The SHARE Blog

Living in Suffering and Hope

October 30, 2014

On Saturday October 18th, a delegation from Visitation Parish in Kansas City, Missouri arrived to the dense tropical air of San Salvador in the late evening. They loaded the pick-up trucks with their suitcases and hopped into the micro-bus. Although there were a few rookies in the group, most were seasoned-El Salvador travelers having visited four to ten or more times before. Visitation has had a sistering relationship with Maria Madre de los Pobres, a parish in the San Salvador neighborhood of La Chacra, for the last 26 years. Together, they have walked in solidarity since the war.

 

Being a medical delegation, Visitation spent their mornings seeing patients, listening to their stories, and providing some sense of healing. The evidence of Chikungunya, an epidemic currently sweeping through this tiny Central American country, was very much present as many patients came in complaining about fevers, joint pain, and body aches. Others visited the clinic with cases of colds, infections, and more. The physical therapists heard stories of injuries from the war that still caused much physical, as well as emotional, pain. Many Salvadorans came in with back and neck pain due to the weight of the goods they carry on their heads to sell in the market. The suffering from the daily struggle to feed their families manifests itself in painful ways still today.

 

The afternoons were spent visiting the sacred sites, a hospital, community homes, and the parish school. Learning about Monseñor Oscar Romero seemed to be a highlight. The spirit of this giving man, willing to stand up to the injustices in the country continues to live on as an example of how to live our lives for others. It is incredible how his legacy moves us forward in the search for truth, justice, and hope, almost 35 years after his death. Even after witnessing so much suffering in the lives of Salvadorans today, through the life and legacy of Monseñor Romero, the delegation found hope to continue walking and living in solidarity for years to come.

 


Learning to Embrace Flexibility

October 28, 2014

The following is a reflection from SHARE’s Communications Coordinator, Claire Moll, about her experience at the CCR’s 2014-2016 Executive Board elections.

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Active citizens of Chalatenango exercising their right to vote

Living and working in Central America these past few months has taught me to expect the unexpected. So far, Plan A has yet to happen, but rather we always seem to reach Plan F when all is said and done. Being from a culture that upholds over-organizing and planning, I have quickly been forced to loosen up and embrace flexibility. So far, it has really worked out for the best!

This past Saturday I put “embracing flexibility” into practice. Isabel, the SHARE El Salvador Office Director and I took a trip up to Chalatenango to show our support for the CCR’s new Executive Board elections.  SHARE accompanies the CCR, one of CRIPDES’ 6 regions, in sistering relationships and projects. They work with many of the historic sistering communities by sponsoring human development projects for women and youth.

When we entered the meeting space, I was surprised to see so many people in attendance. I recognized various faces from two of the communities that we accompany: Ignacio Ellacuria and Nueva Trinidad. As I listened to the program, Isabel pointed out the various mayors, governors, and legislators in attendance. I had no idea that so many dignitaries involved themselves in the work of the CCR. This sparked a strong sense of inspiration in me that grew throughout the rest of the event.

About halfway through, 20 minutes before the actual elections were to begin, a woman  from the CCR office approached Isabel and myself.  “We would like to have SHARE representation on the elections commission.”

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Claire administers the ballots

Isabel regretfully declined her participation by saying that due to physical limitations, she really couldn’t take part in the commission. However, in what I am learning to be Salvadoran fashion, she offered me to be part of the commission. Trying to hide my terror, I responded with all the enthusiasm I could muster, “Oh, yes, of course I will help out!”

In that moment, never having been part of an elections commission, I thought to myself, “What did I just get myself into?!” However, like I said before, this job and culture has really pulled me out of my comfort zone.

When it came time for people to vote, I was handed a folder and told that I was in charge of Region 4. I’m sure my eyes resembled those of a deer looking into oncoming headlights at that moment. What did that mean? I quickly asked the person standing next to me for clarifications.

Having a bit more clarity, I headed towards my table that already had a line of people waiting to cast their vote and participate in the democratic process. Once everyone from Region 4 deposited their ballots in the large white box in the middle of the room, the time came to count the votes. Sitting around a table with all of the aforementioned dignitaries, I, a volunteer from the States, felt once again a bit out of my element. However, it wasn’t enough that I was just sitting at the table, everyone looked to me to record the official count and fill out the official paperwork at the end. Again, I was so nervous and taken aback by their expectations of me. Accepting, however reluctantly, the task at hand, it dawned on me. In that moment, I was serving as an important cog in the perpetuation of not only the democratic process in El Salvador, but I was supporting an organization that held the hope for a better future for people who have been suffering for generations.

