Tuesday, December 8, 2015
We returned to our latest school project on this November visit to view the many improvements. While school ended last week, two classes were meeting.
In this first picture, the students were having a party to celebrate the end of 5th grade and next door, second photo, the students were working to prepare the walls of their classroom for painting.
These two class rooms are part of an older building where our funders helped us to install a new roof and windows (notice them in the photo).
Since our first contact with this school in 2012, the attendance has grown from 260 to a 2016 enrollment of 509. Testing outcomes have soared.
Our friends Leonor and Fredy have spent much time securing resources for this school (lower picture). As a follow-up to our day at school, we visited FEPADE. This is a nonprofit organized by the business leaders (of El Salvador) to improve the quality of education in El Salvador. FEPADE is funded by Salvadoran business leaders and USAID.
In an earlier journal, we mentioned the Ministry of Education stated that 65% of the schools are not student ready. At our meeting with Ana, she said it was much worse.
With the funds from the business community, FEPADE has provided regular teacher training, computers and matching funds to the money we contribute for academic improvements. In a nut shell, our $9,000 for starting the grades 7, 8, and 9 has been matched with another $9,000 for academic improvements.
FEPADE is well aware of these improvements and has challenged us to fund another classroom whereby they can establish a science lab. This is a major opportunity for any school.
In turn we urged Ana to connect us with a local business man to seed our fundraising for a new classroom that is expected to cost $8,000. We all left the meeting accepting our responsibilities, knowing that this public school in one of the poorest departments of the country has strong families and well trained teachers. Together the students and teachers have a common passion for education that energizes us on every visit.
At a farm we visited, there are 65 bee hives. This is a fairly new and growing initiative that requires specialized equipment, including a smoker, gloves, and protective wear.
Each hive box includes 8 “marks” of frames with a structure for the bees to fill. To harvest the honey, the overflow of a full mark is scraped into a large barrel; then the mark with its contents is inserted into one of the 4 slots in photo two. A hand crank spins the marks around and around to empty the honey. The comb residue is left allowing the bees to begin with a head start to produce more honey.
How do you market honey in El Salvador? Well nothing is easy in this country. Every initative requires research to find a market.
In the bottom picture we are in the part of the city called Zona Rosa. When we started visiting El Salvador, Zona Rosa was the place to avoid. Now it is the night place of San Salvador. You can party all night in its many night clubs or fine restaurants. The upper and middle class are the clients of this district and new bars and upscale lounges open every year.
A new micro-brewery has also opened in this district. It has six large vats, providing brews of Pale White, Wheat, Red and Irish Stout. Four different glass sizes are offered to try all their beer tastes and you can purchase a 6 pack to take home.
What’s the buzz? This brewery uses the farm honey for one of its special brews.
The food selection is limited but the food is outstanding quality along with the excellent beer. We’ll go back for more! (Do you see Nancy?)
Yesterday we visited a finca, a family owned farm. This land was a small coffee plantation which is now being worked extensively by the third generation to become a diversified finca that can boast of replacing the older coffee plants with the new rust resistant strain.
Diversification includes the introduction of various vegetable plants and many types of fruit trees.
The plantation floor is rich in organic nutrients. Historic trees provide a gentle garden canopy that filters the sun and also the horrific rains that can destroy certain plants like red beans.
The roots of the trees are deep into the topsoil which is approximately 4 feet thick. These deep roots draw water from the ground and drips of water from the leaves keep the garden floor moist, making a great place for plants to grow and for mosquitos to enjoy the visitors (us).
Throughout El Salvador, coffee is grown on 3 zones, the low lands, mid mountain and high mountain zones. The coffee quality is based upon the growing zone with high-mountain being the highest quality. This coffee is grown in the mid zone.
The ripe red coffee cherries are still picked by hand which requires 15 seasonal workers to harvest this family finca crop. Other produce include orange, lemon, papaya, banana, plantain and many more fruit trees which are not familiar to us in the States.
