Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Mujeres Tinecas—San Martin, El Salvador

Alicia is one of three York interns here for three months.  She was a volunteer with the Solidairy Crafts program for three months.  We hope you will be reviewing her Christmas crafts catalog soon!
Today I had the opportunity yet again to go out into the community and meet one of the groups associated with CIS, this time las Mujeres Tinecas, in San Martin. What made this particular trip special was that I would be teaching some of the women a bit of the calligraphy and lettering that I learned in high school as well as from watching my mom doing it growing up. I had to swallow my nervousness about speaking Spanish in front of a group of locals, and try to teach what was essentially an art class, having no prior knowledge of the capabilities of my students.

I certainly wasn’t prepared for the sweet Ancelma, the lady who makes the quilled cards for the group, and who doesn’t know how to read or write. Calligraphy, which had always meant for me a style of “artsy” penmanship, had lost all of its traditional linguistic meaning, and had become instead simply drawing patterns of art. I enjoyed the experience though, and appreciated the effort and enthusiasm of the ladies—I’m confident that after they spend some time practicing, the new lettering on their cards will look beautiful.

Afterwards we talked a bit about their lives and their work, and their little neighbourhood in San Martin. I hadn’t even realized that one of them had to come out to meet us and bring us in (I thought we just needed directions), to ensure our safety in their gang-maintained neighbourhood. There were young boys flying kites, men at work, and women keeping home—washing, cleaning, gardening, cooking, etc.—and other students coming home from school. Though it was clearly a poor area, there was a kind of majesty to it all: the sounds of the carpenter’s workshop, the smiling children with their kites, cars zooming down the highway in the background, the towering and empty industrial tanks behind the galvanized houses, and somehow the flowers finding space to bloom in their kaleidoscope of colours everywhere.

I’m excited to see what the future holds for the group; I hope they keep practicing to make their already beautiful cards stand out even more, to increase their sales, and ultimately, to improve their lives and secure a brighter future for themselves, their families, and their community.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Protecting the Environment and Hanging out in San Rafael Cedros!

San Rafael Cedros fue el punto de reunión para celebrar, junto a la 

comunidad, el Día del Ambiente.  Cada estudiante compartió sus ideas 

sobre el cuido de los bosques, el reciclaje y la comida saludable.  ¡Una 

excelente forma de practicar su español!
Después, estudiantes de español y chicos de la comunidad se organizaron

 para la elaboración de un pequeño mural con el lema: ¡Amamos nuestra 

comunidad porque protegemos el Ambiente!

Pero hubo tiempo para descansar y platicar, caminar para conocer más 

sobre los cultivos 

de la zona, disfrutar de una rica comida y unos 

enormes mangos. 

The Spanish School went to San Rafael Cedros to 

celebrate the day of the Environment with residents of 

the town.  Each student shared their ideas to protect 

the environment- protecting our forests, recycling and 

healthy food.  This was an excellent was to practice 

speaking Spanish!

Afterwards, our students and people from the 

community organized together to make a small mural 

surrounding the theme: 'We love our community, so 

we protect the Environment!

There was also time to rest, chat and walk around to 

get to know the crops in the area and enjoy good food 

and enormous Mangoes!!!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Letter to Congressional Rep

I am writing to ask you to sign onto the Dear Colleague letter being circulated by Representatives Pocan and Honda regarding the Millennium Challenge Corporation compact with El Salvador and the risk it currently poses to family farmers.

It has come to my attention that the US Embassy is requiring that El Salvador, in order to receive a second MCC compact, eliminate a provision that allows the government to purchase seeds for its Family Agriculture Plan from small-scale producers. 

This provision has been key to the success of the Family Agriculture Plan, which is helping to revitalize the agricultural sector in El Salvador by providing seeds and technical assistance to over 400,000 family farmers. It has allowed many small- and medium-scale producers the opportunity to bid on government contracts from which they would otherwise be excluded, thereby breaking the monopoly held by two major agricultural corporations.

The repeal of this law would limit the government's ability to purchase the highest-quality seeds at the best price, which is essential to the country's goal of ensuring food security. It would also place corporations at a considerable advantage over small-scale producers, thus jeopardizing El Salvador's efforts to reduce rural poverty. 

