra salud, da la diabetes, osteoporosis. 

Aguillón, les brinda la temática haciendo referencia a la salud, mencionado la importancia de cuidar de la autoestima, amarse a sí mismo, amar la naturaleza y cuidarla. Primero amarse a uno mismo, a los hijos, a los niños/as, a la Comunidad y al país. 

Finaliza con las reflexiones, seguidamente inicia a explicar el uso correcto de como armar con los recipientes el filtro, como adaptarlo al primer recipiente. Les explica que las cubetas son de material propio, no es reciclado ni de pintura, por lo tanto, no puede generar contaminación. 

Se les explica la forma correcta de colocar los recipientes, para filtrar el agua, como limpiarlo y a que tiempo hacerlo que puede variar de 12, 8 o 2 días dependerá del sedimento que se extraiga del agua a través del filtro. 

Luis les indica que, no se debe lavar con lejía el filtro. Se les mostro fotografías de protozoarios y bacterias que se generan en el cuerpo por falta de higiene y que se dan por el agua contaminada. Da un ejemplo, sobre la función contaminante que tiene la mosca y muestra una mosca de peluche, esto genera diversión y atención a la explicación que brinda el promotor. 

Finaliza la jornada, el facilitador pregunta si tienen dudas, a lo que un señor reconoce que es un buen proyecto y que sería bueno que llegue a más comunidades. 

Se les sugiere, realizarse lo exámenes de heces y orina, para agregar al expediente del Programa de Filtros de Agua. Les recuerda el costo simbólico del filtro $10.00, presentarse a las capacitaciones como requisito. 

Se acordó realizar la próxima capacitación-reunión el 20 de septiembre del presente año, a la 1:00 pm. 

El equipo del CIS se retiró pero la promotora de Salud, se quedó impartiendo charla sobre la higiene y buenas prácticas.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Housing Project 2019-Paso Puente Community

“We have lived for 18 years with many difficulties. A dignified home will mean better life and better studies.  I have had to study in deplorable conditions. My notebooks and important materials and books have been ruined and gotten wet in our shacks.   We get sick from the humidity.   The whole community has to share one water faucet, and it takes all day to fill a barrel of water.  We sleep in fear because of the insecure nature of our shelter. We are marginalized by outsiders, who say only delinquents and thieves live in shanty towns.  This project will improve our lives at all levels. We cannot afford to build our own homes, so this project is an enormous blessing.”  Community Member

   Berta’s home December 2018                                   Berta’s home July 2019

San Salvador July 24, 2019

Dear Friends,

As our supporters, you have followed—and helped make possible—the great, hard-won success of the Romero Community.  From securing legal title to their land; to building 65 dignified homes, a library, training center, and playground; to working toward electrifying those buildings and accessing potable water; to having access to higher education and leadership development; to cultivating organic vegetables and indigo for income—the Romero Community has demonstrated what an empowered community can do with international solidarity. Not surprisingly, neighboring communities have noticed and been inspired.
Some very recent developments since the election of President Nayib Bukele are extremely positive and exciting—and also pose a challenge!

We are writing you because we need your support to build dignified homes with the community of Paso Puente, Tonacatepeque, across the street from Romero Community. The Paso Puente Community squatted on government lands in 2002, after being displaced by the 2001 earthquakes and having nowhere to go. Finally, in 2014, the Salvadoran Government granted them title to their land. The 153 families live in extreme poverty and squalid conditions—with homes made out of old tin and plastic, no potable water, and no sewage.  The zone is an area of high risk for youth because of the insecure conditions.

The CIS and the Romero Community began to work with Paso Puente three years ago, to develop their organization; with St. Elizabeth Parish, to organize a CIS Scholarships and Leadership Development Program for Paso Puente’s students; and with Agua Viva, to dig one well with a hand pump for the community to share and have water to drink. We also began to organize, together with the local clinic, art-therapy courses to promote creativity, to keep youth off the streets, and to follow up with kids dealing with the trauma of being witnesses or victims of violence. 

We knew Paso Puente desperately needed dignified housing, but realized it would not be possible to undertake a project without the full participation and trust of the community.  We accompanied the community on numerous occasions to request potable water from the government, but each time they were turned down.  Last year, CIS counseled families to apply for a government-housing subsidy. The Salvadoran Government asked CIS to identify the 15 families most in need and applied the subsidy in March of this year. Still, it was not enough to complete the houses. (The identified families were mostly single mothers living on about $3 per day from washing other people’s clothes, and some had up to seven children.) The CIS received a donation from the Inti-Raymi Fund to complement and finish what the families had built with the government subsidy. This pilot project enabled CIS to identify more children who were not going to school, to build trust, and to identify skilled laborers in the community.  

