The SHARE Blog

Community Partner Spotlight: Maria Madre de Los Pobres

September 1, 2014

“Es necesario acompañar al pueblo que lucha por su liberación.”-Monseñor Romero

“It is necessary to accompany the people that fight for their liberation.”-Monsignor Romero

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Maria Madre’s Sister Parish, Visitation, dances with the community in front of the school building in 2013. We are currently excitedly preparing for their visit in October of this year.

This quote by Monseñor Romero is painted on a wall at the entrance to Maria Madre de Los Pobres Parish in La Chacra, San Salvador.  This parish lives this call. The area of La Chacra is among the poorest in San Salvador. The inhabitants are mainly displaced refugees from the era of the armed conflict of the 1980s. There is so much pain in the people of La Chacra stemming from collective and individual experiences during that time period. Pain tends to cause distrust, which in turn causes divisions and broken communities.  Today, this pain combined with high poverty rates and overpopulation, the gang problem that the entire country faces is specifically manifesting itself in La Chacra.

However, this local reality doesn’t deter the men and women of Maria Madre from caring for and accompanying the residents of La Chacra in their struggle for a life free of violence. Maria Madre runs a school that provides a place for single mothers to drop off their kids as they leave their homes early to go out and sell their wares. Mothers know that the school is a safe-haven and that the teachers can be trusted. There is also a health clinic within the parish grounds that is accessible to anyone and everyone who may need attention.  No one–tattooed (a common sign of gang membership) or not–is turned away.  Providing a place at the table for all creates a welcoming community where relationships are formed. This church answers Monseñor Romero’s call to accompany.  The Parish was created out of a need to walk with those displaced by the armed conflict, and María Madre continues standing with the people of La Chacra despite the local context of gang activity and violence. . In the words of Wendy Torres (a member of the Parish Clinic staff),  “Maria Madre de Los Pobres Parish demonstrates that the church is not a building but rather the work of building community.” Through their social programs María Madre creates  a sense of collectiveness with the vision of a neighborhood where  the people can be liberated from the reality of violence.

 


What Color is El Salvador: A Delegate’s Reflection

August 30, 2014

This piece is adapted from a reflection by Good Shepherd (KS) delegates Rick Galbraith and his daughter Paige Galbraith.  Rick and Paige visited El Salvador and their sistering community in June of this year, and shared their reflection in the Good Shepherd newsletter this past month.  Learn more about sistering relationships through SHARE

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Good Shepard with the community of El Buen Pastor

We live in a world of color; red, yellow, blue and green.  The colors blend and form hues.  As people, we assign feelings and emotions to the spectrum.  Black, the absence of color and white, the blending of all color are considered polar opposites and can be assigned labels that evoke certain sentiments.  These two ‘colors’ allow for the most absolute contrast our minds can grasp.  To best see black, put it onto a white background and so forth.  But, what is gray?

Truth and lies are black and white.  Propaganda, rumor, exaggeration, gossip, and innuendo tend to create gray.  Either of two groups taking sides in a social controversy know they are right and the other is wrong.  To an observer where truth is difficult to discern, the controversy is usually gray.  To me, the plight of the people of El Salvador is gray.

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From Housewives to Business Women

August 27, 2014

“Somos-pues-eramos amas de casa pero ya somos empresarias.”
(“We are-no-we were housewives but now we are business women.”) -Celina

Looking for a bit of a midweek-pick-me-up dose of inspiration? Look no further than to the community of El Cristal in San Vicente. The women of this community have not only participated in various trainings through Ciudad Mujer,DSC_0641 taken on leadership roles in El Cristal, and worked on community development projects but also have come together to form an official, legal union through which they can sell their goods.

Some of their current and past projects include:

  • Attending workshops where they learn to make natural shampoos and soaps that they can then sell and profit from.
  • Petitioning the national government to receive the deeds to the land that they live on, thus giving them full ownership.
  • Even more, there are women from this group that are on the community board that brought potable water, electricity, latrines, and other infrastructure to El Cristal.

The women of this community are empowered and making their home better for all! These women are ready to bring regular economic and social development to their community. However, they lack the final funds for a physical space to actually put all of their business skills into practice. Now, some spirits may be dampened by this setback. However, that is just not the case with the women of El Cristal.  When talking about their need, Maria de los Angeles, one of the women at last Tuesday’s meeting, encouraged everyone that, “hay que seguir adelante!” (We have to keep moving forward!)  Her spirit of enthusiasm was contagious. All the other women were able to rally around that sense of purpose and remember that “una comunidad organizada tiene fuerza” (“an organized community has strength”).

 

Want to stand alongside these women in their community and economic development initiatives? To find out more about how you can accompany the women of El Cristal, please contact our Grassroots Coordinator, Sarah Hall, at solidarity@share-elsalvador.org today!