Third photo below is early cacao which will become chocolate!
A goal is for this finca to become a living classroom for families and farmers to learn diversified and sustainable practices. Training in this garden model will help strengthen the lives of their families.
David y Nancy
Saturday, November 14, 2015
Its midway into November and the rains continue. What is good for one crop is not good for another. Sugar cane doesn’t need more rain, it needs to grow and produce more sugar.
We are at a sugar cane finca today to learn about the process. Cane is still harvested by hand; if the cane is not burned in the fields, gathering is an itchy activity for the workers. The 8 foot cane is stripped and cut into 3 or 4 pieces. The pieces are fed into a grinder (top photo with a stalk shown for an example). The pulp coming from the grinder is fed onto a conveyor and into a large hot tank where it is heated until the sugar is liquid. As a gravity-fed process, the liquid passes through 3 more very hot stainless steel tanks where impurities are filtered out at each tank.
The contents at the last and lowest tank are drained into a stainless steel cart and wheeled into the molding room (last photo). In the molding room, Francisco pours the liquid sugar into wooden molds using the little shovel sitting on the table. Francisco levels the molds with the wooden pallet (notice his hand), clearing excess sugar from the mold creating a uniform product.
Excess sugar is captured and reprocessed to be used again.
When the sugar begins to harden, the sugar cone is removed from the mold and all the sugar cones are immediately wheeled into a “clean” room where women wrap the small blocks with the husks from corn ears.
The corn is not needed and given to the workers for free as the processor only wants the wrap for their sugar product.
Sugar has received a lot of bad press but this brown sugar is pure, has vitamins and is a healthy product. At the January harvest and processing, they are going to make sugar syrup for us to use on our pancakes.
This is currently the only modern processor of sugar cane in Central America. Who would like a tour?
David y Nancy
Our Friend Daniel Rivera is acknowledged for his service beyond self in the implementation of the Computer Project in La Granja by the visiting District Governor. In addition to this project Daniel was also on site for 3 ½ years providing all the support for the sanitation project in the same communities.
Second picture David y Nancy Slinde are acknowledged for their work by improving 5 public schools, by replacing roofing, installing drop ceiling, text desks (student & teacher) new floors, computer class rooms, windows, lightening, air conditioning.
One of the Rotarians was familiar with a restaurant up the side of the volcano from La Granja. It was a time of sharing by the Rotarians and this is what we learned.
Club Rotario has numerous partnerships with clubs from the United States. Its youngest members are encouraged to find a project they can work on. The project may need administration oversight, technical resources, not necessarily funding from the club, but funding might be needed.
A newer member Daniel is working on a plantics project here in the city of San Salvador. The goal is to teach the children where food comes from and these projects are meant to demonistrate that it can be done in new and different ways. The sites are at schools, the technical support is offered by a local university and funding is provided by agency from Spain.
Another project is surgery for children with defective hearts. They shared stories of children before and after surgery-was amazing. Another current project is prosthetecs for 100 Salvadorans. Service above self--its why we like it here.
It gets better next week.
David y Nancy
Saturday, November 7, 2015
After the Rotary meeting on Wednesday, a delegation of 9 traveled to the community public school to inaugurate the computer lab for students and teachers.
Club Rotario has 3 partners in this project. The municipal Mayor’s engineering department provided the electrical work for the stations.
The second is a nonprofit “Computodos” that receives used computers from a Rotary Club in San Palo, CA. Computodos installs new electronics, larger drives and has license from Microsoft to provide its software. A complete work station from Computodos costs $250.
The third partner is West Bend Sunrise Rotary. Using funding tools provided by our Rotary District, Nancy wrote for a District Grant (DG) of $3,000. The Sunrise Club approved the application and then submitted it to the DG committee who approved it in July.
The top picture is the new large computer room for the students to use at class time.
The second picture is the three computers in the principal’s office for the exclusive use of the teachers.
