The SHARE Blog

Delegate Reflection: The Spirits of the Jesuits Continue On

November 15, 2014

Pam Wargin traveled with the delegation from St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Wisconsin this past July. She graciously shares this reflection with us all. 

My name is Pam Wargin, and I am honored to have had the opportunity to have traveled to El Salvador as a part of our parish’s delegation this summer.

The St. Elizabeth Ann Seton delegation at the UCA.

When I first began the journey of preparing for this trip, I had very little knowledge of the history or of the current reality in El Salvador. I did not really understand that the country suffered a terrifying civil war between 1980 and 1992. I didn’t know that a large part of the population, including our brothers and sisters in Rutilio Grande, lived in refugee camps outside of El Salvador for twelve years during the war.

I wasn’t sure what God had to teach me on this trip. What I felt in El Salvador was heart wrenching and heart warming, horrifying and hopeful all mixed together in almost each and every individual experience.

Today, I’d like to share with you our visit to the University of Central America. The UCA- as it is called there- is a Jesuit university. The campus is much like Milwaukee’s Marquette, which is also Jesuit. It has a lovely chapel, students conversing on benches and calming walkways with beautiful trees and flowers. As a Marquette grad myself, I felt a certain connection with the staff and students around me as we walked through the grounds.

We were led to the University’s Romero Center, which houses the “Museum of the Martyrs”. This building is the site at which, on November 16th lived and worked at the UCA, their housekeeper, Elba, and her daughter Celina were murdered.

The Jesuits were a target because they had the courage to speak out against the evils that plagued the Salvadoran people including crushing poverty and abhorrent human rights violations. Their vision of a more human solution to the war made them a threat. To publicly take this stand came with a steep price.

As our young tour guide shared the details of these murders with us in Spanish, I could see and feel, before the translation, that his words were filled with anguish and pain. We saw their clothing shot through with bullets hanging in the museum. We stood at the lawn where these killings happened. We saw and heard much more, and I was affected deeply.

The horror of what one human being can do to another, came crashing in on me with a tidal force and made it hard to breathe. My heart sank to a depth that it hadn’t seen since my visit to Dachau Concentration camp in Germany.

One thing I learned about the Salvadoran people while I was there is that they grieve their losses and look for justice; but they also have a beautiful spirit of hope for the future.

Obdilio Ramos, husband of Elba and father of Celina, planted a beautiful rose garden on the lawn, which, as we saw, is still blooming beautifully. He is quoted as saying that he planted the garden, “so that from where their bodies lay, new life would come.”

The Rose Garden commemorating the martyrs.

I am grateful to these martyrs, for their death brought light to their world. Much needed light to expose the inhumanity of what was happening there to the rest of the world.

They showed me that Christ’s presence here on earth continues through people who bring His Love to life in the trenches of this world’s most desperate circumstances.

They showed me that the freedom to have and live my faith here in my own country is a precious gift not to be taken for granted.

I was inspired by many people that I met in El Salvador who carry on in the Spirit of the Jesuits by continuing to work for justice and peace.

Mostly, I am grateful for these martyrs, whose selfless commitment to the people of El Salvador, demonstrated to me that I must now somehow find a way to bring God’s love and healing to those who suffer from painful and dehumanizing injustices. This is what God had to teach me, and now this is my challenge…

Thank you.


Lessons Learned: Delegate Reflections

November 13, 2014

During the week of October 18th, 2014, eleven parishioners from Visitation Catholic Church in Kansas City continued their 26 year journey of accompaniment with Maria Madre de los Pobres Parish with a visit to El Salvador. After tending to medical clinics in the morning, the group visited the sacred sites and met with community members. Through it all they were touched, spurring them on to recommit to strengthening their relationship of solidarity. The following are quotes from various delegation participants.

“This is my 10th trip to [Maria Madre de los Pobres Parish]…my awareness of the world’s problems is always increased.”

“[Visiting the parish,] I see the importance of family and support for their family members. They look out for each other much more than Americans. I have been humbled by the way they live and how hard they must work to survive.”

“It is hard to accept that we live as we do back home when people here have so little.”

