Tuesday, September 4, 2012
In the short three months I’ve been interning at CIS, I have learned and experienced so much more than I could have imagined. The CIS family has welcomed me and the other volunteers with open arms and supported us throughout the entire experience.
I arrived in
El Salvador at the beginning of
June. I am one of two summer student interns at the CIS’ English School Program. For the last three months I’ve had the opportunity to work alongside the other intern and the school’s coordinator and to
collaborate and create new materials for the English school such as a popular
education manual for future English teachers at the CIS.
Aside from working in the office, I had the chance to visit many different parts of
Salvador and learn a lot about Salvadoran
culture and history. With the CIS team, we visited different communities and
learned a bit about how CIS supports different groups. For ‘dia del maestro’, teacher’s
day, the CIS staff and volunteers visited ‘ La Vaquita’, a community in
where there is a women’s group that makes cheese locally. We were able to learn
about how their group was formed and how their business is important in
sustaining their community.
We also had the opportunity to visit San Luis Los Ranchos, a community in
Libertad where we visited an indigo cooperative and saw the
beautiful and detailed work done by a group of women who dye clothing. With a
friend of mine, I also visited a women’s co-op called ‘Mujer y Comunidad’ in La Libertad, where the co-op
worked to give other women in their community free workshops and training in
artisan crafts. Being here and visiting a few of these women’s groups has given
me a greater realization and amazement at the organizing and work that women do
to support their families and communities.
Another highlight of my stay in
El Salvador has been teaching English at the CIS in the evenings. I taught the conversational level, a small and intimate group. I was able to learn so much from my students and the experience that they brought with them and shared in class. From El Salvador’s relationship with the U.S.A. to the war to reproductive rights to workers rights, we discussed a lot of social issues affecting El Salvador (click here to read the moving piece her student wrote for graduation). Outside of class, the volunteers and I loved hanging out with students in the evenings with students and getting pupusas after class.
By living with a host family, I was able to be close to the CIS and have people to help me find my bearings when I arrived in the country… also, the food was great! On weekends, the other volunteers and I enjoyed visiting different towns such as Suchitoto, a charming town with a wonderful campaign to stop violence against women. Another of our favourite trips was to
de las Flores, where we visited three different towns, Apaneca, Ataco, and Juayúa (where we
ate at the delicious food festival!).
My experience in
El Salvador and with the CIS had
been a very valuable learning experience for me, both professionally and
personally. As I prepare to leave, I’m ready to take this experience with me
and apply what I’ve learned here to my life and attitudes when I return to Canada.
by Julia Fernandes, Summer Intern 2012
Monday, August 27, 2012
Congratulations to all of the English students who completed Cycle III-2012! We had a great end of cycle celebration. Here are some of the pieces that our student presented.
This is the video that the Basic B students made on mining in El Salvador:
This is the piece that our conversational student wrote to share at the End of Cycle Celebration.
El Salvador we live, El Salvador I love
Yes. This is America, I mean, El Salvador in America. The
conquered by the Spaniards years and
years ago. El Salvador in America. The America plundered by Europe, or El
Salvador the U.S. colony for years. El Salvador of few rich and many
poor, with a long history of murder, bribe, corruption, violence, and
There was a time when El Salvador was different. It was before the big landowners took our ancestors’ land by creating laws that benefited their greedy interests. Such event underlined the beginning of an oppressive system; it was the destruction of our way of living.
Some years later, another event marked the history of our country, It was the murder of 30, 000 Indigenous people whose struggle was to own a piece of land to make a living. It was a cruel and bloody period of Salvadorans’ lives. A period when asking for human rights to be respected was a crime. A period when asking for the right to a small piece of land was called communism. Indigenous people were called rebels, criminals, communists. At that time indigenous people lived in more peaceful and harmonic communities than us.
That is El Salvador, dear people. El Salvador, suffering from a 12 years’ war. War forced by the people with political and economic power. Once again, a period of bloodshed, torture, robbery, violence against the poor, against the campesinos, against the working class. A period when the official documents registered between 75,000 – 80,000 lost lives either by assassination or disappearance. A period when the bourgeoisie was able to commit crime against our most beloved pastor. The voice of the voiceless, Monsignor Romero along with many others who worked for social justice.