To our surprise and delight, the new government of Nayib Bukele has prioritized development in the most excluded areas of El Salvador, and this includes Paso Puente Community. This is an effort to stem the flow of migration and include families in the social fabric who have been excluded, so they do not join the gangs. The Local Development Minister, Maria Chichilco, the Housing, Public Works, and Social Fabric Ministers, and the President of the Water Utility all visited the community—as well as Romero Community and surrounding areas. The officials offered to build homes for the families, but the families would have to pay $40-$60 per month for twenty years. Based on our experience and knowing the families, I told the ministers it would be impossible for most. Then I went out on a limb and asked if they would be willing to provide the same subsidy to build the base of the home; the CIS would ask for donations to complete the homes, and the community would put in the unskilled labor and coordinate all the paper work. The Minister of Housing, Michelle Sol, immediately said Yes!  Within a few days, a team arrived to verify the applications and approved the construction of 54 homes!  The government has also agreed to put in potable water, roads, and drainage in both Paso Puente and Romero!  ¡Gracias a Dios!

So you can readily appreciate both the excitement—rather breath-taking, to be honest—and the challenge we are feeling at the CIS!

Here’s how it will work:
Each family will be disbursed a government grant of $3,500—50% as early as next week, and 50% when they have completed the walls of their home, allowing installation of windows and doors.  The government has also committed to installing potable water, streets, and drainage (both in Romero and Paso Puente), and eventually sewage.

The CIS will oversee the installation of electricity, tile floor, roof, bathroom, and a big sink that is used for washing dishes, clothes, and bathing—until potable water is installed.  The Minister of Housing also asked CIS to oversee the construction of the part of the home they are financing. The CIS budget is $4,000 per home.  

We are asking everyone to dig deep into their pockets and donate for social and economic justice, security, and the health of one family for a life-time:

·         $4,000 will complete a government-subsidized home.

Or, if you cannot donate to complete a home, consider funding part of the home: 
·         $1,360 will build a bathroom, sink, shower, and toilet;
·         $1,200 will pay for the roof;
·         $620 will pay for a tile floor;
·         $420 will pay for electric installation;
·         $300 will install a cement sink; or 
·         $100 will pay for supervision and unforeseen expenses.

When do we need the money?

As soon as possible, but we foresee the project taking a year to complete with the installation of water and sewage, so if you cannot give right away or can give some funds now and some later, please let us know.

How to make a donation: Tax deductible donations can be made payable to and mailed to:
Los Olivos CIS (in U.S. dollars) / PO Box 76 / Westmont, 
IL 60559-0076, USA
Debit/credit card donations can be made online:
For more information: Toll free number in U.S.:  1-866-887-2665: 
El Salvador:  ++ 503-2226-5362

I’ll close with a note from one of our most faithful partners:

Dear friend and family of CIS,

I am so excited and thrilled with the opportunity to partner once again with the community in El Salvador and CIS. We have been blessed with many generous donors to realize our dreams of dignified living for the people in our communities. With God's help, we were able to build homes for the Romero Community and to partner with the people to provide homes and shelter. It is truly the work of God, and God has called us all to be co-creators in building the kingdom of God.

The cry of the poor has reached the ears of God and ours as well; with joy and enthusiasm we will pledge our support to the construction of homes in the community of Paso Puente. You have our support and pledge; I invite all who read this note to join us in this effort, for it is of God. Together let us make the kingdom of God a reality on earth.

Fr. Gerald Waris and communities in Kansas City


Thank you and Blessings,

Leslie Schuld, for the CIS, LOS OLIVOS CIS 

Monday, July 15, 2019

What the US Media Gets Wrong About El Salvador

Article written by Elisabet Eppes 
Spanish Student and English School Volunteer at CIS

I recently returned to the US after volunteering and taking classes at el Centro de Intercambio y Solidaridad (CIS) for 11 weeks. I had an incredible experience at CIS, and I would highly recommend CIS to people interested in learning Spanish and/or volunteering in a Spanish-speaking country.

When I decided that I wanted to take Spanish classes at CIS last fall, some of my family and friends were worried and discouraged me from choosing El Salvador as the place to learn Spanish. As you probably know, the mainstream US news paints a rather bleak picture of El Salvador, not to mention the US State Department’s travel advisory. Articles in US news outlets that focus on El Salvador tend to define the country in terms of statistical superlatives: “a homicide rate among the world’s highest for a country not at war”; “one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a woman”; “the most water-stressed nation in Central America”; etc. And while these statistics are true—many Salvadorans do suffer from poverty, violence, and lack of access to basic resources—like all statistics, they fail to paint a complete picture. The picture these statistics paint is one of constant violence, desperation, and chaos. But that is simply not the El Salvador I experienced.

