Saturday, December 23, 2017
With Child Development a primary value in raising our children, the call we received to help 240 children in a rural school in El Salvador was a call we could not ignore.
Living in El Salvador for 30 months, we were witness to the incredible lack of resources in the public schools. With education one of the Rotary Foundation’s global goals and knowing that education is the path from poverty, we have taken it as a personal challenge to improve public schools in El Salvador. We are completing major improvements in our 6th public school.
In a recent post in his blog titled El Salvador Perspectives, Tim Muth highlighted an article in El Faro about the recent analysis of education in El Salvador. He titled it “An Education System in Ruins”.
Here are a few bullets from that publication:
Only 84% of the children in El Salvador attend school.
The school calendar shows 200 school days but with many holidays, the boys and girls attend 100 days per year.
There are 5136 public schools, however 60% were declared non student ready by the education ministry in 2015.
In addition to leaking roofs, lack of desks and text books, 20% of the schools have a budget of under $1600 per year.
Our current project is now in its 5th year. It’s one that we became aware of from the owner of our guest house in San Salvador. What got our attention was the fact that the parents asked for help to improve the futures of their children. They wanted their children to remain in their community while in school and not have to travel to a neighboring community where gangs and danger lurk. With that commitment from the parents, we have worked to rebuild the entire campus and added two more buildings.
Other foundations in El Salvador have taken notice of this facility and are also contributing improvements including a science lab, new furniture and training for improving the teachers’ skill level.
We return in January with friends to distribute text books to the students in grades 1 thru 6. This will complete text books for grades K-9.
Sunrise Rotary West Bend has committed to fund a new cooking area at this school. It will be environmentally correct by having a chimney to clear the smoke from the cook’s presence and also will be cleaner with new preparation areas, and surrounded with a fence to keep the stray dogs away from the food and cooking.
What’s next? A meeting with Habitat for Humanity of El Salvador for a developing community pre-school for very poor rural children to enter the public school system. The parents who work all day just to put food on the table do not have time or the education to prepare their children for school, but they want their children to have a foundation in education in order to succeed.
Below are pictures of the new boys and girls restrooms that are being completed this month to be ready for the new school year starting in January 2018.
Monday, November 13, 2017
In the winter of 2013, our Greater Milwaukee Lutheran Synod received proceeds from the sale of a church building and decided to use the money in ministry by asking churches in the synod for suggestions. Still fresh from our living in El Salvador, we asked our local church leadership if they would support our writing a grant.
With our focus on Community Development, we submitted a grant for 10 technical school scholarships, women’s small business (chickens), and then family agriculture to create income. Later we expanded the family agriculture project to include an experimental farm. We received funding of $75,000 for these projects.
In previous blogs, we have reported on the first three, especially the scholarships for technical college and now we hear they are all working in their fields of study.
The experimental farm is very important as Central America is also dealing with climate change. With the traditional planting of corn and red beans, these crops are vulnerable to severe storms, a result of climate changes. However, a diversity of crops allows us to demonstrate that growing a little of everything ensures food security and products to sell in the market.
The experimental farm is still in development. The infrastructure has been developed over the past two years including:
- · Conservation – preparing the land with channels of water drainage and sloping the soil
- · Erection of a huge plastic hot house
- · The reforestation of 13 aces with fruit trees
Our contractor of the projects is the NGO Executive Director Benjamin. When his son Daniel was in West Bend for a summer internship at a local farm, we encouraged him to share the practice of hiring local people so they would also benefit from the projects. When we visited in November 2016, Benjamin was quick to point out the men he hired to build dikes to protect the soil from erosion. In a spot along the small stream, we could see erosion revealing the top soil was 6 feet deep. That’s due to the leaves falling from trees every day and accumulating undisturbed.
The next steps at this experimental farm are to:
- Develop a value system for training in bartering for work and for food.
- ·Erect a building for a class room.
We are going to stop writing and share pictures we just received as they will tell the story better than words.
David y Nancy
Wednesday, July 5, 2017
We are at home forwarding the current news from our partners in El Salvador. The first four months of 2017 have been quiet as our partners are very busy with the harvest of sugar cane, coffee, corn, beans and the many vegetables they grow in their hot houses.