Yes, this is our country, people. The country where we do work for the value of our currency, but we are paid by the value of Mr. Dollar which is not fair. The country signing a Free Trade Agreement. Free for whom, I wonder.
But Friends, this is El Salvador. El Salvador, with a great population of working, welcoming, warming, hopeful, faithful people.
Listen to how wonderful our country is with such characteristics. Adding one more. We are all young people, young in age and hearts, and young people have the energy, courage, and definitely the power to change the history of suffering and oppression against the poor. To change that privileged life of few.
Have you seen? The privileged have always been a few, and the working class, the majority. Why don’t we do something to change it? We should be able to see the light on the road. Let’s make it shine for everyone in our country.
Let’s show how much we love this beautiful country, our people, ourselves.
Let’s build a new, peaceful, fair and wonderful country!
If we don’t, who will do it for us?
Let’s make it together!
Thursday, August 23, 2012
One of the CIS’s great achievements, which makes us very proud, is the work with youth, through the Scholarship Program. The program started in 1997 in the municipality of Cinquera, department of Cabañas, and benefited approximately 8 students. During the development of the program it was so successful that it motivated donors and supporters to get involved in the project. This way the number of beneficiaries has increased, not just in the original town, but also in different communities. In 2012 we have achieved to have many consolidated programs in different communities. The communities that are involved in the program are the following:
Comunidad Romero, Tonacatepeque
San Francisco de Asís, Mejicanos
Isla El Espíritu Santo, Puerto El Triunfo
San Rafael Cedros
San Pedro Perulapán
San José Palo Grande, Suchitoto
San Pablo Tacachico
Solidarity Crafts-Jaragúa, Las Tinecas, Jesús Obrero
To date we have reached up to 300 students in High School and University, from 14 differing communities from different municipalities in El Salvador.
After this brief introduction we want to share part of the experience of the
The Third Annual Scholarship Student Forum
These are the people who participated in the forum
- Some of the program´s partners
- The CIS's Director and Grassroots Organizers
- Representatives from the communities benefited:
The forum takes place yearly in the municipality of Cinquera where the program started. The historical richness that this place represents for Salvadorans should be known to the new generations. Each year the communities send different scholarship students so that they have the opportunity to live this experience.
This year more than 63 people participated in the third annual scholarship forum which was celebrated during three days in July (Friday 20th, Saturday 21st and Sunday 22nd). Many different activities took place and the protagonists were the scholarship students. They presented different topics which were chosen by each community.
Presentation and analysis of different topics
Climate Change (Ignacio Ellacuria), Water (Tamanique) Mining (Comasagua), Social Networks and their Impacts (Estanzuelas), Overpopulation and its impacts (San pedro Perulapan), Consumerism (San Rafael Cedros), The origins of poverty and economic alternatives (Cinquera).
Written by a University scholarship student.
Translated by the CIS. To see the original Spanish Click here.
Uno de los grandes logros de CIS y que nos enorgullece, es el trabajo por los jóvenes, a través del “PROGRAMA DEBECAS”, que inicio en 1997, en el municipio de Cinquera, departamento de Cabañas beneficiando a 8 estudiantes aproximadamente, durante el desarrollo del programa presento un éxito el cual motivo a donantes y socios a involucrarse en el proyecto. De esta manera se ha incrementado el número de beneficiados, no solo en el lugar de origen, sino también en diferentes comunidades. Logrando en 2012 abarcar más comunidades de manera consolidada, beneficiando a:
Comunidad Romero, Tonacatepeque
San Francisco de Asís, Mejicanos
Isla El Espíritu Santo, Puerto El Triunfo
San Rafael Cedros
San Pedro Perulapán
San José Palo Grande, Suchitoto
San Pablo Tacachico
Artesanía Solidaria-Jaragúa, Las Tinecas, Jesús Obrero
Logrando alcanzar hasta la fecha un número máximo de 300 estudiantes distribuidos entre Bachilleres y Universitarios, de catorce comunidades de diferentes municipios de El Salvador.