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The newly elected CCR Executive Board

In all of my worry about whether or not I was qualified to do what was asked of me on Saturday, I had been missing the bigger picture. No specific qualifications or talents are required to stand up for what is right. I don’t have to be a politician to support the work of the CCR in promoting a culture of advancement and peace. All I need to be is me, a volunteer from the United States, who is not afraid to be thrown out of her comfort zone, with a heart for working with others.

Every day this job, this country, and the people provide me with another lesson and encourage me to reach my full potential. The shared vision between SHARE and our counterparts for a peaceful and just El Salvador inspires me to do my job as Communications Coordinator and to put on whatever other cap the people need me to. (ie Elections Commission Team Member!) I am so humbled to be part of an organization and surrounded by individuals who are relentlessly dedicated to securing a better future.


UCRES Updates: Rural Women’s Empowerment Project

October 25, 2014

The following is the semester report for the Rural Women’s Empowerment Project in UCRES.

Description
The project continues the sustainable processes developed by UCRES for 5+ years of improving the quality of life for women through the creation and strengthening of women’s community and municipal organizations.

UCRES 2014 RWE Semester Report Summary

Santos with her garden in Huisisilapa, La Libertad.

Project duration: March 2013 – December 2014

This semester included:
The creation of Municipal Women’s Associations– officially-recognized women’s groups where women hold leadership roles under their municipal council, and have the space to learn about certain themes, advocate for their rights, etc.
Support for women to develop skills through training programs and workshops on planting and managing family vegetable gardens, increasing food security and food sovereignty in the region.
Encouragement of women to strengthen their participation and exercise their rights through the elaboration of the municipal gender policy in Tacachico and the development of a training process in political economy for 30 women. Read More »


Gang Prevention through Youth Empowerment

October 23, 2014

Disclaimer: SHARE is dedicated to always keeping our staff and delegates safe. We rely on our Salvadoran counterparts, who have the best understanding of their reality, to keep us up-to-date with the level of security in their region. We only take delegates to areas where we know they will be kept out of harms way.

Two and a half years ago, in March of 2012, El Salvador’s two largest gangs, Mara Salvatrucha (MS 13) and Barrio 18 (18th Street Gang), signed a truce to end most of the violence and extortion between the gangs.  The truce proved to be successful in its first year. The homicide rate dropped from 14  to 6 a day. However, in the second year and a half of that truce, we have seen it deteriorate. From incredibly high rates of forced displacement (130,000 fled their homes in 2013) due to gang threats, to a day in May of this year known as “Black Friday” where in total 81 people were killed, less hope now exists that the truce will continue to hold up.  In early September of this year, there were rumors of a second truce in the works. Yet, nothing official has surfaced.

New president Salvador Sanchez Ceren and his administration have promised to make security a priority during this first year in office. Within the last week, a communal policing program launched to start building trust and ensuring safety on a neighborhood level. This initiative enlists small groups of police officers who work with community councils to watch over specific neighborhoods. However, this new programing doesn’t quite address the root cause of the gang phenomena.

The gangs thrive on the lack of resources for the majority of Salvadoran youth to study, and very few employment opportunities for the same demographic. The gangs provide a source of income for many young men coming from poor families. Poverty is one of the leading causes forcing youth to join the gangs. This same poverty leaves homes fatherless (either having migrated to the city or away from El Salvador altogether to make ends meet  for the family). This broken family unit has been proven a common theme in many of the lives of the youth that join the gangs. The gangs provide a familial-like structure, a place of belonging for young teenagers who feel they can’t find that from a more traditional source.

Read More »


March for Food Sovereignty: The right to choose food free of chemicals

October 20, 2014

On October 16, thousands gathered in the streets of San Salvador to recognize World Food Day and Rural Women’s Day. From Ahuachapan to Morazan, social organizations from all over the country came to show their support for the passing of the Food Sovereignty Act that is currently in the legislature. This law would grant Salvadoran’s the right to choose from where their seeds and food products come. It also would prevent the privatization of El Salvador’s water sources. The vast majority of Salvadorans recognize that privatization and allowing international companies to buy up all of the country’s resources means higher prices on food and water that are filled with chemicals.  This would be devastating for a population that, due to a drought at the beginning of the rainy season, is already struggling to pay the rising price for a pound of beans. (Normally, beans are around 70 cents a pound. Today, in the market they go for $1.40 a pound–the same price as a pound of chicken.)