The terms of El Salvador’s food security program should not be a matter of negotiation for the MCC compact, nor should the State Department use the final approval of the compact as a way to exert undue influence on El Salvador's domestic economic policy. 

I hope you agree that US development aid should be used to support sustainable development efforts in El Salvador, not to undermine them on behalf of narrow corporate interests. I urge you to sign onto this important letter.  Please contact Alicia Molt ASAP at Congressman Pocan's office in order to do so. The letter will close on Thursday, June 26.

Thank you.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Confecciones La Colorada, Isla Tasajera

Yesterday we went to Tasajera Island to visit with one of the artisan groups that CIS

works with--¨Confecciones La Colorada¨ who make the lovely ¨bolsas de Cati¨(Cati

bags). All of the women were busy at work when we arrived--cutting, measuring,

pinning and sewing their beautiful bags of varying sizes and designs, all made of

colourful, locally hand-woven fabrics. Immediately they stopped working and came out

to welcome us with hugs, kisses and bright smiles.

After walking around and admiring their work, we sat down with them to discuss and

evaluate their progress over the last year, to better understand their work, challenges and

goals, and the ways in which CIS can continue to help.

These women have been industrious enough to begin the challenging

process of certification as an accredited Salvadoran cooperative so

that they will be eligible to acquire government contracts to make

school uniforms. To accomplish this, they need to deal with quite a bit

of paperwork, garner support from the directors of the schools in their

community, make samples and present themselves at a government

job fair. This poses unique challenges such as transportation from their

isolated community into San Salvador, acquiring (or making)

professional attire to present themselves in, training in interview skills and formal language. The group remains

resolute and determined to succeed. They hope to truly establish themselves as a business and a recognized

brand, so that they will be able to employ even more women from their community. With all of the progress

they have made so far, I have no doubt that they will soon accomplish their goals, as well as CIS’ ultimate

goal for them of independence.

After the evaluation portion of the meeting, I had the opportunity to ask some more

personal questions and they were happy to share their experiences with us:

Most of them hadn’t even dreamed of completing

secondary school before joining the group, but since

starting to work there, they now have acquired the

financial stability to support themselves going back

to school, providing for their own children to

continue schooling, and even planning to attend

university. ¨Las Confecciones¨ has provided a way out from the ¨maquilas¨ for some, and for others, a sense

of independence and personal power in a society where women are expected to stay at home, minding the

house and the children. The workshops and training that CIS helped to

provide them have opened their minds to a new way of thinking, and a

real drive for gender equality in their society. Some of their partners

and others in their community weren’t very supportive, thinking that

they were wasting their time and neglecting their womanly duties, but

with every garment they sell, they prove them wrong.  And even more

than these financial, educational, and perhaps political changes in their

lives, what touched me most was the friendship and support system they provide to each

other. Everyone got teary-eyed when one woman talked about how much the others

helped her through her troubles with domestic abuse, and others talked about hard times

in their lives when the group was there to support them in solidarity.

"It’s not like in the maquilas where if I get too sick

to work one day, I lose my job. Here our conditions

are so much better, and we are like our own

bosses.¨I couldn’t help wishing that I was a rich

philanthropist to donate all the funds they need

for their cause. With Bolsas de Cati you aren’t just

buying a bag—you’re investing in a brighter future for deserving and hardworking women.

-Alicia Richins, York University Intern

Monday, June 16, 2014

 María Madre de Los Pobres, La Chacra, San Salvador, El Salvador

After attending two previous training sessions regarding health, hygiene, sanitation, filter usage and environmental protection, 24 residents of La Chacra, received their filters.  Saturday May 31st, 2014, the CIS Clean Water Project delivered 24 Sawyer Water Filters to each participant who had completed all of the pre-requisites.  Luis, coordinator of the CIS Clean Water project, showed everyone how to assemble their filters step by step.  After all questions were answered, the filters were distributed.  Each participant received their filter, and stayed to assemble it on-site to ensure proper filter installation.  CIS has trained representatives in 74 families in the Parish of Maria Madre de los Pobres and donated filters to those same families to date.  The CIS trainings are about raising awareness and changing people’s habits previous to giving the filters, so as not to fall into the trap of some NGOs or visitors who hand things out and feel good, but don’t do the necessary preparation, organization and follow up to make sure people have adequate training and orientation to actually make changes of what have been lifelong habits and conditions.