Despues de esta breve introducción queremos compartir parte de la vivencia del
Tercer Encuentro de Becados
En el encuentro participaron
- Algunos socios del programa
- La directora y promotores del Centro de Intercambio y Solidaridad
- Representantes de beneficiarios de las comunidades de
El encuentro se desarrolla anualmente en el Municipio de Cinquera donde dio inicio el programa, además la gran riqueza histórica que este lugar representa para los y las salvadoreñas y que debe ser conocido por las nuevas generaciones. Cada año las comunidades envían diferentes becados, para que tengan la oportunidad vivir la experiencia.
Este año participaron más de 63 personas, en el tercer encuentro de becados que se celebro en julio durante tres días (viernes 20, sábado 21 y domingo 22) Donde se desarrollaron diferentes actividades y los protagonistas fueron los becados, quienes presentaron diferentes temáticas, que habían sido elegida por comunidad.
Presentación y análisis de temas
Cambios climáticos (Ignacio Ellacuria), El Agua (Tamanique) La Minería (Comasagua), Redes sociales y sus implicaciones (Estanzuelas), La sobrepoblación y sus impactos (San pedro Perulapan), El consumismo (San Rafael Cedros), y el Origen de la pobreza y alternativas económicas (Cinquera).
Escrito por un becada universitaria
Tuesday, August 21, 2012
The Community Network is a collective space that the CIS has created for the communities where leaders of the Small Businesses forWomen, Scholarship Committees, Clean Water Communities, and other local organizations, share all of their community work. The community network is coordinated by the team of grassroots organizers.
We meet once every 2 months, where we share as well as analyze our reality. In the last meeting which took place on August 10th we analyzed the topic of social violence.
The Community Network Agenda
August 10th 2012
1. As participants arrive sign up and have a small snack
2. Welcome and introductions
3. Small introduction to explain the day’s objective on the topic of social violence, its roots and its impact
4. Start to talk about the topic through a brain storm, taking a brief poll with the opening question, how do you see violence in your community?
5. Presentation of Father Antonio Rodriquez’s analysis where he explains, in detail, the origin, the causes and the impact of violence
6. Space to listen to the opinions of the participants about the presentation
8. Turn in written reports from each community about the most relevant activities
9. Reminded of the date of the next meeting
With a brain storm we asked- how does violence manifest itself in your communities? The testimonies that were shared were very powerful One woman from the group Pájaro Flor from Suchitoto shared that her daughter was pregnant and she was brutally assassinated after she as well as her entire family was threatened. This violent event was committed by a subject that is a family member of the victim and according to what was shared it was because the victim did not want to cede to his romantic feelings for her. Fortunately the guilty party is in jail.
In the community Llano Largo one of the women in the group of milk products-La Vaquita shared that in her community a man brutally assaulted his wife while she was pregnant. Due to the blows she received the baby was born early and they had to hospitalize both the mother and the child. The group of woman went to visit the woman after this happened. Everyone in the community wanted to see the man go to jail. When the police talked with the woman, she said that she did not hold a grudge against him. Because the victim would not accuse him it is just another case of impunity. However, according to the information that was shared with us the police warned that if the baby died the man will go to jail.
LA RED DE COMUNIDADES es un espacio colectivo que el CIS ha creado para las comunidades donde lideres y lideresas de LAS MICROEMPRESAS, COMITÉS DE BECAS, COMITÉS DE AGUA y otras organizaciones locales comparten todo el que hacer comunitario. La red es coordinada por el equipo de promotoras y promotoras.
Nos reunimos una vez cada 2 meses, compartimos además análisis de la realidad. En la última reunión que fue el 10 de agosto, desarrollamos un análisis sobre la violencia social.
AGENDA DE LA RED DE COMUNIDADES
10 de agosto 2012
2- Saludo bienvenida y presentación
3-Pequeña introducción para explicar el objetivo de la jornada sobre el tema de violencia social, sus raíces y su impacto
4- Desarrollo del tema atreves de lluvia de ideas realizamos un sondeo breve con la pregunta generadora ¿cómo se manifiesta la violencia en las comunidades?