The bottom picture is in a different classroom. These students will begin early to learn to use computers for basic literacy skills. Pictured (L to R): Club Rotario President Omar, District Governor Violeta, Club Secretary Karla, project engineer Daniel and the school principal.
The next step for greater learning is to secure internet for the school and community.
Internet service is expensive and carriers hesitate to string copper wire only to have it disappear during the night
David y Nancy
Our first week in San Salvador focused on attending the Rotary meeting at the Hotel Sheraton. We have been partners in many community projects which include the major installation of sanitation sewer system, pedestrian bridge, text books and equipment for the school. Today we are celebrating the new computer classroom designed and furnished by Club Rotario at the school. This school is in the community of our sister parish, therefore these families and specifically the children are dear to us. Today is also special because the Rotary District Governor from Nicaragua is joining us. After the weekly meeting in which Daniel, the project engineer, was recognized for his excellent work on the planning and implementation, Club Rotarians received recognition for longevity of membership (40 and 50 years), and we received recognition for years of partnerships, the District Governor held a business meeting with the Club board. This is a typical practice for a District Governor to discuss the Club’s vision and values for the current and coming year. After this Governors meeting, a delegation of nine including the Governor, the two of us and six Club officers left for the school. Our passage out of the city required detours and new routes as many city streets were covered in mud and debris, plus structural damage from Monday night’s extreme rains that caused landslides and flooding. Our caravan of four vehicles arrived late and the students from the morning session had left for home. The teachers were eating lunch but the principals and a member of the Directiva greeted us. We have been to this school many times but they did not expect us today. When we emerged from the caravan, they were truly surprised. We viewed the computer zones: one zone of 3 computers for the teachers, a second zone of 22 computers for the older students in a separate new classroom and the balance in a different classroom. Zones 1 & 2 are in the same building where secure windows were installed, the room rewired to accommodate the additional electrical usage, and a drop ceiling with fans installed. We noticed the third zone needs a roof, windows and a ceiling with fans. We reviewed our combined history for the District Governor so she was aware that our presence was not “show” but a commitment to education in the community. Our history includes the purchase of a simple CD player which is used by the staff to teach the children the traditional music and culture of El Salvador and for English language learning. The District Governor was pleased to visit this school with many Rotary projects past, present and future. A plaque was placed on the building that gives acknowledgement to Club Rotario San Salvador and the Sunrise Rotary Club of West Bend, Wisconsin for the gift of this computer classroom. Our time came to a close as the afternoon students were arriving. Our delegation left for lunch at a restaurant up the volcano Boqueron. We passed many lush coffee plants filled with red cherries, drove into a wooded area that opened to a restaurant setting high above the city, providing a breath taking view and delicious food for which El Salvador is famous. David y Nancy
Thursday, November 5, 2015
We left for the airport Sunday afternoon to stay at the convenient park and fly hotel for early morning departure. At 4:00 Monday morning, much to our surprise, a small delegation from our synod was also on their way to El Salvador. We thought they left Sunday so the surprise was a pleasant one as we enjoyed conversation and time together on the trip. The delegation is participating in a gathering of the Lutheran churches from various locations in the US and Europe that have sister parish relationships in El Salvador. Due to heavy storms, we landed in Atlanta late and had to run to the international departure gate. The Atlanta baggage handlers on the other hand decided “what’s the rush?” As the delegation that originated from Milwaukee noticed the Salvadoran airport baggage belt void of any of our luggage, we knew what happened. Many other late arrivals at the gate had the same experience. Our baggage was promised for early Tuesday afternoon. That would give the baggage handlers 24 hours to move 58 bags a thousand feet on their trucks and carts used for such purpose. Francisco was to pick us up at the airport but it’s late and did he wait? When I completed the claim process I started to look for him and was overwhelmed with taxi drivers swarming me, blocking my way. I said I am looking for a specific motorist. A moment later Francisco’s brother, Alexi, walked up behind me