Special Thanks to Chris Chaney and the new NGO he has started – GIVE SAFE WATER - for raising the funds for the project, and to Maria Madre de los Pobres Parish for providing a meeting place and coordination support, and assigning Wendy who is now the local coordinator of the water committee at Madre.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Meet one of our three interns from York University!

Meet one of our three interns from York University, Karen Villanueva!

Here is what she had to say about her first full day on the job:

How important are women and their role in society?
Despite the many times that this question has come up in gender equity debates, today we can truly say that the solidarity and exchange of ideas and attitudes make a difference in some salvadorian communities. My first experience at the CIS interning with women’s enterprises was exceptional. We visited Las Delicias Bakery situated in Llano Largo, Jutiapa, to officially commemorate its opening in the community. We had the opportunity to evaluate and discuss different experiences, achievements, difficulties and expectations with the participants.  This celebration opened the way for personal interaction with the women, who passionately baked cakes and bread to offer the community members at the event. The women also included members of CIS in their baking, decorating and serving process who gladly participated. There is various levels for the bakery to achieve, but I have to say that this women are earning respect and admiration as entrepeneurs as a result of solidarity networks.

Cuan importante es una mujer y su rol en la sociedad? Aunque esta pregunta ha sido parte de un debate de equidad de generos, hoy podemos decir que la solidaridad e intercambio de ideas y actitudes marca una diferencia en algunas comunidades salvadorenas. Como pasante en el CIS, mi primera experiencia trabajando en las micro-empresas de mujeres fue excepcional. Con el grupo de CIS visitamos la panaderia Las Delicias ubicada en Llano Largo, Jutiapa, para inaugurar su iniciacion oficial en la comunidad. Tuvimos la oportunidad de hacer una evaluacion con las participantes de la asociacion y discutir un poco sus experiencias, logros, dificultades y expectativas del proyecto. Esta celebracion abrio paso a interactuar personalmente con las mujeres, quienes con mucha dedicacion hicieron pasteles y pan para ofrecer a las personas presentes. En el proceso de hornear, decorar y servir incluyeron a los miembros del CIS que con emocion participamos. Todavia hay muchos niveles que alcanzar con la panaderia Las Delicias, pero no sobra decir que poco a poco estas mujeres estan ganando respeto y admiracion como mujeres emprendedoras como resultado de lazos de solidaridad

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Dia de la Cruz

Dia de la Cruz

 Cada tres de mayo, frutas, adornos de papel y una cruz de jiote son los elementos para celebrar el tradicional Día de la Cruz.  Esta celebración invita a pedir por una buena cosecha y evitar que "el Diablo baile en nuestras casas". Pero más que una celebración religiosa es una representación del sincretismo en la cultura salvadoreña.

Every May 3rd, we celebrate the day of the cross with paper decorations and a cross.  This celebration is an opportunity to ask for a good harvest and avoid 'the devil dancing in our homes'.  More than a religious celebration, it is a representation of Salvadoran culture.

Los y las estudiantes de la Escuela junto a sus docentes hicieron todos los preparativos para dar gracias por sus frutos a la Madre Tierra: hicieron las decoraciones, sembraron la cruz y la adornaron; al final disfrutaron de "las ofrendas"

Together with their teachers, our Spanish students prepared the necessary decorations in order to give thanks to Mother Earth.  They made the decorations, planted and decorated the cross, and finally, they enjoyed the 'offerings'.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Monseñor Romero

Para hablar de Monseñor Romero podemos utilizar muchos apelativos: Pastor, Mártir, Profeta, Santo, ...; pero más allá de nuestra fe o creencia, Monseñor Romero representa VERDAD.
Por esta razón, los y las estudiantes de la Escuela de Español se unieron a la Red de Comunidades para conmemorar que el legado de Monseñor Romero sigue vivo.  Juntos recordaron sobre su gran amistad con el Padre Rutilio Grande, reflexionaron sobre el video Mi pueblo es mi Profeta y cantaron en su memoria.

Monseñor Romero vive en todos y todas aquellas personas que buscan la verdad y la justicia

We can use many different words when referring to Monseñor Romero: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Saint, etc; but more than faith or belief

, Monseñor Romero represents TRUTH.

