David and Nancy Slinde Speaking at their "Sending Service"

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Small family business

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