5-Presentación de un análisis que realizo el padre Antonio Rodriguez donde el explica en detalle el origen, las causas y el impacto de la violencia
6-Espacio para escuchar opiniones de los participantes sobre la presentación
8-Entrega de informes por escrito de cada comunidad sobre las actividades más relevantes
9 - Recordamos fecha de próxima de reunión
Con una lluvia de ideas preguntamos -¿cómo se manifiesta la violencia en las comunidades? Fueron muy fuertes los testimonios de las personas. Una mujer del grupo de Pájaro Flor de Suchitoto compartió que su hija estaba embarazada y fue asesinada brutalmente después de ser amenazada toda la familia. Este hecho violento fue cometido por un sujeto que es pariente de la víctima y según comento fue porque la victima no quiso ceder a sus pretensiones sentimentales afortunadamente el culpable está preso.
En comunidad Llano Largo una de las mujeres del grupo de lácteos la Vaquita compartió que en la comunidad un hombre agredió salvajemente a su esposa estando embarazada y que por los golpes que recibió el bebé nació antes del tiempo y tuvieron que hospitalizar a ambos, ante este hecho el grupo de mujeres visitó a la mujer violentad. Todos en la comunidad querían que el hombre fuera preso, pero cuando la policía hablo con la mujer ella dijo que no sentía rencor contra el hombre, es así que se deja otro caso en la impunidad porque la víctima no lo acuso, sin embargo de acuerdo a la información que nos compartieron la policía advirtió que si el bebé muere el hombre irá preso.
Wednesday, August 8, 2012
In June I spent 5 weeks living in the Isla de Espiritu Santo with a wonderful host family. The experience was like no other I have had before. Spending so much time immersed in the life of the people and the culture in El Salvador has given me a greater understanding of what life there is like that you cannot get from any other kind of visit. This was more than traveling or tourism, this was living with the people, a unique experience with endless benefits, surprises and wonders.
I made this journey after graduating from university, and I highly recommend such an adventure to anyone. The relationship that I developed with the family I lived with and the community will be a part of my life and future actions forever. Taking the time to actually live with someone else and understand their life has been the best investment of my time. This was a unique and amazing opportunity that will be with me for the rest of my life and I encourage anyone considering an extended delegation with a home-stay to do it!
Friday, June 1, 2012
by Anna Stitt
As a Spanish student at CIS, I go to class every morning from 8-12. Our Spanish classes are based around popular education. They center conversation, helping students clarify how our experiences connect to social issues, and incorporating grammar along the way.
In my life here at night, I take in a lot. I go home to my CIS-arranged host family of two women who fought with the FMLN in the civil war, and talk with friends my age who lost parents in the war, all of whom are still healing. I also teach CIS English classes in which we talk about how people are affected by violence and neoliberalism in very real ways, and in which I am continuously striving to use popular education more effectively.
Anna´s English Class at Graduation
In class in the morning, through my teacher's open-ended questions and eternal patience, and my classmates' input and feedback, I begin to sort out what I’ve lived in the evening. As I’m understanding Imperfect Past Subjunctive in Spanish more and more clearly, I’m also understanding more and more about El Salvador’s present context and history, U.S. involvement, and my role in the communities I’m part of here and back home.
My experience at CIS has been that popular education is not pretty. It is not clean. It is messy, drawing from the people. And because of our identities and experiences, people are coming from fascinating but radically different places. So I have been learning patience, particularly from the example set by my Spanish teacher’s attitude toward her students, and through the space that struggling with Spanish has made for our class to hash out what exactly we think about social issues in ways we can sometimes move past too quickly in our native languages and spaces.
Last week in Spanish class, we talked about the struggling around gold mining in El Salvador. Specifically, we read (article in English), discussed, and did role-plays about the people’s legal and social battles with Pacific Rim, a multinational Canada-based company determined to invade to mine resources in the countryside here. It would do this at the expense of the health of the rural people and the land.
Spanish Students/volunteers with their teachers
As we read about the resistance movement and the company’s strategies to squash it—strategies including intimidation, assassinations blamed on the drug wars, and handouts of school supplies in affected communities to gain support—I thought of the stark similarities with Appalachia, U.S., near where I grew up. In Appalachia, there is an ongoing struggle with mountain-top removal. The companies use economic monopoly and social intimidation to keep people controlled, similar in some ways to strategies employed more recently and vividly here. On finding out about the almost complete lack of support for the struggle here from the environmental movement in the U.S., I started thinking/dreaming about the mutual support and learning that could happen between Appalachia and mining communities here if they could share each other’s struggles…
At the same time, one of my classmates connected the mining situation here with his interest in the environmental movement in the U.S. He first came here talking about “eating organic” and turning off lights. Through the Political Cultural Program, articles we've read in Spanish class, and class discussions, I have watched him develop a structural analysis of environmental damage, including the impact of the Global North and its neoliberal policies against the Global South, and our responsibility/potential as U.S.-ers.
