David and Nancy Slinde Speaking at their "Sending Service"

Friday, December 6, 2013

Mission Accomplished

Our third week in El Salvador began with two low key days in the capital. Then we left for Usulut├ín to tour the public schools we have been fundraising for many improvements. School is over for the year but the teachers are still busy preparing for the 2014 school year which resumes in January. Following is a brief recap of our tour: The new classroom in La Cribe is built. They can now accommodate 30 Pre-K children. This is double the number of students who were taught in the old storage shed and the new building is beautiful and safe. Canton Guadalupe has two newly completed classrooms and an office. We started with concrete floors this March, then added 70 new desks, installed electricity and fresh paint on all the buildings. Alambre has a new roof for the computer classroom, student desks, computers, computer desks and windows. Alambre was notified that the government is authorizing 12 computers for Alambre’s new computer lab making it the official regional computer site that will serve hundreds of students from these 3 schools and the high school. Think of the transition for students from sitting on the dirt floor to having desks, books, electricity and computers. Over 1,000 students are touched by these completed projects, but our work is still not done. Hearing of our projects in the east, a small business owner asked us to visit her family’s public school project in La Paz, close to the ocean. The principal and Dr. Castellanos, the volunteer, shared that the Ministry of Education (MOE) has not responded to their needs for a new roof on the existing building, nor provided text books for the students, nor offered more than a two-hole bathroom for 300 students. Nor does the MOE provide adequate funding for the authorized number of teachers. The government food program supplies food for needy students three times a year and when it runs out, it’s gone. The children are left with no lunch for weeks. In the absence of government support and dealing with their own basic needs, the parents are not willing to send their children to another community to continue in 7-8-9 grades. Therefore the boys go to work in the sugar cane fields and the girls remain home to help care for their families. The parents, mostly single moms, realize their children need more education so they asked Dr. Castellanos for help. He organized the community and with the support of the Sugar Cane Association, purchased materials to construct a large building for three more grades. The MOE will not recognize the new building or pay for an additional teacher. We have agreed to join Dr. and Mrs. Castellanos in their commitment to the people of San Luis Talpa. To prepare for the January opening of the new 7th grade, we purchased 26 desks with donated funds. We are now fundraising for text books for these students and replacement text books for K-6. For the older building, we purchased lamina to replace the damaged roof and for basic repairs to the bathroom. The Castellanos family is securing funds for materials to build a secure computer lab and purchase computers. The government has promised recognition of the new grades after the PC lab is installed. While our long-term education projects in the east are accomplished, the needs are still great. We remain open to the plans the Lord has for us in our mission and ministry in El Salvador. An on-going mission call: Go to the people. Live with them, learn from them, love them. Start with what they know, build with what they have. But of the best leaders, when the work is done, the task accomplished, the people will say, “We have done this ourselves.” (Lao-Tzu, 700 B.C.) David y Nancy

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Fe at La Granja

We are in our church community this week, spending time with the students and adults of the congregation. Our main concerns, prior to arriving, were for Elmer and Carlos, both dropped out of school, each with own reason. Elmer affirmed our hopes for the completion of his education through the university. Carlos has already planned to attend a different high school offering a Saturday program. Both families have resolved their issues but wanted to confirm the continued financial support for their education. We assured them of our congregation’s faith-filled commitment to them. On Wednesday our friend Daniel picked us up to attend the Sunrise Rotary Club meeting at the Hotel Sheraton. We were warmly greeted, especially by several members we have not seen in years. As the meeting started, Nancy and I were presented with certificates acknowledging our support of education in their country. After a very long and interesting meeting, Daniel drove to the Rotary office where we loaded the text books for the school of La Granja. Daniel then took us to his current work site in San Salvador where the former presidential residence of 1919 was going to be demolished but is now under restoration due to the thorough architectural assessment Daniel gave this structure. Then we are off to the school. This is our third gift of books to the school, updating workbooks we provided in 2007. The students are on break and the teachers are on site planning for the 2014 school year. We present the books and discuss their future needs. The book donation is for K – 6 as requested. They hope we might also provide books for 7 – 9 as the class sizes are growing. At this time, their greatest need is for a 15 meter fenced area to protect the preschool children during recess. This is the school for the future Rotary computer project. We share with Daniel there are 14 computers from a USAID project in a building next to the church that might be incorporated into the Rotary project. After viewing the computers, we decided they would need to be taken in for evaluation to determine if they are usable. The heat, moisture and dust have had a negative impact on them. We do not share our concern for the computers on this visit. We will address the shape of the computers later. The Rotary and USAID computer projects require Internet so we went to visit the Mayor of Nejapa for his support with the local Internet carriers. He welcomes us but tells us it’s impossible. Daniel will take this situation to his Rotary Club to learn if any members have access to policy makers of the local internet carriers. Back at the community, the Director of the Community Center (USAID) tells us the Internet carriers have asked for 55 customers before they will run a line. There was Internet service in the past, but the “equipment” was stolen which cuts the community off from an important means of communication and information. At the end of the day, we walked the community to show Kristyn the Rotary sanitation project and found our Rotary Bridge in need of protective paint. We suggest the community leaders recruit 12 youth to paint the bridge in January. The Directivas agree that this is a great youth project but ask that we not give them the money, only give them the paint and supplies. Daniel was given the money to purchase these in January and deliver them to the community. That was one day in El Salvador! Our work here is still in progress and you can be a part of it in many different ways. We invite you to join us in these community development opportunities. David y Nancy