Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Berta, English Student turned English Teacher

Hi, my name is Berta,

Receiving her Diploma!

I would like to share my experience at CIS. In the beginning I was a student and the most important thing that I learned of CIS was "How important it is to promote solidarity in El Salvador". When I finished improving my skills I was invited to participate as an English Volunteer teacher. This was a really good experience for me because it gave me the opportunity to practice my English knowledge by helping other students.

Berta with her students

Several years ago I graduated from the University of El Salvador with a degree in Business Administration. My experience as a volunteer English teacher at CIS inspired me to return to school to obtain a teaching certificate. Last year I took a break from my classes and volunteering at CIS to complete a one-year program. I hope to obtain a teaching job and I will be returning to volunteer at CIS in April too.

I invite you to participate in this program because you can have the opportunity to practice Spanish with native speakers, to know about our culture and, the most important thing - to promote solidarity between our countries.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Margie comes back every year!

Margie showing off the pockets in her new backpack from the CIS store.

Margie Legowski is a former teacher, Peace Corps volunteer, education and training specialist
and program manager with the Peace Corp and the Corporation for National and Community
Service (the agency that funds AmeriCorps, VISTA, Senior Corps, NCCC). She is active in Holy
Trinity Catholic Parish, Washington, DC, the group that first brought her to El Salvador and a
group which has had an on-going relationship of support and solidarity with the parish of Maria
Madre of Los Pobres (where she now has a goddaughter) in San Salvador for over twenty-five years. Margie has been involved in this solidarity work for the past five years and has studied at CIS four times in order to learn Spanish and/or increase her fluency. In addition to spending time working in the parish, she has also participated in election delegations with CIS and Cristosal in 2014 and 2015. She is here again this year for two months and is spending her mornings studying at CIS, so we had a chance to interview her about her experience with classes at CIS and her time in El Salvador. 
Elections forum
Margie´s words:
My first teacher was Zulma and there were only two of us in the class. Basically, Zulma took us
from where we were to a new level. My fellow student and I both love music so she used music
and her own stories to engage us in learning. All the CIS teachers have helped me understand
¨la lucha¨ - the struggle for justice here in El Salvador – and all use very creative strategies to
work with us to improve our language skills.

Each time I have come, I have stayed with Nora, who has one of the host homes for students and volunteers at CIS. She is one of those women made in heaven– former teacher, activist with the FMLN and even in her 70´s full of more energy than most young people. She has also been a student in the English classes at CIS. 
My experiences with CIS and with Maria Madre Parish have led to so many other things in my life. I have new friendships in El Salvador and with people in DC, Baltimore and other communities that work for justice Latin America. I've participated in several the School of the Americas Watch (SOAW) meetings in Fort Benning, Georgia, and a few months ago I joined a delegation to Venezuela to broaden my perspective about Latin American issues. And I am now an emergency foster parent with the Latin American Youth Center in DC. 

I can see that security issues are difficult for people living and working in El Salvador. The people at CIS, my host mother and my friends and family at Maria Madre de los Pobres do everything they can to to keep us all safe. I'm particularly interested in the issue of security as I lead my church's delegations here twice a year. The CIS document analyzing violence in El Salvador was particularly helpful in that regard.

Basically, I listen to the advice Salvadorans give me: I take cabs when I am out after dark, and I don´t carry or wear valuable items when I am out traveling around by bus or on foot. I use many of the same safety precautions here that I use at home in Washington, DC. or when I travel anywhere outside of my own country.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Erica connecting with her cultural roots and understanding her parents' stories

Erica (left) and her sister with a great view of the volcano!
 Hi I’m Erica and I’m a university student from Vancouver, Canada. I first learned of CIS

while doing research on development projects and NGOs in El Salvador and was really

drawn to the CIS’s mission of promoting cultural exchange and social justice in El

Salvador. My parents are from El Salvador and they left during the civil war in the 80s

and most of what I knew about El Salvador was from the stories they shared with me.

I decided to teach English at CIS; at first I didn’t know what to expect as I had never

taught before but CIS does a great job at preparing their volunteers, I really liked their

use of the popular education concept for teaching and learning. Teaching English was

definitely an exchange of ideas, each class was structured so that every grammar lesson

Erica presenting during a cultural event
was accompanied by a social issue topic. Some sample topics included mining, the

environment, gangs, and historical memory. Getting to know my students and learning

about El Salvador through them was definitely the highlight of my experience.

Through my time at CIS I learned a lot about the current political and social realities in El

Salvador, another highlight for me was definitely taking part in the Political Cultural

Program at CIS. Through the program other volunteers and I had the opportunity to visit

various sites of historical and cultural significance in El Salvador, and it really allowed

me to gain a better understanding about Salvadoran history and its current reality. Many

of the social and political factors that led to the civil war that my parents escaped are still

visible in various forms in El Salvador, and those same factors contribute to the current

Salvadoran reality.
Some of the students and teachers at the CIS

While in El Salvador I didn’t run into any major security issues. I took the buses during

the day, but at night travelled by taxi. In general it’s a good idea to avoid walking around

alone after dark as well as carrying flashy valuables. CIS was always really great in

making sure students and volunteers always had a safe way of getting home after classes.

As part of my experience I also had the opportunity of enjoying the beauty that is El

Salvador: the land of volcanoes (23!). I got to climb a couple and it is definitely worth the

trek, once you are at the top the views are incredible! The beaches are not too bad either!  

Being in El Salvador was really like being home, it really allowed me to connect with my

Taking a boat to visit a women's sewing business on an island!
cultural roots and gain a more complete picture of my parents’ stories. I would really

recommend anyone, especially those with roots in El Salvador to learn more about its

history and its current reality. My experience at CIS definitely provided me the

opportunity to do this, and along the way I got to meet incredible people, many of whom

I’m still in contact with today. I’m really looking forward to my next visit home!