and said “you’re going to Hotel Mariscal.” I recognized him; he was our driver in March and his children attend the public school where we are implementing additional grades and classrooms. This came together nicely. When we arrived at our hotel our clothing was drenched in sweat and smelled. We went to the mall next door to our hotel to purchase some replacement clothing. In the underwear department, the young man and I couldn’t determine what size was correct, so he said he would model it. It’s a term lost in translation; it wasn’t what it sounded like. After a very hot shower, clean clothes and a cold beer, at day’s end, we said it was a great First Day. Alexi arranged for his brother to pick us up at 12:30 to return to the airport. On the way I told Francisco what process we were told to follow. He said no way. I will go with you to guide you. We entered the main entrance of the airport and went to Information office. We had to leave our drivers licenses at Information office to secure a red entry pass. At the immigration/customs/baggage area, we experienced a heavy security search and headed to baggage claim. No one was attending the Delta counter. We then considered our red pass was available for “free range” and looked at every piece of luggage we could find with no luck. An agent approached us and said give me your paper work and I will track them down and told us where to stand. Then another Milwaukee person spotted Nancy and said your luggage is with the Synod delegation. So Nancy disobeyed orders and found our luggage. I was watching and joined her. The agent had abandoned his search for our luggage and was helping another traveler. We got our papers from him and returned to customs. The same agent from yesterday redirected us to another luggage scanner. The people in front of us were having many problems. We had none when it was our turn. Happily leaving the airport with Francisco, we stopped for pupusas and got 16 to share with friends at the hotel. On opening our suitcases for eating utensils and other supplies, we discovered that they had apparently been left on the cart in the rain in Atlanta. Most of our clothing was in plastic bags but clothes for tomorrow were not and were soaked. The hotel clothes dryer is broken, but between the hair dryer and the iron and enjoying freshly made pupusas, Day Two was another great day. David y Nancy
Tuesday, October 27, 2015
Droughts and flooding are the news from eastern El Salvador. Last week’s pictures in one of the national newspapers showed the Rio Grande San Miguel at flood stage in the township of Concepcion Batres. The bridge crossing the river is usually 20 feet above water level. Last week the river was touching the roadway and flooding shoreline communities. On June 1, 2010 on our way to church in Puerto Parada, homes were standing in 2 feet of water. This continued for 8 weeks and the people remained in their homes with nowhere else to go. Can you imagine living in two feet of filthy water for 2 months? The first planting of seeds withered in the drought. The second planting is usually nourished by these rains but last week they have been severe, destroying the bean plants and creating landslides in the volcanic zone. Landslides can be catastrophic if not immediately removed. Debris and mud can create a damming effect and once the pressure of the dammed water exceeds the pressure of the blockage, a wall of water is released with unstoppable force. The Salvadoran government is assessing the crops to determine if the harvest will be comparable to previous years or will be less. This is critical for the government to know food security risks to avoid a regional famine. An agency of USAID is predicting that by June 2016 1,000,000 Salvadorans will be experiencing hunger. That’s 20% of the population and can result in catastrophic emergencies and civil unrest in communities. Here in Wisconsin we are experiencing an excellent harvest. The final crop is soybean. Like the corn crop this year, it’s predicted to be a bumper crop. But for our partners in El Salvador the question is if the undamaged crops will mature in time for the harvest. And for us, it’s also personal. Will our agriculture grant participants benefit from their hard work through the December/January harvest? We will learn more in November during our visits to the project sites. David y Nancy
Monday, July 20, 2015
