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