Learn More about the Bajo Lempa Education Project


On the 1st, we launched a Global Giving fundraising campaign for an intensive educational project in the Bajo Lempa. To date, we’ve recieved numerous generous donations and have less than a week to reach our goal. Today Global Giving will be matching donations at 20%.

Have you been wondering what our Bajo Lempa education project is all about?             Click on the PDF below to get a better understanding of the nuts and bolts and, as always, feel free to share.

LEER, Lograr en Educación Rural / Success in Rural Education

Celebrating the Life of a Liberation Theologian

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On August 25, Ecclesial Base Communities (CEBES), family members, the Archdiocese of El Salvador and international visitors said their goodbyes to a well-known Liberation Theology priest at the Awakening Center in San Salvador.

Father Pedro D’ Clercq, though born and raised in Belgium, had spent the past 47 years living and working with the Salvadoran CEBES as one of it’s founders as well as a prolific proponent of Liberation Theology throughout Central America. Although he died peacefully in his sleep after battling lung cancer, he’s already been imprinted in history next to such martyrs as Oscar Romero, Octavia Ortiz, Rutillo Grande and Segundo Montes.

According to the CEB’s he was born in Izegem, Belgium on the 10th of February, 1939.

In June of 1964, Padre Pedro was ordained as a priest by the Roman Catholic Church. He stayed in Belgium as a teacher, until he received the calling to come serve in the Americas, oddly enough, at a soccer game. He began his service in Panama and then came to El Salvador in 1968 where he formed base communities and cooperatives throughout San Salvador, Chalatenango and Usulután.

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In 1977 he was excommunicated from the Catholic Church, due to expressing his critical views on the Salvadoran reality from the pulpit. He moved back to Belgium following the decision and from there formed numerous CEBES, in fact, he had formed CEBES in Panama and Nicaragua as well.


smallerIMG_8628 smallIMG_8661In 1992, he came back for good, settled in the Bajo Lempa region of Usulután and formed base communities, supported cooperatives, wrote publications, facilitated workshops, and even started a blood bank among many other projects. His writing, “Walking with Jesus and Monsignor Romero,” inspired the faith formation pre-school model of Community Segundo Montes, in Morazán. Padre Pedro, up until the end, tirelessly continued to travel throughout the country visiting and working for the people.

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He often said, “Who would I be without Romero? Who would I be without Rutillo? Who would I be without all the Martyrs? Who would I be without the ecclesial base communities?”

It was apparent, as hundreds came to pay homage to the beloved priest, that he had touched so many lives and hearts and will remain fixed as a man who genuinely loved the Salvadoran people.

(closed captioning in Youtube)

Carlos Rosario School Returns to El Salvador with New Delegates

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Voices had the pleasure of hosting a delegation from Carlos Rosario, a public charter school for adult immigrants in Washington, D.C. Seven of their staff came down to El Salvador, where a majority of students are from, in order to learn about the country and better understand their students’ roots. The delegates’ objective was to explore the broad reality of Salvadoran culture, economics and education as well as the dynamic effects that migration has on individuals, families and communities.

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After receiving a detailed explanation of the people’s history of El Salvador, they met with the Vice Minister of Education, Teacher’s Union Leaders, a human rights defender, visited the National Cathedral, the UCA, toured the Museum of Words and Images and bought a lot of good reads at Equipo Maiz. Then they traveled to Morazán where they talked with the pastoral team of Community Segundo Montes about the 9 years they’d spent in the refugee camps in Colomoncagua, Honduras. They got a thorough overview of the civil war at the Museum of Revolution in Perquin and reflected heavily after visiting El Mozote. In the lower Lempa River region, they stayed with hosts families in Amando Lopez and experienced life in agriculture based communities there and along the coast. They visited with local community leaders and teachers to hear their perspectives on development and education in the region, they donated much needed supplies to three separate schools and before it was all done they taught a class!

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The group was delightful. They asked great questions, covered a lot of ground, offered helpful suggestions, participated in meaningful dialogue and gave a gift to nearly everyone they met.

Carlos Rosario, thank you and keep up the good work in D.C.  |  READ THEIR BLOG!

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Youth on Violence Forum

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A mini international youth forum on violence took place on Sunday in Comunidad Segundo Montes. Over 50 young people aged 13-34 came from Segundo Montes and Cacaopera in Northern Morazán, from the Lower Lempa region in Usulután and a dual language school School in Northern California. Though first time in Morazán, the kids from California were on their second Voices delegation to El Salvador.