We have long time friends at Wellspring Organic Farm and Retreat Center, just down the road from our home. We know the founder and also the Executive Director who is a fellow Rotarian. We happened to meet at a Rotary meeting a few months ago and talked about the possibly of having someone experience Wellspring, working in the fields for room and board, learning the “systems” and practices of Wellspring. We approached Wellspring because in March while meeting with Oikos we shared that Southeastern Wisconsin is rich in organic and aquaponics farming. We suggested that Oikos send someone to visit for the summer to study these practices from a North American perspective and compare them to the current Salvadoran practices. Oikos sent a staff member to us on June 7 to be with us for 6 weeks. He lives at Wellspring with six other adults. One of their staff also speaks Spanish allowing the transition from English to Spanish on details about farm topics as well as participating in class discussion. Wellspring operates year round selling produce grown in a huge green house. They get an early spring start on outdoor plants using hoop houses. Classes are offered as time allows; this time of the growing season is devoted to planting, weeding, harvesting. Wellspring is also a CSA. People join as members for a full payment or a lesser payment if combined by working four hours a week to maintain the fields. Membership entitles the family to one bag of food per week. Weeding is the current need and he had enough after 6 days of back breaking weeding. The CSA is a new concept for him and he loves the idea. He has already approached Oikos with Salvadoran version of CSA and he tells us the idea was well received. The Salvadoran version means they need to consider the local culture for implementation. We took our guest to visit Will Allen’s Growing Power. He liked how they improve the quality of soil by adding organic materials. He said they can also implement this in El Salvador by making arrangements with the local mayor to collect the organic material the street cleaners sweep up daily after the open air markets close. With this organic material added to the soil and the addition of red worms, they will be able to restore soil that has been poisoned by the over use of chemicals. Will Allen’s has hydroponics but it has become too sophisticated to replicate in rural El Salvador. So we also visited Lone Duck Farm where this newer vertical farm is just 2 years old and has a simpler version of aquaponics. In both instances raising fish are an element of the “system”. We saw some beautiful three pound tilapia, perch and bluegills. Again he said they can do this. El Salvador currently raises tilapia but not 3 pounders. We asked the owner of Lone Duck if he would spend a week in El Salvador to help build a system - he didn’t say no, but we didn’t get a commitment either. His social life is also in full gear. Three of the adults at Wellspring have transportation and they do local activities during the week and on the weekends. We enjoy time with him on Sundays and others from our church also have time together with him. He has a beautiful smile and it was at its biggest when we visited the south side of Milwaukee and pulled up to the Salvadoran restaurant for a robust lunch. We don’t know how many transferable concepts he will be able to take back to El Salvador but there is no risk and the potential is limitless. David y Nancy
Sunday, June 7, 2015
The second week of our recent visit in El Salvador was to gather information about the developing projects funded by the Greater Milwaukee Lutheran Synod Grant. On Monday we met in San Salvador with the Oikos Management team of Benjamin Alas and his son Daniel to bring us up to date on the projects taking place in the volcanic range in the east. While we receive emails about these projects routinely, it’s more fun to be there than reading about them. On Tuesday the four of us left San Salvador at day break and headed east on highway 2. In Concepcion Batres we met with the pastors working these projects with Oikos. They were all familiar to us so we spent time hearing the latest news about families and church life. The meeting started with churches micro-region leader reading scripture and leading us in prayer. It continued with Oikos explaining the latest initiative to organize the communities “South” of the Volcano into a formal organization, providing residents in this range with more security and better community infrastructure. Time passed quickly and we were all ready for lunch. The entire group got into 4 trucks and Benjamin lead us on an hour drive up the side of a mountain to a high city of Alegria. The menu choices were a small fish, larger fish, much larger fish or very large fish. That was lunch and dinner for us. Wednesday we visited the project sites. The women told us the cycle for the chicken projects is six weeks which begins with the purchase of chicks and food, then they are sold locally for $4 apiece or what the market will allow in that current cycle. They stated the project provided meaningful activity, better diet, cash income, money for their churches and benefited all participants. Benjamin added that the chicken cages constructed from solid metal materials prevented the yearly deforestation of trees usually used to rebuild the coops. These chickens are not free range. In other locations, large birds circled overhead; the men from Oikos pointed out they were looking for a chicken dinner. We are home so the email communication resumes. Benjamin writes about the next phase of project development: In the agriculture communities, each pastor has selected 10 families to participate in the planting of chilies, tomatoes, sesame seeds, bananas, selected