For this reason, the Spanish School students  joined with the Communities Network commemorate the legacy of Monseñor Romero and acknowledge that he lives on.  Together, we remembered his great friendship with Padre Rutilio Grande, reflected on the video Mi Pueblo es mi Profeta (My People are my Prophet) and we sang in his memory. 

Monseñor Romero lives in each and every person who searches for truth and justice.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Día Internacional de la Mujer

Para el Día Internacional de la Mujer, los y las estudiantes de la Escuela de Español construyeron un collage relacionado a las mujeres.  El concepto MUJER tiene muchas imágenes y palabras asociadas. Cada una implica las innumerables formas de vivir la feminidad.  También evocan las diversas luchas de las mujeres.

Esta actividad fue acompañada con una charla de Delmy Linares, microempresaria y promotora de CIS.  Conocimos de sus luchas y su camino de empoderamiento.

La escuela de Inglés retomó la misma dinámica desde su propio espacio. 

International Women's Day

For International Women’s Day, the students of the Spanish School created a collage related to women’s issues.  The concept of WOMAN has many words and images associated with it, each demonstrating the numerous ways to live femininity.  The collage also evokes the diverse struggles of each woman.
This activity was accompanied by a talk from Delmy Linares, CIS promoter and small business owner.  She shared with us her struggles and path to empowerment.

The English School used the same dynamic during their own event.


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Update on The “Mercedes Arias” Solidarity and Social Transformation School for the formation of community leaders

This year 2014 the CIS’s Network of Communities are making a very important effort on human development.  We have started The “Mercedes Arias” Solidarity and Social Transformation School for the formation of community leadersThe goal of this effort is to develop a group of leaders made up of 30 people (20 woman and 10 men) from the Community Network, Water Committees, and the Scholarship Program.  The school is designed so that the workshops are reproduced by the leaders in their local organizations.  It will be a multiplying team. 

The school is set up for seven months from January to July.  The topics are as follows: power, leadership, community organization, environmental contamination, access for woman to comprehensive health care, conflict transformation and solidarity.
All of these topics are prepared with a methodology that allows us to take a step back and examine how we are doing currently.  It is done in a way that each participant reflects on the topic from his/her reality.  We are going to look deeper into our groups in the communities.  Our orientation is that, as leaders, we should be actors and not spectators.  Change should first come from us.

The Methodology

We are working with a facilitator’s guide that is based in popular education.  Some of the material comes from what we worked on last year with an intern and other material is from Equipo Maíz.  We include techniques like role play, energizers, music, etc. We have participation guidelines for the workshops.  The truth it is a space where there is a lot of participation.
The people in charge of the school are some of the grassroots organizers. The participants are given a snack, lunch, and bus fair.  The workshops take place from 9:00am-3:00pm.  At each workshop the participants are give a Facilitator’s Guide so that each of them can put on the workshop in their respective communities.
After the first workshop on power, the leaders reproduced the workshop in five different municipalities.  Some of the comment that emerged was many people saw power as just being something from above that politicians have.  One woman said, “I had never heard people talk about power from below.  The ability that each an every one of us have…now I feel more important.”   On the topic of leadership one youth said “I see myself as a paternalistic leader.  I thought I was doing things the right way, but now I realized I have to change my attitude about my leadership.”  Another man said, “in leadership, honesty is very important.”
As a team we are satisfied with the work.  We think that after the workshops we will see important changes because we see that the participants have the will to change.

La escuela de solidaridad y transformación social para la formación de líderes y lideresas comunitaria/os “Mercedes Arias”

Este año 2014 como red de comunidades del CIS estamos  realizando un esfuerzo muy importante sobre el desarrollo humano; Hemos iniciado la escuela de solidaridad y transformación social para la formación de líderes y lideresas comunitaria/os “Mercedes Arias” este esfuerzo tiene como propósito  la formación de un grupo de 30 personas (20 mujeres y 10 hombres) de la red de comunidades, comités de agua y programa de becas,  para que ellas y ellos  reproduzcan los talleres en sus organizaciones locales, en concreto será un equipo multiplicador

La escuela está programada para 7 meses de Enero a Julio los temas son:
El poder, liderazgo, organización comunitaria, contaminación ambiental, acceso a la salud integral de las mujeres, transformación de conflictos y la solidaridad.