“I must say that I am often disappointed to see evidence of the US everywhere—Burger King, Wendy’s, Walmart. I wish our presence was evident in better ways.”

“We have common hope and common despair—we share the same place in the world. We need each other.”

If you are interested in how to start a sistering relationship between your church/community/school and the Salvadoran people, visit our website or contact our Grassroots Coordinator, Sarah Hall, at solidarity@share-elsalvador.org today!


Living with the People: VMM and SHARE

November 11, 2014

Claire and Julie presenting about SHARE to a VMM delegation in Nicaragua this November.

“VMM has provided the SHARE Foundation and its partner communities with invaluable human resources needed to advance our work for long-term, sustainable solutions to poverty and underdevelopment in El Salvador. The missioners VMM has brought to SHARE have been outstanding people both professionally as well as personally. Two, in fact, have moved on to direct our programs States-side and lead SHARE as an organization. Not only have these VMs left their imprint on SHARE’s work for justice in El Salvador; they have also touched the lives of hundreds of people in the United States and in El Salvador through their warmth, commitment, spirituality, and strength of character. Thank you VMM!”

In 1969, Edwina Gateley founded Volunteer Missionary Movement (VMM) in response to a need for lay people to become more deeply involved in the mission life of the Church. VMM believes in the equality of all peoples, feels an obligation to the worldwide Church community, and is committed to sustainable change through social justice efforts. VMM seeks to accompany the people they serve in faith and compassion, while providing their volunteer missionaries an invaluable opportunity for spiritual and personal development.

Currently, Claire, SHARE’s Communications Coordinator, and Julie, SHARE’s Delegations (Grassroots Sistering Accompaniment) Coordinator, are supported through VMM. Being a Volunteer Missioner (VM), helps create a space for community and support as they experience life in El Salvador. Along with weekly check-ins, they meet together monthly to reflect on how to live out VMM’s vision of being “catalysts for peace, social justice and human empowerment of the poor and marginalized as we work together in a divided world to inspire ‘the transformation of all things in Christ’.” From poetry, to journaling, to discussions, VMs come together during their experience to enrich their time living in solidarity with those whom they serve.

Claire and Julie

Claire and Julie

 

Edwina Gateley, founder of VMM, writes in “Spirit and Lifestyle,”

“We live with the people.  We work with the people. We rejoice with the people. We become part of the people. Our sharing becomes  a journey we walk together  towards liberation, community, and a reaching out together for  growth and fulfillment.

But we do not impose ourselves or our way of doing things. We are at the service of those to whom we go.”

So may you too, serve those around you and walk towards liberation wherever you find yourself.

 

To find out more about VMM and how to support our VMs, visit their website: http://vmmusa.org/get-involved/treasure/missioner-and-project-support/


Ayotzinapa Update

November 10, 2014

Last week we wrote about the disappearances of the 43 Mexican students. We would now like to extend our condolences to their families and loved ones. Over the weekend, authorities found the students’ bodies massacred and burned among sticks and rubbish. Currently, 72 people associated with a “drug gang” have been taken into custody to be charged with the students’ murders.

Yesterday many Mexican citizens, in an out pour of rage at the government’s handling of this brutal bloodshed of innocent youth, stormed the Presidential Palace in Mexico City demanding justice and a change in response to the cartel violence that has become evermore common.  People are not convinced that the government was not involved in the orchestration of the student massacre.

Often times, we consider massacres at the hands of state governments to be archaic phenomena that our modern day society has overcome. However, lamentably, the case of the Mexican students suggests otherwise. Accompanying a people who is all too familiar with the suffering inflicted by unjust killings, we at SHARE offer a fraternal hug of solidarity to the Mexican people.  We are all Ayotzinapa.

 


Rural Women’s Empowerment in San Vicente

November 8, 2014

The following is the semster for the Rural Women’s Empowerment Project in San Vicente.

CRSV 2014 RWE Report Summary pic 1

Women in the community of El Salto learn to sew, in coordination with Ciudad Mujer.

Project Description
This project aims to strengthen women’s organization, formation, and awareness in regards to women’s rights.