fruit trees, corn and beans. Oikos will determine the appropriate crops for each family’s soil. The families will grow vegetables and fruit for consumption and also for sale in the market. This is how Oikos creates small family businesses for the rural poor. With these Oikos directed projects, 95 families will have been helped to establish their own business since 2011. Through other mission projects, one church has been assisted to own and operate a hardware store. Adding the public school improvements with computers, text books, desks, windows and roofs, about 8,000 Salvadorans are experiencing benefits in their family’s lives. That number will increase as these projects are sustainable and will benefit more individuals in the coming years. David y Nancy
Monday, May 18, 2015
Nancy had been writing our blogs since we arrived in El Salvador in November 2009. She was journalism major at Marquette University so she was most qualified and enjoyed doing it. That responsibility changed when we took a train ride from downtown San Salvador to Apopa. It was fun and dangerous and I really felt I had to write about this adventure. It’s been five years and I haven’t stopped writing. I wrote our journals with words and along the way with passion when I started having visions and dreams of what needed to be shared. Our experiences in El Salvador went from our minds to our souls as we wrote and edited from our hearts and spirits. Here is my first edition dated May 2010: Join us for a ride on the local commuter train, but first a bit of history. The current railroad company is the result of a merger between two companies, one of which is the International Railways of Central American, a former subsidiary of the infamous United Fruit Company (of banana republic fame). Thousands fled El Salvador during the civil war, hopping on freight trains headed out of the country. After the war, passenger traffic declined as the trains were routinely held up and passengers robbed. With El Salvador the most highly populated country in Central America and with a severe shortage of land, the former right-of-ways were settled by squatters. In 2007 the rail company resumed limited service and required all squatters off their tracks. Thousands of people were forced to move. Hundreds of others merely shortened the size of their homes, allowing for passage of the train. We arrived at the downtown San Salvador train station at 4:20 in the afternoon. At the platform we saw a modern diesel engine with two tanker cars and five antique passenger cars. We boarded and started our journey to Apopa about 20 miles away. The train traveled two blocks and made its first stop. In all we must have made 30 or 40 stops, each one about 15 seconds as people climbed on and off. If the windows were without wire screens, we could have touched the homes, clothes lines, children playing and people walking along the tracks. The train rolled by their front doors, over their driveways, across patios and play areas. One can look into many homes, wave to the residents, see what they’re eating and what’s on the television. As we picked up speed, the passenger cars heaved left and right and then across a ridge with a fantastic overview of the valley below. The steep hillsides are populated with homes and the country side is bright green reflecting the lush vegetation that grows wild in Central America. The Apopa train station was a 4-pole metal roofed open air structure with no amenities. The whistle blew for 2 hours, warning all that the train was coming. There are no street signals or crossing guard arms. The tanker cars wet the rail bed to prevent a cloud of dust from choking the passengers and the residents. Each passenger car has a National Police man on guard. The return trip back to San Salvador went a little faster because it was mostly downhill. Our 2 hour train ride cost 20 cents round trip. It was a great experience to see another view of the city and the country side. David y Nancy
Monday, May 11, 2015
With the generous support of our Rotary Clubs and Rotary District 6270, we returned to the public school in La Paz with funding to continue the many needed improvements for the buildings, classroom equipment and educational materials. We arrived at the school finding about 470 morning and afternoon students lined up and waiting for us. We were received like royalty. The students held flags they made expressing “welcome” and “thank you”. We were greeted in English and the Lord’s Prayer in English by two students. Eight girls in beautiful dresses danced, the national anthem was played and the Salvadoran flag was raised on the flag pole. It was wonderful not to hold back, to let emotions take over and enjoy the moment. The first 8th grade class started in January 2015. Last year these students were the first 7th grade class in this school. We had planned on 25 students for this class and 35 showed up. This year we again budgeted for 25 students for the first 8th grade class and 45 students enrolled. How could our assessment be off by almost 100%? Answer - increasing