The CIS mission is to promote solidarity and cultural exchange across borders between the Salvadoran people and others in the search for development and dignity. We work to promote and strengthen a culture of solidarity that implies accompaniment, respect for equality of different cultures, and mutual support between people. We focus on using different strategies to promote a solidarity that creates the space for grassroots organizing for justice and dignity.
I first found out about CIS through my
university which has an internship program where we get to work at CIS for
three months on various projects. While they have a plethora of social programs
from their clean water project to their youth scholarships and women's
enterprises, their English school really caught my eye. I particularly liked
CIS's focus on incorporating social issues into the curriculum to empower
students to provoke change. I had never taught an adult class before so I was a
bit nervous, but as I quickly found out, there was little I had to worry
I didn't really have any expectations going
into my internship besides being super excited about being immersed in a
completely different environment and culture. Plus, I really wanted to learn
Spanish and what better way to do that than living in El Salvador! Of course, I
had some reservations about coming to El Salvador. On the other hand, my school
has been sending people over for internships since 2008 and students had always
had a great experience.
first week in El Salvador has gone by superfast. Everyone at CIS was very
friendly and helpful. It was quite relaxed as I got acquainted with the area
and the different projects. The biggest thing I had to adjust to was the
weather since it's much more humid than what I'm used to in Canada. Since it's
the rainy season there are rain storms at least every other day, which cools
things down considerably during the night. I'm also constantly amazed at the
amount of animal and plant life in an urban area like San Salvador. Every day
as I walk to CIS I see so many different types of exotic flowers and fruit
trees as well as all sorts of birds, including chickens just minding their
business on the side of the road. And everywhere you go, you get a cool view of
the San Salvador Volcano!
Living in San Salvador
The food is delicious here and extremely
affordable at an average of $3 USD a filling meal and drink (usually a fresco,
aka natural fruit juice). There are fruits galore here, many of which are
exotic ones rarely see in North American supermarkets, and all of them
delicious. There are at least 3 or 4 comedores where you can get lunch around
CIS so there's always plenty of options (breakfast and dinner are provided by
the host family). My go-to lunch is roast chicken with rice, relleno de
quisquil (chayote stuffed with cheesse... mmm) and a tortilla or two. And the
frozen! I love how affordable the ice cream are here! I can get a double scoop
waffle cone for $1.60. There’s also a tienda near CIS where they sell delicious
fried things like freshly made fries, fried yuca (which honestly are better
than fries), pastelitos, empanadas, and my personal favourite, Chocobananos, a
whole frozen banana dipped in chocolate and sprinkled with peanuts, choco
krispies, or spinkles. At 50 cents apiece, you can’t go wrong and it’s the
perfect way to cool down on hot summer days.
a field trip with the Cultural Program through the central market in San
The two biggest things I've had to adjust
to have been the humid heat and the mosquitos. Bringing breathable pants is
something I would definitely stress, because the humidity and sweat coupled
with long pants was uncomfortable to say the least. I’m also very glad I packed
my hoodie since there were days were it
felt like 20°C, especially in the morning. And if you get cold easily, you’ll definitely want something warm while watching a movie at Reforma; they really crank up the AC there. There was even one time when two of my fellow CIS volunteers had to bring a blanket, it was so cold. Of course, it might’ve also been because it was a horror movie and they wanted some barrier between them and the scary nun in El Conjuro 2. I may or may not have used that blanket during the movie as well, to keep the cold away of course.
As for the mosquitos, a good investment is
to buy one of those plug-in mosquito repellent things for your room, especially
if you don’t have a mosquito net. They’re only $5 at Super Selectos (the most common supermarket here) and they
last around a month.
Overall, the transition has been quite
smooth. The wonderful people at CIS have definitely made the transition much
easier and my host family has been really supportive. Everybody is always
helpful and giving bits of advice about where to eat and cool things to do.
Another thing that really made a difference was CIS’s Cultural Program
because it allowed me to understand the history of El Salvador better and
become more familiar with travelling around San Salvador.
Melanie Zhang - York University Intern and volunteer with the English School
Ever wonder what its like to come on a delegation with the CIS?
Check out these amazing pictures and summary of the trip of a lifetime.
Special thanks to the ST. ELIZABETH'S/ST. PETER'S JAN 2016 delegation for making this beautiful Adobe Spark document and sharing it with us. The photography is amazing.
We hope this trip was as important and life changing for them as it was for the communities they visited and continue supporting.