At the same time as addressing issues, Spanish classes have helped me tremendously with language. I came to El Salvador 7 weeks ago hardly speaking Spanish, unable to work out even simple logistics. People would talk at me and I would open my eyes very wide, determined to understand, nodding and taking in the sounds if not their meanings. With the help of daily CIS Spanish classes, I have progressed quickly and can now discuss not only logistics but worldviews, histories, gossip, death, politics, gender roles, the future.
As a racial justice activist in the States, I knew I needed and wanted to learn Spanish but was terrified that it would be disrespectful to come here without adequate language. But my level of language has been one of the best things about my time here. Struggling with the language has slowed me down, as someone who normally moves busily through the world and speaks too quickly in English for most people to understand on the telephone. Here, I am hesitant, humble, listening, and each conversation takes my complete attention. The majority of people I have spent time with appreciate the space I have to listen to their experiences. Many people have shared breathtaking, often painful, parts of themselves with me. And Spanish classes have prepared me for this, both with understanding the language and the social context.
Spanish students, teachers, and staff visiting the SEW chicken coop in Guacotecti, Cabañas-an alternative to mining
Last week, the Spanish classes took a trip together to a community in the region that would be directly affected by the mining. In class, we had hashed out the messy history, politics, and reality of the mining struggle. Going to this tiny community whose fate is in the lurch, then, I felt as prepared as I’d ever be able to feel. Through the pain of Past Perfect Progressive the week before, I had developed the political context to be able to engage. And that has happened over and over. Spanish class has been a place where I can bring my questions to get clarity, where I can figure out what questions I haven’t asked yet that I need to, and where I can progress in Spanish to be able to understand and engage with people’s responses more and more without having to just nod and smile.
Monday, April 30, 2012
Every other Wednesday evening at CIS there’s an optional English activity wherein Emily plans something awesome such as “Article Club” or “Game Night”, and most of the volunteer English teachers attend and some of the English students show up, and we have a fun time mixing students and teachers and levels and languages.
This past Wednesday we had a “Cultural Exchange”. What began last teaching cycle as a lecture/slideshow-type activity transformed this cycle into something more interactive and, we hope, even more stimulating of learning language and sharing cultural values. Each of the teachers had set up a little booth with some visual information of their hometown/state/country which varied from as near together as Minnesota and Wisconsin to as far away as Maine and Australia with a couple in between (Arkansas and Oregon – okay, it was a pretty U.S.-centric exhibition, but I digress).
We set out a variety of U.S.-inspired food fare including buttermilk pancakes, Wisconsin-style cheese, and apples from the Northwestern U.S. and began the evening as a kind of cocktail-hour-milling-about-time during which the English students were free to (and did!) nosh and schmooze about the room, learning about our different home realities as we learned more about theirs’ as well (“that’s what it’s like in Maine, so what’s it like in your hometown?).
After cocktail-hour-milling-about-time, a couple of us taught some dance forms that we do at home, namely country line and Irish set dancing. As we danced to Johnny Cash and traditional Irish music and experienced culture from a more visceral place in ourselves, I marveled at the universality of having fun and looking silly.
All in all, it was a lovely night to walk the line.
By Rachel Winograd
Some students even took a video!
Friday, April 27, 2012
Today the CIS’s Delegations coordinator, two volunteers, and I went to the third year anniversary of The Roque Daltón Library and Alternative Community Formation Center. When we arrived to Distrito Italia in Tonacatepeque the children from the library came running down the lane and showered us with hugs. I was very excited to go to the anniversary because while I have worked for CIS for a year now and have heard about many of the projects in the library as well as work closely with the Jaragua collective artisans, it was my first time being able to go visit them. I have not just heard about the work that the library does with teaching English as well as art classes in the news papers and on the news I hear about the infamous “Distrito Italia” as very violent and dangerous area in the outskirts of San Salvador.