 


Children at the Border Update

August 26, 2014

Since the last time we posted on this topic, the crisis of Central American children at the border has been revolving around various media outlets. nina at the borderMore recently, attention to the issue has been dwindling and we need to keep fueling conversations and actions.

Within the past week, many of our supporters have received our letter encouraging action and support on this issue. Thank you to those who have signed the resolution, called representatives, and made donations to SHARE so far. We hope you will continue to stand with us.

A brief summary and update of the situation:

Central American children have been coming to the US for years.

Within the past year we have seen these numbers rise drastically.

Since October 2013, 63,000 Central American children have been stopped at the border.

These children are coming to the US because of escalating violence and crippling poverty, the root of which can be traced back to United States and Central American policies.

According to the New York Times, between January and August of this year, “…more than 30,000 unaccompanied minors have been placed with sponsors, usually parents or relatives.” Large numbers of these children are now in California, Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, and New York (among other places).

As such, the United States and its citizens have a moral obligation to support these children in their time of need.

Historically the United States has embraced immigrants in large numbers from Cuba, Ireland, Italy, and so on.

Militarization of the border and deportations not going to change the situations that make them leave.

“Due process” has been expedited and the children do not have time to get a lawyer or to prepare the case.

Five Honduran children who were deported have already been killed. We cannot deport these children to their potential deaths.

 

Join us in insisting refugee status for all of the children

  • Educate your community about the plight of these children.
  • Call upon our elected officials to stop the deportations, support family reunification and invest in community development in Central America, not in militarizing the border. White House: 202-456-1111 Congressional representatives: 202-224-3121
  • Promote the enclosed resolution with your local congregation, neighborhood organization, City Council, labor union.
  • Contribute to the SHARE Foundation so that we can continue our important work to create a just society in El Salvador that grants families the ability to choose to remain in their homeland with a sense of wellbeing and optimism.

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How to Start a Savings and Loans Group

August 19, 2014

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Meeting with the women of Los Cortezes

We at SHARE are always acquiring skills from our Salvadoran partners. This past week SHARE staff learned about a great initiative promoted by CRIPDES Sur in the communities of San Rafael Arriba and Los Cortezes in La Libertad. In both regions, the women have come together to form savings and loans groups. What does that mean? Each woman brings a set amount (anywhere from a quarter to a dollar) to each biweekly meeting. This money then can be loaned out to any member of the group who presents a proper application.  At the end of each six month cycle, each woman is allotted an equal portion of the savings to pay for whatever necessity they may have (ie child’s shoes).

Now it’s time for you to start your own savings and loans groups! Here are a few pointers and tips from the women on how to create and sustain it.

1. Set some ground rules so that everyone in the group understands the depth of their commitment.

  1. Decide how much each person will contribute each month.
  2. Establish penalties for those who arrive late or do not attend unexcused. In Los Cortezes, a late arrival or absence costs 25 cents. However, not to worry, church attendance, illness, work, or study are acceptable excuses as long as you send your money for the week with someone else.
  3. Everyone must contribute their portion at the meeting or as close to that date as possible. There is some flexibility because, let’s face it, we are all human and things come up.

2. Elect your officers.

  1. Presidenta- She conducts meetings.
  2. Secretary- She will take attendance and act as scribe during the meeting. She also is in charge of keeping a detailed record of who contributed or borrowed what, when, and why.
  3. Treasurer- She is in charge of keeping the box where the money is kept and bringing the box to meetings. The funds are securely placed each meeting in a locked box.
  4. Keeper of the Key**-She is in charge of guarding the key that opens the money box.

 **An important detail regarding the positions of Treasurer and Key Keeper:  These two women must not be family nor should they live in close proximity. (Just to keep things as honest as possible.)

3. Meet every 15 days.

  1. This ensures a sense of regularity and community.
  2. In these meetings, before any money is added, count what is in the box to make sure it matches up with last meeting’s count.
  3. Count what has been collected during the current meeting and record it.
  4. Give time for loan requests. Each request must include what the money is for, how much is requested, and when it can be expect to be paid back.
  5. Organize a raffle to get extra funds saved up. An idea might be to sell numbered tickets for an small donated prize. Each ticket could cost 25 cents. Hold the drawing for the prize at the meeting to see who wins.
  6.  Make sure your meetings don’t only include business items! Check in with each other to see how things are going!

With these three easy steps in mind, your community too can start your own savings and loans groups! Enjoy!

 


Meet our new Communications Coordinator

August 17, 2014

Hola a tod@s!

