Tuesday, September 4, 2012

An Intern’s experience at the CIS

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 El 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 Cabañas 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 La 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 La Ruta 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