However recently Benjamin writes that on June 2 in our former hometown of Concepcion Batres, the 14th annual native seed fest took place, coinciding with the World Environment Day being celebrated in El Salvador. The community square was blocked off to cars; horses, bikes and vendors took over the main street in front of the church.
Seed fest is where the participants in the Oikos Agriculture Projects are invited to celebrate their harvest and exchange seeds with others, exchange or sell livestock, poultry, foods or crafts they have made. It’s also the celebration of the winter rains that provide the moisture to promote germination of the seeds and growth of the plant. Last year’s precipitation was less than average, but El Salvador was able to escape the risk of crop failure. Escaping crop failure also means the prices of coffee, corn and beans are lower than previous years. That’s the life of someone in agriculture.
The local school children compete in displays they assemble with their classmates. These displays take on themes of national risk (storms and flooding,) climate change, crime and poverty. The children are very eager to share their display. Whether you understand Spanish or not, enjoying the enthusiasm of the children as they share is an event unto itself.
Our friends at Oikos are always looking for new employment opportunities for their staff. Last year they were contracted to manage the turtle preservation project on the Pacific Ocean. They did a great job and they have been hired again for the 2017/18 season with their area to manage greatly expanded. We hope to return in early 2018 and again watch this process of catching huge turtles, capturing their eggs, placing them in new nest inside a sanctuary for hatching and releasing after their shells harden.
This summer Oikos is managing the reforestation of hundreds of acres of land in the East. Seven communities in Usulután and San Miguel have been chosen for this project that includes fruit trees as well as trees for developing the forest. Seventeen men and women are participating, representing many recipients who have benefited from prior Oikos projects of chickens, agriculture and lagoon preservation.
Our 13 god children are in high school. Communication with them is difficult as they attend school and then most must work for family income.
With the sugar cane harvest complete, the men of this community will be volunteering to install new rest rooms at our public school. The first plan was new equipment, but the septic system failed, requiring a whole new facility.
Nancy is seeking funding to provide text books for grades 1-6.
Our 2018 plans include leading a Thrivent Habitat Build to construct a community center in the west side of the country. We are looking for 14 volunteers (you?) to join us for a week and then we hope some can remain to participate in the turtle watch, visit some of our completed school projects and agriculture projects.
David y Nancy
Monday, March 6, 2017
March 2017 - We are once again writing from home with great updates.
We are joyful about the grade level promotions and achievements we witnessed at the end of the 2016. For these three-year academic programs, we have done a lot of fundraising, anticipating strong outcomes for the lives of the students. Our hope was not disappointed. A total of 129 students graduated and are continuing on to improve their future with education or employment.
In 2014, we received a grant for community development in the departments of Usulután and San Miguel. It included three modules, one of which was for scholarships for youth to attend the Technology Institute in Usulután.
Ten students who had completed high school were selected as qualified for this opportunity; 2 dropped out early in the process. Another student was selected who chose to attend the University in San Miguel where she continues for one more year. Eight students completed their studies in December and participated in the graduation ceremony held on February 24, 2017. Without their diplomas they couldn’t apply for higher level work.
5 studied Computer Engineering
1 studied to be an Auto Mechanic
1 studied for Tourism
1 studied for Marketing
We met with them shortly after they enrolled at the Institute. The first picture below is at that meeting. We asked them what they hoped or expected to happen after graduation. A couple wanted to start a business and the others just wanted a good job. Finding secure work is a major issue. Their families can offer little support as they are often not educated and do not have networks to help their children seek employment.
The second picture is their graduation day that was taken and emailed to us. The Auto Mechanic is missing from the picture but he did earn his degree. We had to study the pictures closely as some of the students have transformed into mature young men and women. Hair styles changed and they grew taller.
Additional graduations took place in San Luis Talpa where 41 ninth grade students not only graduated but were all accepted into high school. Thirteen could not attend because of the cost of $300 per year. We fundraised to provide scholarships for these students. Some of these 13 students come from difficult family situations where it’s expected they work to support the family and forget about more education.
Finally (but not really), 80 little ones in San Luis Talpa “graduated” from pre-school and are now attending kindergarten to begin their education journey.
David y Nancy