Project duration: January–December 2014

This semester included:
Raising women’s awareness of their rights, and strengthening their abilities to exercise those rights through gatherings attended by 44 women.
Improving nutrition for 30 women and their families through a program that will take place the second half of this year.
Strengthening women’s leadership and advocacy skills, participating in local struggles and local historical commemorations. Women now participate more actively in their women’s committees and in local events. Attendance at community assemblies varied from 25-70 women participants.
Following up on the three women’s savings and loans groups that formed in 2013. CRIPDES led a motivational activity to strengthen the savings culture among the three groups. Read More »


SHARE (Your) Inspiration: Katherine Wilson

November 6, 2014

Katherine Wilson is SHARE’s Development Coordinator in the US Office. She is getting excited for her trip next week to El Salvador! Read more to learn where Katherine finds her inspiration to do the work she does with SHARE!

Where do you find inspiration for your work?

That’s easy! In the people and their stories of resiliency and profile head shotovercoming hardship.

What’s your favorite part about your job?

As SHARE’s development coordinator, much of my work takes place “behind the scenes”. Even though I do not regularly interact with our communities and projects in El Salvador, I feel very closely connected to them. I love being able to promote their amazing accomplishments to foundations, religious orders, and individuals. One of my favorite parts of my job is being able to secure funding for our projects and operations. But that much is obvious to development work. Even more than that I love being able to use my creative energy to develop new plans, methods, and strategies. It’s also pretty cool that although I am based in the US, I occasionally get to visit our office and projects in El Salvador. My first visit is next week, and I could not be more excited!

Where do you see hope in El Salvador?

I see hope particularly in the women and youth of El Salvador. Our scholarship students in particular have immense promise. These youth have so much energy and drive, they are bound to transform their communities and country. The women of El Salvador have a monumental capacity to organize and uplift themselves and those around them even with scarce resources. Something else that gives me hope for El Salvador is being able to experience second-hand the hope of others. In this position I very frequently receive hand-written notes from donors and other supporters proclaiming their confidence in El Salvador’s future. Having so many individuals independently say nearly the same thing gives me the same hope.


Ayotzinapa: ¡Vivos se los Llevaron, Vivos los Queremos!

November 4, 2014

As investigations into the disappearance of 43 students continue to surface more questions than answers, students from the IPN (National Polytechnic Institute) in Mexico City lift a call for a “National Strike to Bring the State its Knees”. The disappearance of students from the Escuela Normal de Ayotzinapa, a teacher’s training college, continues to enrage the world; after having been disappeared for over a month, the facts around this disappearance have unraveled from the discovery of multiple mass graves to questions about the real culprits of such an attack.mexico

On the evening of September 26, 2014, students from Ayotzinapa traveled by bus towards Iguala to hold a small protest against the discriminatory government hiring and funding policies in education which deliberately excludes rural students. On that same night, Jose Luis Abarca, the mayor of Iguala and his wife, held an annual conference and it is suspected that upon learning of the students approaching, the mayor ordered local police to intercept their path. The encounter quickly escalated to violent proportions which resulted in tremendous student casualties; 6 murders, 25 wounded and the disappearance of 43 students. Upon detaining the 43 students, Iguala police handed them over to Guerreros Unidos or Warriors United, a criminal organization; from this point the whereabouts of the students has become an agonizing mystery. An immediate investigation is in full effect and although numerous arrests of members of Guerreros Unidos have been made, there is still no information as to whether the students are alive.

#Ayotzinapa  Read More »


UCRES Updates: Youth Leadership Development and Academic Formation

November 1, 2014

The following is the semester report for the Youth Leadership Development and Academic Formation in UCRES.

UCRES 2014 Youth Leadership Semester Report Summary

UCRES youth start off a monthly assembly with icebreaker games.

Project Description
Strengthen youth participation in community organizing, through political formation and support for high school scholarships, in order to generate committed community leadership with new skills in advocacy.

Project duration: January – December 2014

This semester included:
Monthly assemblies to discuss current events, such as mining issues, national reality, and other themes, and distribute monthly scholarship funds to each student
Follow-up with community councils to check on students’ progress in their community work plans Read More »


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.


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