My name is Claire (Clara) Moll, and I am originally from Shelbyville, Illinois. As a recent graduate from Saint Louis University, I am so very excited to join the SHARE El Salvador team. I am the Communications Coordinator here in 548391_10201560254041291_2129161155_nSan Salvador! From visiting El Salvador in 2012 with a delegation to studying here for four months in 2013, then returning to conduct research in January of 2014, El Salvador has become my second home and Salvadorans my second family.  (I like to joke that there are more than just amoebas in the water here!) This feeling of place has drawn me back this time to walk in mutual accompaniment and seek justice with the people that I love. SHARE’s mission and work inspire me to not just live a life for the Salvadoran people but, more importantly, to live a life with them. I am very much looking forward to sharing life with and learning from all of the Salvadorans involved in SHARE projects.  There is nothing quite like being in solidarity with a people with as strong of wills as the Salvadorans. I am looking forward to standing with el pueblo salvadoreño in their mission to “seguir adelante!”

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Claire and Julie visiting Rosibel’s organic garden in Los Cortezes, La Libertad

So far, in my first two weeks here, I have really enjoyed meeting so many new people as well as reconnecting with friends.  Living in a bustling city is exciting and stimulating, but as a small town girl at heart, I took full advantage of the past week of vacation celebrating the patron saint of El Salvador by going out to Chalatenango to slow things down a bit! My Salvadoran family, as I like to refer to them, lives out in a community right on the border of Honduras.  As their adopted sister, I was in charge of helping Mamita (the grandmother) make tortillas.  Mine are still pretty square-like, but I’m sure with more practice they will start to become more circular!

I feel so completely blessed to have this opportunity to spend these next two years working, living, and making tortillas alongside so many wonderfully inspirational people. I am excited to live out all that is ahead of me!

La paz,

Clara

 


Happy Birthday Monseñor Romero

August 15, 2014

Today, August 15 would have been Monseñor Oscar Arnulfo Romero’s 97th birthday. In celebration of his life, Claire Moll, SHARE’s Communication Coordinator reflects on what Monseñor Romero means to her.

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Photo taken during the 2013 march in remembrance of Monseñor Romero

As a Protestant Christian, I have grown up my whole life listening to the biblical accounts of Jesus’ miracles and acts of solidarity.  However, it wasn’t until I learned about Monseñor Oscar Arnulfo Romero, Archbishop of El Salvador from 1977-1980 that I really understood the stories. Monseñor Romero truly was a man for and with the Salvadoran people.  Through his example and his homilies calling for a peaceful revolution, I have been able to better understand the life and teachings of Jesus Christ and how those of us alive today can be more Christ-like as well.  I believe that Romero truly understood what it meant to live a life as Jesus lived and make that choice for the preferential option for the poor.

For me, I was always confused by the story of Jesus talking with the Samaritan woman at the well.  What was the big deal? I just didn’t really grasp what being Samaritan in the Biblical world meant.  However, I do have a better understanding of the historical context of Monseñor Romero because it was only 30 years ago rather than 2000.  I know how counter-cultural it was for an Archbishop in El Salvador to stand on the side of the poor during the late 70s.  This had never happened before.  Romero got down from the pulpit that had separated priests from the laity for generations. He walked with the people and knew them by name.  He understood that he himself was one of them.  This is what Jesus did when he talked to that Samaritan woman and washed the feet of his disciples at the Last Supper.

We are all called to humble ourselves and accompany those who have been forgotten by past generations just like Monseñor Romero. Romero’s actions remind us that we are to use our privilege given to us by the unjust social structures of the world to promote equal rights for all within that same system. Romero was a voice for the voiceless.  He used that to appeal to the military via homilies broadcast on the radio all over the country.  Even though he knew that this would lead to his own murder, Romero was propelled by his strong understanding of what was right. He had to speak out for those whose yells had time and time again fallen on deaf ears. We are all called to be the voice for the voiceless. Whether you are in El Salvador, Syria, Ukraine,  Palestine, Venezuela, Ferguson, Missouri, or anywhere else in the world, it is time to stand with those whose voices are silenced. In the words of Monseñor Romero, “Let us truly live the beauty and responsibility of being a prophetic people.”


Sanchez Ceren Commits to Reparations for Human Rights Violations

August 14, 2014

SHARE supports the Pro-Historical Memory Commission with a project to strengthen advocacy and take six cases of forced disappearance and one case of massacre to justice. Click here for current advocacy action opportunities in support of Pro-Memoria.

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Marina Ortiz with President Sanchez Ceren and First Lady Doña Margarita Villalta de Sanchez. (Courtesy Pro-Memoria)

True to his words in his inaugural address, President Sanchez Ceren has taken initial steps to establish coordination with the relatives of the disappeared and with the Pro-Historical Memory Commission to solidify a policy of reparations.

