Autobiography of Víctor Andaluz, SHARE’s Grassroots Program Coordinator
My name is Victor Manuel Andaluz. I was born on December 16, 1988 (December 26 in legal documents–long story), in a small village called Los Amates in the municipality of San Juan Opico, Department of La Libertad in the Southwest part of El Salvador and Northwest of San Salvador. Physically, I am small in comparison to the average Salvadoran, but have a big heart full of humbleness and love to share with others. I also belong an extended and humble family. I am the 11th of 12 siblings. My family is composed as follows: Maria and José, my parents, Rosa, Julia, Silvia, Jaime, Sarah, Yanira, María Elena, Miguel, José Esteban, Jorge, and Juan Carlos. I am in between my brother Jorge who is 2 years older and Juan Carlos who is 5 years younger than me.
As a family, our relationships were not as close as other families. But, why? I grew up with the need of affection, conversation, and attention from my father–which I believe is why my older siblings bugged me anytime they could since all of us had the same need. Being a farmer, my father had to spend a lot of time out of the house–including at night, and as is typical in my society, my mother was in charge of doing chores at home and taking care of us. Due to the evident need of economic resources and after the Peace Accords, three of my older sisters (Julia, Silvia, and Sara) had to look for jobs in San Salvador. Fortunately, they became babysitters which helped provide us with food, clothing, and education for me and my three brothers.
My father is originally from Santa Ana, near the border with Guatemala, and my mother is originally from La Libertad, specifically from Quezaltepeque. They got married in 1970, so they have been married for over 45 years now, which makes me very happy and proud. However, I consider my childhood to have been without good memories, except for New Year’s Eve when traditionally all of the family gathered to celebrate the New Year together. Sometimes I felt abandoned and would leave home to look for company among my friends in the village. I am thankful that I never took up any risky behaviors like smoking, drinking alcohol, doing drugs, or even joining gangs.
Going to school always made me feel motivated. I remember that I used to ask my mom to take me to school with my other brothers. So, I started my education at a very young age, when I was 3. By that time, the Ministry of Education did not even consider preschool as part of the curricula in schools. The school where I studied was small and consequently not very important for the Ministry. Despite this, I learned to read when I was 5 and to write very well when I was 6. I formally studied there from grade 1-3 because they only taught those levels. Then, I had to go to a different school 2 kilometers away from my house. To get there, I had to walk for about 45 minutes up and down hills. In this school I studied for 2 years (grades 4-5) until 2001. My father had a loan that had increased in interest and by this time it had already doubled. Unfortunately, my father has been an alcoholic since the civil war. Half of the loans he received he spent on alcohol. When the bank notified him that the house was going to be seized, he put it up for sale. When it sold, you can guess what happened with part of the money. We became homeless.
This same year, the country suffered two earthquakes. Many families lost their homes and started holding meetings to decide what to do. My father attended, which is how we decided to move with about 70 families from the village of Los Amates to Puerto de La Libertad. In this municipality there is an area that apparently is protected by the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources. The families worked to clear spaces where they were going to live. We coexisted with wild animals like dangerous snakes, prairie wolves, and many mosquitos at night. All of the families were living with no access to clean water, electricity, or adequate housing. Moreover, we faced difficulties to go to school since the year had already started in January. My mother went to talk with the principal of a school nearby and explained the situation. Fortunately, they agreed that my younger brother and I could study there. Once again, we had to walk around 45 minutes through unknown streets and neighborhoods. It was there that I studied from grade 6 to grade 9.
In 2002, when I was in grade 7, one of the Deputies of the FMLN–Irma Amaya, connected CIS (Center for Exchange and Solidarity) with my community which brought a delegation from Canada. Foundation ARCOIRIS, through CIS, sponsored a project for drilling a well so that the community could have clean water. From then on, they sponsored children at the community and for 3 years they sent school supplies for the students. By that time, I was the only one who was in a higher level of education–grade 7. They wanted the students to not only get excellent scores, but also to become community leaders who would help in its development. I was always at the top of my class. After graduating from grade 9, and because of my excellent scores, they decided to continue supporting my high school studies. My favorite period of being a student was when I was in high school due to the fact that I got a lot of awards. First, I got a scholarship to study English for four hours every Saturday for four years. When I graduated, I was number 3 among 500 graduates. CIS was amazed by my results and decided to sponsor my education at the University of El Salvador in 2008. I applied to study a Major in English Language for Teaching and I graduated last December.
In terms of my work experience, during my time at the University, when I was in second year, I started working at a private school teaching English to students from 4-15 years old. I did that because I needed more income. The money I got from the scholarship was not enough to cover all my expenses at the University so I had to work. It was very worthwhile because in the end it gave me experience that is required when applying for other jobs. I also volunteered at CIS in its English School for a year in 2011. In 2012, I decided to do my social work at the same English School the whole year.
In September that year, I knew about the job opportunity as English School Coordinator that was being offered by CIS. I applied and I was hired to start in January of 2013. I worked there for two years. Last year, in March I got a loan to buy my house and start being more independent. As a requirement of my program, my thesis had to be written in English. In mid-July, I defended it in English as well. At the end of July, I married Claribel Ventura. So, 2014 was a really amazing year for me.
And last but not least, this year my wife gave birth to our first baby, Santiago Alejandro. He is such a cute baby and is one of most loved people I have in my life. Because of him, I had to look for other job opportunities with better benefits. I did not want to work in a place where I was going to do things I didn’t like. I like working with people, and seeing their achievements makes me happy. Finally, that is how I got to SHARE as the Grassroots Coordinator. I am happy to be here and joyful to do what I am doing. I feel blessed for having such good colleagues. I am really thankful to have this opportunity to be part of the SHARE family. And for the ones who took the time to read this piece of my life, I would like to be part of your family, too.