En todos los temas  preparamos  una metodología que nos permita hacer un alto para revisar como estamos en la actualidad, pero además la reflexión la realizamos desde nosotras y nosotros y nos vamos a revisar al interior de nuestros grupos en la comunidades y orientamos que las y los lideres debemos ser actores y no espectadores y que el cambio debe ser primero desde nosotras/os

La metodología

Estamos trabajando con una guía metodológica de educación popular que trabajamos el año pasado con ayuda de un pasante y con algún material que tenemos del equipo maíz, incluimos  mucho las técnicas, los dramas, la exposición las dinámicas, música etc.  Tenemos reglas de convivencia, en realidad es un espacio muy bueno donde hay mucha participación
Las personas encargadas de del desarrollo de la escuela  son algunos de las promotores.   A las y los participantes se les proporciona un refrigerio, almuerzo y viáticos, pues el horario es de 9:00am – 3:00pm  además se les entrega una guía metodológica para la reproducción
Cabe destacar que en 5 municipios ya se reprodujo el tema del poder y algunos comentarios de las personas fueron que ellas relacionaban el poder solo desde arriba o sea desde los funcionarios o políticos etc. “Nunca habían escuchado hablar del poder desde abajo o sea la capacidad que cada una y cada uno poseemos”  “ahora me siento más importante” dijo una mujer y sobre el tema de liderazgo cuando trabajamos  los tipos de liderazgo un joven dijo “yo me ubico en el liderazgo paternalista porque pensaba que yo hacía bien ahora debo cambiar mi actitud respecto a mi liderazgo” otro  señor dijo  “en el liderazgo es muy importante la honestidad”.
Como equipo estamos satisfecha/os  de este trabajo y consideramos que después de los talleres se verán cambios importantes porque  vemos voluntad en las personas que están participando

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Election Observations in San Luis La Herradura

This was my fourth election observer mission since 2009 and for the most part everything ran smoothly, with only a few minor inconsistencies mentioned below.  Even in the relatively short period that I have been observing the elections in El Salvador I have seen significant improvements in the process.  Residential voting, absentee voting, police being allowed to vote, and the electronic transmission of the Acta are all some of those improvements.  Although there are still some problems, I am confidant that they will be resolved and that the process will continue to improve.  The absentee voting had many problems this election, which is understandable since this was the first time it was used.  With these improvements and with the belief that things will continue to improve, I have high hopes for the future elections in El Salvador.   Now that the process has been in place, and the people see how it should work, it is hard to believe that they would ever go back to the way things were with so many checks and balances.

As mentioned, for the most part the elections I observed went very well, but there were a few glitches that I think are worth mentioning.
 *******The CIS is looking for International Observers for the run off election: March 3rd-11th.******
**************Contact us if you are interested: electionmission@cis-elsalvador.org***********

1.  Tinta (ink) – At the table I observed (8157) the President rarely, if ever, checked voters hands for tinta.

2.  Security, at some of the tables, was very poor and could have been easily fixed.  I never saw anyone taking advantage of this, but it could have been a problem.  Photos below illustrate this problem.
Voter could be easily observed

Voter being observed by non family member

An example of good security
Poor security

I could see how this voter voted

Too low and wide opened 
Crowds around voting booths and woman looks into voting booth

Poor security

3.  All the carbon copies of the Acta could not be clearly read.

4.  Ballot boxes placed in wrong locations and close together caused problems.  On three separate occasions I observed voters coming close to depositing their ballot in the wrong box.  Photos below illustrate this problem.

Ballot boxes too close together.  Caused confusion when crowded.

5.  Vigilantes performed tasks beyond their purview.  Photo below illustrate this problem.

Vigilante counts ballots at opening
6.  Laminated DUIs caused considerable discussions at many tables.  How different JRVs resolved this issue was not consistent.  This should be cleared up by TSE. Photos below illustrate this problem.

Discussion over laminated DUI

7.  Observers had the right to photograph completed Acta and then accompany it to the transmission room.  Photos below.

The secretary filling out the final count form-acta. 

Transmission room where the final results are scanned, posted online, and a copy given to each party.

8.  Roles at table not completely clear.  TSE should continue to improve training.

For the first time the Police was able to vote in the center they were stationed at today.

Assisting voters find their JRVs using a smartphone