On Sunday, July 6th, Sanchez Ceren hosted representatives of each of the member organizations of the Pro-Historical Memory Commission and twenty-five relatives of the disappeared for a breakfast at the presidential residence.  The breakfast marks a symbolic commitment to work with victims and human rights organizations to address the still deep wounds left by egregious human rights violations during the war. Marina Ortiz, who participated as the representative of PROBUSQUEDA to the Pro-Historical Memory Commission commented “It was an important space for the victims, because it visibilizes them and the president showed a commitment to them.”

The following day, Monday July 7th, the president held a press conference announcing the creation of the Board of Directors of the Program of Reparations for Victims of the Armed Conflict, the committee created to oversee implementation of Executive Decree 204, a decree establishing a government program of reparations. The government issued the decree with such little fanfare last fall that even human rights organizations did not know it had been approved for a month. The decree and this committee are the fruit of coordination between the Pro-Historical Memory Commission (PRO-MEMORIA) and the Funes administration.  However, the press conference Sanchez Ceren held marks the first time this reparations program has been brought to the attention of the Salvadoran public.

Carlos Marvel presents a special gift of recognition to the President and First Lady.

Carlos Marvel presents a special gift of recognition to the President and First Lady.

Madre Guadalupe Mejia, Coordinator of the Pro-Historical Memory Commission and President of CODEFAM sends this message to the international community: it is important to remain alert, to watch and support this process, to ensure that it becomes a reality. We ask that you support us now just as people supported us during the war, that there be support for the process of reparation and healing.

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Take Action: Unaccompanied Minors

July 28, 2014

The recent influx of unaccompanied child immigrants attempting to cross the US/Mexican border this year has taken the country by storm, sparking partisan and non-partisan debates alike about how to best address the issue. Why the sudden interest? In an average year there are approximately 20,000 unaccompanied children who try to enter the country illegally through Mexico. As of June 14th 2014 however, nearly 60,000 children, mostly from Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador have arrived at the border. It is projected that 90,000 will have attempted by the end of the year.

Source: http://1.usa.gov/1j72KCR

Source: http://1.usa.gov/1j72KCR

While the numbers have certainly changed drastically this year, so have demographics. According to a graph created by WOLA, in 2010, 15,701 unaccompanied minors were detained at the US/Mexican border; within those numbers, 11,768 of those were from Mexico, with children from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador making up the remaining 4,000 combined. In 2014 as of May 14th, 11,577 unaccompanied children came from Mexico, 13,282 from Honduras, 11,479 from Guatemala and 9,850 from El Salvador. With these statistics, it has become increasingly obvious that this is no coincidence. Many have been asking if the US could possibly be at fault, the right-wing party citing President Obama as being too soft on immigrants, despite his record-high number of deportations while in office. While many claims seem to lack hard evidence, the US’s foreign policy dating back to the Cold War era surprisingly may play a very large role.

SHARE and other solidarity organizations ask YOU to TAKE ACTION regarding this important issue. Call the White House (202-456-1111) and your Congressional representatives (202-224-3121), demanding that they reject any changes to the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act and ensure the funding of adequate services and legal representation for every child, rather than increased border enforcement. Read More »


CRIPDES: 30 years and counting!

July 23, 2014

SHARE El Salvador office director and one of CRIPDES’ founders, Isabel Hernandez reflects on these past 30 years of struggle and community organization. Long live CRIPDES! 

Isabel was recognized at the CRIPDES General Assembly in May as one of the organization's historic assembly members. // Isabel fue reconocida en la Asamblea General de CRIPDES en Mayo 2014 como una de las asambleistas históricas de la organización.

Isabel was recognized at the CRIPDES General Assembly in May as one of the organization’s historic assembly members. // Isabel fue reconocida en la Asamblea General de CRIPDES en Mayo 2014 como una de las asambleistas históricas de la organización.

On July 14th, CRIPDES, the Association of Communities for the Development of El Salvador, celebrated the 30th anniversary of its founding in 1984, an opportune moment to remember what communities lived through during those years of repression, evacuations, assassinations of civil society, bombings, military operations and captures that left more than 75,000 people assassinated and thousands refugees.  It’s important to highlight the courage and strength with which the population confronted the situation.  The same families who had been displaced from their homes met in the El Rosario church in San Salvador and decided to organize to defend their rights and begin a hard and long struggle to return.

As a member of the team that started this difficult mission, I can’t help but express what this anniversary means to me on a personal level, to have been part of this history.  The years of work and struggle in CRIPDES have been the most intense years of my life. We shared many triumphs, but we also lived through very hard and sad days, feeling powerless in the face of a regime that treated us mercilessly.

Read More »


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