David and Nancy Slinde Speaking at their "Sending Service"

Saturday, April 30, 2011


Volunteer Missioners based in San Salvador came to Usulután to visit the work of our Project Partner Oikos Solidaridad. Food security is a priority of Oikos and a concern for most of the country. The visit began with lunch at our home; Benjamin Alas described the work of Oikos and the food security project in Chambala.

Chambala is in the volcanic mountain range. After a 45 minute drive up the side of the mountain we parked at the home of Don Miguel. We walked his yard viewing the tilapia farm and observed other yards with drying coffee cherries, squash stored in beds, and piles of onions. Don Miguel explained that the residents have no money so they established a bartering system in the community for the exchange of products.

We continued to travel by foot up the steep and slippery side of the volcanic mountain. While we struggled with our footing, a woman gracefully came down with load of sticks on her head, followed by a herd of cows returning from pasture. We moved clear of an ox cart heading down hill, full of onions and topped with kids.

Every 100 feet a very large hole has been dug along side the road. Ridges constructed across the road divert the rain water into these reservoirs. As we reached the top, the terrain leveled off and we walked large gardens that help support this community.

Onions - onions - and more onions - plus tomatoes and peppers.

The gardens feature cultivation designed to hold moisture from the winter rains for the entire growing season.

From this altitude our views are wide and far, from the volcano to the ocean. Thick black smoke rises from sugar cane fields burning far below.

The community has organized a cooperative. With a newly constructed building containing a canning kitchen, the members of the cooperative make an onion vinegar that is preserved in glass jars. (Some street merchants sell vinegar in small plastic bags – not sanitary or convenient.)

Chambala sells this seasonal product in the nearby market places. The income generated from the sale of the onion vinegar is the only source of cash for the community and is used for improvements for the life of the community and its members.

David y Nancy

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Economic Development

After many months of much hopeful activity, we are able to report on our recent economic development project. With the generous support of Ascension Lutheran of Waukesha, Our Saviors Lutheran of West Bend and the Bishop of the Greater Milwaukee Synod, the long awaited store is a reality. The leadership team of El Buen Pastor had a vision for a store that they shared with us. In turn we shared their vision with visiting delegations to Usulután and in our fundraising efforts at home last September.

Eight days after signing the lease, the team paints the exterior of the store. The inside is attractive and only requires rear window repairs for security.It’s in the heart of the commercial district of Batres, next to a bank and across the street from a newly built market.

The original vision was to have a store operating on April 1 in the community of San Rafael Oriente. After viewing four locations, none would be appropriate. They switched communities finding the rents in Batres are much higher than San Rafael. After struggling with the pros and cons of higher rent, they decided on Batres.

Starting the business has been time consuming. Edwin and Juan Carlos have had numerous appointments with various government agencies, attorneys, accountants. Unfortunately they have been receiving conflicting information or they are not listening effectively.

The models for business start-up in the US and in Usulután have no similarities. There is no way for us to participate in the day to day development or start-up due to substantial cultural differences. After we provided initial training sessions on organization, inventory management and marketing, we moved to the side lines.

The team has been purchasing inventory. Our involvement now is creating a data base of materials available for sale. Other suggestions for efficient operation are being considered.

The new commitment of time and skill application has been a challenge and a new awareness in their lives. This economic opportunity has become a growth experience in many ways and hopefully will spread to others in the church leadership.

David y Nancy

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Rio Grande 4

We continue in accompaniment with the residents, leaders and Oikos to bring improvement in the quality of living for those along the river. David joined Guillermo Friday morning; we drove to Santa Maria to pick up two representatives of the Sindica Intercomunal Rio Grande of San Miguel. They had traveled from San Miguel to be in solidarity with the residents of the Rio Grande living further downstream.

We pull off to the side of the road to wait for another person. When a car pulls up and a man steps out --- I say to myself, I know him. The National Assemblyman, Jorge Schafik Handal, is joining us today. He is named after his father who is a national hero to the poor of El Salvador and the leader of the guerrilla movement during the 12 year civil war. After greetings and pictures our caravan travels to the community.

We arrive at a site on the river, a mile east of the dike that was breached last winter now nearly complete with repairs. But this spot is absent a functioning dike and the flooding of this community is a just two months away.

A review of the meeting is on you tube at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NvI8X5X7KC4

He is given a petition from the Sindica Intercommunal Rio Grande of San Miguel asking Jorge Schafik Handal to assist these people with the flooding issues. This is read to Schafik at the meeting site in the presence of the community representatives.

He receives it with much applause from those present. He responds with a brief speech of acknowledgement.

When I speak with Jorge Handal, I tell him I am here for two years as a volunteer. I mention I will post the video of the meeting on You Tube. He replied “what’s that?”

The meeting concludes with the following action plan:
 The community will organize into work teams to fill and stack sand bags in the current void in the dike system.
 Jorge Handal will prepare a formal request to the National Assembly to build a dike in this section of the river.

While it seems meager, this is a solid beginning. We hope to follow this process and continue in this accompaniment in the successes and set backs of the residents of the Rio Grande.

David y Nancy