Granted, I did spend the bulk of my time in the capital, San Salvador, where gang activity is less visible than in other parts of the country. Also, the citizens of San Salvador have much greater access to water and other resources than residents of the countryside. Even so, in the broader narrative about El Salvador, the capital is often included as a place that is violent and unsafe.

The country I experienced, contrary to the morbid statistics, was vibrant, loving, and passionate about social and political causes. One of the first things that stuck out to me during my first few weeks in El Salvador was the warmth and kindness of the people. Whether it was my host family, the people who work for CIS, or my Salvadoran students, the people I met were extremely friendly and generous with their time.

When people discovered that I was only going to be in El Salvador for three months, they would take it upon themselves to ensure that I had an amazing time while I was there—offering to take me on excursions, showing me around San Salvador, giving me recommendations for things to see and do. Considering how short my visit was, I developed several strong friendships that I hope will continue well into the future.

Another aspect of El Salvador that became clear from the outset of my trip was the political passion of the people. On my very first day in the country, I had the opportunity to join a march celebrating Saint Romero, the Archbishop of El Salvador from 1977-1980 and one of the most cherished historical figures in El Salvador. Even though the event was not explicitly political, the people marched to urge the government and their fellow citizens to continue advancing Monseñor Romero’s fight for equality and social justice.

I continued to learn about the political realities of El Salvador through my Spanish classes at CIS, including the ways in which grassroots movements are pushing for justice for women, LGBTI people, workers, farmers, refugees, and Salvadoran youth. My Spanish teachers also placed the current realities in El Salvador into the country’s historical context of revolutionary struggle. El Salvador has a long way to go with regard to both formal and informal respect for the rights of people with marginalized identities, but I am glad that CIS highlighted the movements that are fighting for these rights.

About midway through my trip, I had the great honor of participating in one of the marches celebrating International Workers’ Day. It was incredible to see all of the different unions, student organizations, and worker associations come together to advance the intersectional struggles for better treatment of workers, public ownership of water, better housing, and others.

One of the great things about CIS is that in addition to taking classes and volunteering, I was able to participate in a number of social and political excursions led by a member of the CIS staff. CIS organized trips to Panchimalco, Izalco, and the Mayan ruins during my 11-week visit. During each excursion, our CIS tour guide provided historical and contemporary context and answered all the questions my fellow volunteers and I had. Going on these excursions allowed me to experience parts of El Salvador outside of the capital that I otherwise may not have had the opportunity to visit.

On these visits, as well as in San Salvador itself, I was exposed to the culture and beauty of El Salvador. I fell in love with the food, art, and music, and was in awe of the natural landscapes – the mountains and volcanoes, the vibrant trees and flowers, the colorful birds and insects. Even though El Salvador has suffered from massive deforestation, the vegetation that remains is lush and vivid.

One of the main reasons I chose CIS as the place I wanted to learn Spanish and volunteer was their emphasis on popular education techniques based on concepts pioneered by Brazilian scholar, Paulo Freire. Unlike more traditional teaching techniques, popular education involves a process of mutual teaching and learning and focuses on the development of critical consciousness so that participants are empowered to transform their lives. Being able to apply these techniques with my students was an extremely rewarding experience for me, and has improved my skills as an educator. My students taught me a lot about the realities of life in El Salvador and stretched me to think in different ways during political discussions. A number of my students were inspired to volunteer with CIS as a result of taking English classes there.

Even though I only volunteered as an English teacher at CIS, it was nice to be teaching and learning at an organization doing such great work outside of San Salvador. I had the opportunity to learn about the CIS Clean Water program, Salvadoran Enterprises for Women, Election Observations, the Youth Scholarship Program, and home-building efforts in the Romero Community. When I come back to CIS in the future I would love to get involved in some of these other efforts.

I want to encourage other people from the US that may be interested in volunteering or taking classes at CIS to do so! If safety is a concern for you, please know that I did not feel unsafe at all during my three months in San Salvador. I did take precautions like not walking around alone at night, paying attention to my surroundings, and traveling with other people as much as possible, but these are precautions I would take in any large city. CIS takes good care of its students and volunteers, and any trepidation I might have had before coming to CIS melted away within the first few weeks of being in El Salvador.

Please keep in mind that the ways El Salvador is portrayed by the US media and government are flawed and often racist. Statistics could never tell the full story of any country, and this is especially true of a country like El Salvador. I cannot wait to come back to CIS in the future as a student and volunteer.