Saturday, November 26, 2016
Our trip to El Salvador was in the planning for the past year. Our priority was to attend the first 9th grade graduation, as we have been working and fundraising for the past three years to make this possible. We knew pictures and an email from our partners would not capture the moments for us, so we made the journey.
The graduation is the story of the parents who had a vision for their children to remain in the community to safely complete their education. With help from the local sugar cane producer, the sugar cane association and parents, a classroom building was constructed.
On our first visit the building was bare, there was nothing for classes. We returned home and started fundraising for the equipment and books needed for the seventh, eighth and ninth grades. Our efforts were successful and on November 18, 41 students graduated from the ninth grade. The students were escorted into the ceremony by a parent or grandparent. The three students having the highest grades were acknowledged and also the 22 students who started in kindergarten and graduated received recognition for their persistence. There were numerous speeches and then a performance by the students and their teacher where they danced with graceful movements and sang a friendship song to each other. It was beautiful and lots of tears.
All 41 students passed the entry exam to qualify for high school. We believe this is a testimony to the teachers as 100% passing the exam is not the norm but the exception. Victor wants to be a civil engineer and will be taking classes online since he has a full time job. Victor and all the other graduates have computer skills as the West Bend Sunrise Rotary invested in a computer classroom three years ago. One of the largest industries in El Salvador is working in a Call Center. With English and computer skills, these young people have another choice for employment after high school.
David y Nancy Slinde were named the Godparents of this graduating class and given a handsome plaque acknowledging our personal and financial commitment.
Ten students don’t have resources to attend high school. Our Salvadoran Partners are checking on costs to determine if a scholarship plan is feasible.
What would their lives be like without these improvements? Some students would have attended the neighboring school until they were threatened and then drop out. Most of the boys would work in the sugar cane fields or coffee plantations, but that’s only for a couple of months each year. They would have a lot of idle time on their hands.
What was accomplished by educational success will have impact for generations and that truly is a stunning reality.
David y Nancy
Monday, November 21, 2016
With only a day to visit, we couldn’t afford to have the steam and gas from the volcano keep us from visiting Our Savior’s Lutheran Church chicken project. Our Savior’s and the German Churches are supplying chicken units for the women’s cooperative. With our donation, our project partner provides the family with a coop design and the materials to construct a coop. The family does the work. We were greeted by seven families representing the 25 women of the cooperative, finding that four of the seven have their chicken coops and for one, the chicks were being delivered today. A smaller group of families provided us a rare opportunity to talk to learn more about their community. A visual of these women indicated they were dressed better than our first visit and looked healthier. That is in part to better nutrition and income generation from our projects and ANDA (government water provider) now has drinking water to the community. The community has approximately 300 families and all the children attend school. Classes are offered through the ninth grade. This is a big change from our last visit so we asked another question - is electricity available to the entire community? Yes, electricity is available to all but not all families can afford it or think it’s really necessary. A family receiving these chicken units will repay the community by donating five hens to start another chicken unit. We visited three of the sites before leaving and heading to the agriculture projects else-where on the volcano.
Wednesday, November 16, 2016
This is the new Kindergarten classroom at the Community Central School in Talpa, our most recent education project. With many improvements, it has become the premier school in this area. Children are coming to it from other communities as it has features that are missing in their current schools. On Friday November 11, we were invited to dedicate the new classroom. It’s not yet completed but will be for January classes. The local Sugar Cane Growers Association will provide new equipment for the classroom. The rooms at the left will be a boys and girls restroom, a storage unit and the cove at the right is for the teacher’s desk. The walls will be painted, a suspended ceiling installed, doors and fixtures added. Outside concrete will be poured around the building including the porch where the children will eat lunch. Kindergarten classes will be held AM and PM as the incoming class is over 50. These students seated for the dedication will be the first class attending in January 2017. Schools were typically closed when it rained as the buildings were not weather worthy. With all these improvements, the children attend school in all weather conditions. Better facilities will protect them and encourage them to learn. For many, school will be safer than their homes. The local mayor has been bragging that he is providing all the improvements. His office signed the building permit, that’s all. Our friends placed a memorial on the new building that reads-- David y Nancy raised the financial support for the construction of this building. We love this place, the parents, teachers, students and our project partners, all committed to the education of the children for their lives to come.