Recognizing the degree of the threat that privatization imposes, shouts rising over the masses appealed to the legislature, “What are you waiting for Representatives? The people are tired!” “We want our lives without poison in our food!” “Water and Food are not merchandise!”

At the end, marchers presented their representatives with a list including thousands of signatures domestic and international demanding that the Food Sovereignty Act be passed. We are still waiting for governmental action to be taken on this issue. It is clear what the people want. Food Sovereignty NOW!

Check out this video from the march!


CIETTA Organic Farming in Photos

October 18, 2014

CIETTA is one of SHARE’s partners working to bring organic farming education and practices to El Salvador. The Ministry of Agriculture recently awarded CIETTA with the cerification needed to officially mark its products as organic! SHARE staff  visited the CIETTA complex in La Paz a few weeks ago. Enjoy the pictures from our trip!

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CIETTA’s compound consists of offices, conference spaces, a plant nursery, land for farming and producing fertilizers, and even a sugar cane mill!

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Don Salvador explains that this machine is the first step in the sugar cane milling process.

Read More »


MPR-12: Moving Towards a Better Future

October 16, 2014

On October 12, the MPR-12 gathered to celebrate their 12th anniversary and continue the fight for social justice in El Salvador and all of Latin America. The day was also marked by the commemoration of 522 years of resistance towards Spanish, English, and now US imperialism. Moving forward, the Salvadoran people  demand potable water and food sovereignty while also saying no to mining. In order for the fight to continue, the participation of youth is key. Amongst the activists present were many young Salvadorans, eager to take part in the  demand for human rights in their country.

Many participants shared about the importance of the youth involvement in the MPR-12. One MPR-12 member said, “Youth are the answer to the struggle. To fight the repression we must work to feed their brains and educate them.” Through political schools, people from rural communities come to be informed about the current political situation in the country. They gain the tools to think critically and organize, so the communities can then work towards the realization of their rights.

 

Noel, a CRIPDES organizer and former youth scholarship student, shared, “The youth’s involvement is important because it empowers them. Then they can come together, and it is with unity that we can demand our rights. This is how we do it. This is how their parents did it.”

The youth demand more just and dignified work!

Many youth talked about the importance of continuing the fight their parents fought for social justice and human rights. In order to see change in the future, the youth must be  active and willing to take a stand now. If the fight is going to continue, the youth must be involved.

 


SHARE (your) Inspiration: Sarah Hall

October 13, 2014

The first of a staff series where we SHARE (our) inspirations.


Youth Leadership Development and Academic Formation in San Vicente

October 11, 2014

The following is the semester report for the Youth Leadership Development and Academic Formation Program in San Vicente.

CRSV 2014 Youth Semester Report Summary pic 1

CRSV scholarship students explain the types of leaders they discussed in small groups. April 2014

Description
With this project, CRIPDES San Vicente (CRSV) aims to strengthen students’ academic skills, as well as enhance youth leadership abilities and community organization. Supporting such skills will contribute to the reduction of the high
indices of violence in Tecoluca. Youth will directly participate in the development of different activities to continue the process of violence reduction in the region.

Project duration: January-December 2014

This semester included:
6 informative regional assemblies to present scholarship funds and workshops on certain themesFormation workshops in peace education, including themes such as violence, drug addiction, and conflict resolution are scheduled for the second semester. Read More »


Salvadoran Families Struggle to Commemorate Their Disappeared

October 9, 2014

This article by Jeff Ritterman, MD was originally published in the Huffington Post on October 8th, 2014. Bethany Loberg is second author of this article. Bethany was the Human Rights Advocacy Co-ordinator for SHARE-El Salvador.

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All photos courtesy of Claire Moll, SHARE-El Salvador, Communications Coordinator. All photos are from a demonstration by the Relatives of the Disappeared, San Salvador, August, 2014. 

1980 was a tragic year for Sofia Hernandez and her family. Government security forces and right wing death squads were terrorizing the rural population of El Salvador. By March, Sofia’s family had fled their home in the countryside in hopes of finding safety. Two months later, Sofia’s brother was disappeared. By the summer’s end she was a widow. Her husband of 15 years, Juan, was murdered. Sofia’s daughter Norma, another brother, a nephew, and a cousin had also joined the swelling numbers of the disappeared.

Sofia Hernandez, like so many other relatives of the disappeared, searched for loved ones in military garrisons, prisons, hospitals, morgues, and even in garbage dumps, where bodies appeared daily. Most often they searched in vain. Decades later, many are still left with unanswered questions. Where is my son, my daughter, my mother, my father, my brother, my sister? Donde estan? Donde?

Read More »


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