gang activity The neighboring town has a strong gang presence that does not want outsiders in their community. Therefore students who attended the neighboring school now attend our school to continue their education. This is not an idle threat against the students as gangs will kill those who do not do as they demand. Sometimes to make a point they will torture a student and leave the body on the road as a warning to others. Our goals are to provide a safe, resource abundant community school. We sincerely believe if we can meet the needs of these students to provide a place to survive and thrive in their community, they have an alternative to leaving families behind for a perilous journey north. In our initial assessment, we planned for funding for all 3 classes. Even at this late date we can made modifications to our assessment for providing more students with desks and text books. But the beautiful new building for the 7th, 8th and 9th grades was built to serve 75 students and enrollment is 135. Paid teaching positions promised by the ministry of education were not provided. Some teachers are working for food and support provided by other project partners and some parents. One of the parents working on installing new roofs probably should have been home in bed and died after a day of volunteer work. The sacrifices made by so many are not known by many. Our closing meeting concluded that we have basic funding for the equipment, desks and text books for the 9th grade class in 2016 but more will be needed. Another classroom is needed to accommodate growth but we lack any immediate means for the purchase of materials to provide more space for the January 2016 school year. In November 2016, the students we have accompanied since they started 7th grade will be graduating from 9th grade. While distributing text books in the 8th grade classroom, the students proudly reminded us they are graduating next November and the principal said “you must be here!” And we plan to be with them on this next step of their journey. David y Nancy
Sunday, March 22, 2015
The issue of children migrating to the states from Central/South America is not getting the press required for you to be fully informed. The press writes that we and our children are at risk from diseases they bring into the country and our social welfare state will be bankrupt from their presence. Until Sunday we did not have first-hand accounts to share about the issues of immigration. But in our church community in El Salvador, we were told our Godson was sent to the states to be with his mother as the gangs were targeting him. He is just a quiet young boy in high school, sent with a smuggler to the US. Our hearts sank when we were told. The community leaders said it’s ok, he made it. However the peril in that trip puts anyone on edge. Fox news has an excellent story as to the “why” of immigration: Five children from one family witnessed the murder of their neighbor, a 21 year old man, who was gunned down by 4 men. The children lived with their grandmother as the mother had sought asylum in the US from an abusive marriage. The next day the family starting receiving death threats against the children. Grandmother changed her cell phone number many times but continued to receive the threatening calls with each newly issued number. During the past 5 years, the mother has been able to have all 5 children join her. None of the children were able to come to the US legally. Mother paid smugglers thousands of dollars to bring the children to the US one at time. Her only son, the last one, arrived last summer. He tells a frightening story of living in El Salvador where gang members were always threatening him with “join us or die”. How could a mother make this decision to send her children on a journey that has claimed countless lives? She says, “I was not going to let them kill my children. I prefer them to take the risk to get here for a better life than face certain death in El Salvador.” Today’s daily Salvadoran newspaper reports that from January 1 to March 18, there have been 913 violent deaths recorded. This is 287 more than last year at this time. This is the national reality. One Sunday in 2014, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ran this article: http://www.jsonline.com/news/opinion/for-child-migrants-walking-1400-miles-might-be-worth-it-b99348809z1-274901021.html The author, Jamie Stark, spends time in Wisconsin and El Salvador serving the clients of the homeless shelter operated by the Lutheran church in San Salvador. The article tells that a United Nations report found that of 404 recent Salvadoran migrant children interviewed, most left for the U.S. for family, opportunity, or to escape violence in society. It would be interesting for all of us to think about our ancestors’ reasons for coming to America. Were they very different than those expressed above? Are safety or opportunity no longer valid reasons to seek the American Dream? Our ancestors often came as teenagers. Can we hold today’s young immigrants to a different standard? David y Nancy