Sunday, November 13, 2016
We write today to tell you about our new learning experience with one of our project partners. We greatly enjoyed the personal connection with their current project and were delighted to participate in the action. Please be sure to see the six photos at the end of this journal. We also have a video to share with you at another time.
Environmental changes impact our entire planet and El Salvador suffers from these effects. It started with deforestation, progressed to improper agricultural practices, use of chemicals poisoning the land and people, and now the over harvesting from the ocean.
For years, turtle eggs have been in the regular diet of the beach people and then they discovered that the inland dwellers enjoyed them as well and paid good money to have them.
The turtle population is dangerously in decline. Sea turtles lay eggs every ten years. The first twenty four hours after hatching, the newborns are at risk as their shell has not hardened and they are prey for birds, sea crabs and large fish. About ten percent of the hatched eggs survive in the ocean.
An environmental organization FIAES is taking action to protect and increase the population of sea turtles. Sea turtles begin to lay eggs on the beaches of El Salvador in September and continue thru February. Stations are located along the beaches with a 24/7 staff to watch for turtles laying eggs. In some cases the staff must carry the 100 pound turtles closer to their work site and help the turtle dig a nest at the beach. After the turtle creates a nest, the zone staff removes those eggs from the beach into an enclosed safe zone.
The safe zone is a large grid of string creating 200 one foot by one foot squares. Here the eggs are re-nested for incubation and are documented by type of turtle, date and the name of the “re-nester”. Then the staff waits forty five days for the baby turtles to dig their way up and out of the nest. When they reach the surface, they are placed in a tub and held for twenty four hours for their shells to harden.
After twenty four hours, the staff waits for the right ocean conditions and then releases the baby turtles. The local staff family members (children) call their friends and they carefully place each turtle on the sand. You can place the turtle in any direction and instinctively it turns to the ocean and quickly heads to sea. After a wave or two they are out of sight.
The staff keeps detailed records of the number and type of turtles laying eggs and the number of baby turtles released. In the future FIAES plans to place a chip in the turtles to better monitor the results of this preservation project. Our partner hopes to continue working with them to improve the balance of marine life.
Sunday, November 6, 2016
The Habitat Build concluded on Sunday, Oct 30, with 14 members of the 16 person team leaving for home. Flight delays prevented those living on the east coast from reaching home the same day. We stayed at the beach for another 3 days for a short but enjoyable vacation time.
While at the Build site we had an unusual experience. It started with us asking our HFH coordinator if the matching funds from my previous employer could be directed to HFH El Salvador or must remain at Americus Georgia. Wednesday the Director of Development came to the site to talk with us. He asked us what we wanted to do in El Salvador. We had a quick reply and that is to improve education.
He had a HFH vehicle so he took us to a community hoping to build a multipurpose center. This small community is where our build took place in 2015. We had the opportunity to visit the family whose home we helped build. We were greeted with strong hugs and smiles. Then we visited with women of the Women’s Cooperative to hear the story of their problem.
They have been renting a small house where they make crafts to sell and also have a daycare for the little children. The children entering kindergarten are not prepared, thus the community is providing training in readiness skills.
The woman owning the small house recently married and wants to return home. The cooperative must find another location. They have a vision of bringing together children from 3 nearby communities to attend the daycare run by volunteer mothers.
It seems the only recourse is to build but that is not in HFH El Salvador’s 2016-2017 plans. It is a stretch of Habitat’s vision. On Saturday we received an email that HFH would consider the building as we are committed to fundraising for this new project. While we are in the very early stages of planning and developing a common vision with HFH, it seems this will be a good partnership
Supporting a multi-purpose building also expands our vision. A program to care for children and get them ready for success in school is an educational opportunity we cannot ignore. Your continued support can help make this happen.
We would like to have a one week build team for this new project in 2017. Future planning with the HFH staff may include this possibility for permission and support. If it becomes a reality, you are invited to work with us in El Salvador to experience a different culture, the life of the rural poor, and to help make a positive impact in the world.
David y Nancy