In 2009 Distrito Italia was categorized as an area with one of the highest levels of violence in the country. What this means is that there is strong pressure for youth to join gangs or be victims of the gangs. Extortion or threats to get money out of poor families is carried out by gang members. Since the majority is poor, local authorities do little to combat crime or offer alternatives for youth.
In this context the community library and formation center has worked with many different projects that opens a space for children and youth to express themselves and work together as a community. When we arrived to the library, I was pushed to the front with the delegation’s coordinator to sit at the table of honor, next to the doctor from the Ministry of Health as well as the Directory of the School in Distrito Italia.
Two young women were the MC’s for the morning. We starting by singing the anthem of the library- Casa Abierta (Home that is Open to all). It brought us all together and also reminded us of one of the people who has poured her love into this community- Antonia. While she was not able to come and sing with us we felt her love. During the activity each of the programs gave a small presentation where we got to see some of the amazing talent that comes from this marginalized neighborhood and is all too often disregarded.
Art Classes: The Mental Health section of the Ministry of Health gives art classes every Thursday at the library. The team of the art teacher, psychiatrist, psychologist and the health promoter were there to represent mental health team. The art teacher and the health promoter come to the library every Thursday to give art classes. The art courses are an open and safe space for artistic expression and a place to dream that many of the children do not have in the routine struggle of their day to day lives. It is a space to listen to each other, to share together, and to grow together, providing them with a communal strength and unity that sow the seeds of hope for the future of the community.
English Classes: Every Friday volunteer English teachers go out to Distrito Italia to spend the day with the children and share with them. Two of the volunteer that have been coming for a few months introduced some of the students. Two students shared in English about what they thought about their classes and what it meant to them to participate. When teachers come, listen to them, allow them to express themselves, and share with them for a few hours of the day, it is not just about learning English; it shows them that people outside the district have not forgotten them. It shows them that people care about them, believe in them, invest their time in them, and demonstrates an affectionate solidarity that they themselves are trying to cultivate within their community. After the two students shared their pieces, the volunteer had to translate to Spanish for everyone.
Young women and single moms: This group of women has recently started in the community; they meet one Saturday every two weeks. While unfortunately many of them were not able to attend because of other commitments, the women who were present gave us an idea of their group. Each meeting one of the women prepares a topic to talk about, for example two of the topics they have done are sexual reproductive rights and depression.
Artisan Collective Jaragua: Two women from the group gave a brief explanation of this group that is really the roots and the body behind the library. With the proceeds of the products they sell they are able to contribute with snacks for art classes and some other small costs of the programs. The collective has been together for ten years now and was born out of unemployment. They as artisans have tried to work over the years not just to benefit their families, but all invest and give back to their communities. One of the biggest demonstrations of this is The Roque Daltón Library and Alternative Community Formation Center.
Revy Fair Trade Scholarships: Two of the students who receive scholarships through the Revy Fair Trade Store coordinated by CIS talked to the group about what this means for them and their family to receive this support. They talked about how without this support they would need to make sacrifices, like not eating, in order to pay for their studies. These scholarships are not just helping the students, but also are a huge contribution for to their families as well as their community.
Girl’s Soccer: The group of girls ran up to the stage with their giant trophy. While they were egger to show everyone that they had not lost a single game, and were the champions of a tournament recently, many of them were reluctant to take the microphone. One of the mom’s chimed in to share that this is a group for the girls to play and to show that soccer is not just for boys, but girls also should play and have fun. While they are limited in the games and tournaments they can enter because they have to pay for the referee, transportation, and snacks, they have shown that as a team they can work together and play hard.
Between each of these presentations there were artistic presentations of musical groups as well as dance groups. The talent and potential that these children and youth have is incredible. To wrap up the activity the group presented diplomas to those institutions as well as individuals who have supported them in the past three years of the library. I struggled for words of how to accept the diploma as I am so inspired and continually impressed with everything they do in their community -especially in the mists of violence and marginalization. When the English volunteers as well as the health professionals listen to these children at the library, they hear so many stores of oppression, violence, and abuse; however these spaces that the library creates illuminate the hope in their stories. It was a great honor for me today to receive hugs from the children and youth of Distrito Italia.