The objective of the exchange was to facilitate a meeting and reflection among youth groups in three different contexts, in order to generate knowledge and awareness of the situation of youth violence in El Salvador and possible alternatives.

Violence seems to be one of El Salvador’s biggest threat to the flourishing of its’ future generations. In a country the size of Massachusetts with the population of 6.34 million, this March it reported 481 murders averaging about 16 a day[1]. The reality of life in many parts of the country means living daily under the anarchic control of rival gangs. Gang membership in El Salvador is reported to be around 25,000[2]. Young boys and girls are recruited every day, usually as an alternative to them or their family members being killed. Up until recently, Morazán youth have been able to escape that reality while communities in the Lower Lempa region experience an ongoing cycle of senseless violence due to gangs and drugs.

The daylong event opened with introductions, an energetic icebreaker and developing guidelines with the large group. Afterwards, Balmoris, a leader of Segundo Motes youth group Organizacaion Social Casa Abierta(OSCA), gave a detailed presentation on the history of violence in El Salvador. He started in 1932, the year when tens of thousands of indigenous people were massacred for fighting to stop the exploitation and pillage of their lands over coffee. He continued with the civil war up until today’s alarming problem with gang violence. Youth then participated in an activity aimed at building diversity awareness where they were able to visualize intersections of diversity and briefly discuss the social and personal impacts of privilege and power. The final workshop was analyzing insecurity in a local context; small groups dissected a specific form of violence in their community, developed a creative diagram to explain it, and ultimately brainstormed ways that youth can be catalysts for combating that reality. Donatilla, also from OSCA ended the day by presenting the work of INJUVE, the National Youth Institute formed to protect and advocate for young people’s rights in El Salvador.

Sharing each other’s realities opened up a lot of dialogue between the youth from the Lower Lempa region and Segundo Montes. While they practically share the same history they have since experienced a much different problem with violence. In the end, many of the participants expressed a feeling of gratitude and willingness to continue the discussion at a second forum in the Lower Lempa.

[1] The Guardian, 2015
[2] NY Books, 2011

The Vigil and Beatification for Monsignor Romero

On May 23, 2015, Pope Francis beatified martyred Archbishop Óscar Arnulfo Romero 35 years after his assassination on March 24, 1980 by high ranking Salvadoran military officials. A massive celebration was held in San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador and celebrated simultaneously in cities around the world. As hundreds of priests, religious, political and financial figures occupied tents sheltering them from the intense heat beating down on plaza Salvador del Mundo, thousands of pious people from El Salvador and international visitors scorched as they witnessed the religious ceremony on huge broadcast screens placed around the plaza.

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The night before the massive event attended by an estimated 300,000 people; a modest but strong group gathered outside a smaller plaza until 5:30am to celebrate what they considered to be the true ministry of Romero, a message for the poor and oppressed to fight for justice and peace. The event, organized by Comunidades Eclesiales de Base (CEBs); El Salvador’s non-traditional Catholic Grassroots Churches, included community presentations, dances, speeches, music and reflections. The constant downpour of rain did not deter the crowds from coming, growing and enjoying themselves.

Though Romero was not the first nor the last of the religious leaders to be martyred for speaking out against the repressive military controlled government of El Salvador during the 80s and 90s, he is one of the most prolific in his public disgust and outrage towards the powers that generated and sustained a 12 year civil war where hundreds of thousands of Salvadorans lost their lives, were disappeared or displaced.

The beatification event sparked substantial controversy throughout the region not only because of the amount of time if took to canonize the obvious martyr and the commercialism surrounding the event, but also because of the oppositional movement that still exists to this day in regarding his ministry and the elevation to sainthood. Three Salvadoran ambassadors to the Vatican, numerous Parrish leaders, military officials and ex-presidents have been actively speaking out against the process for years by claiming Romero was solely a political figure but Pope Francis saw through this calling him one of the “best sons of the church.”

“Your people have already made you a saint,” is a proclamation that adorns many churches, homes and hearts of Salvadorans who believe Romero entered heaven the moment he gave his life for the truth.

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– “Thank you Pope Francisco for dignifying the Martyr and Prophet Monsignor Romero.”

May’s Storm Surges Disrupt Coastal Water Tables

Since May 2-3, Salvadoran coastal communities have experienced a series of large waves, or storm surges, that roar over the shoreline and inland. La Libertad, Majahual, and other communities have suffered significant loss, including at least one death. The surges have been reported from Mexico to Chile and are believed to be the result of storms far out in the Pacific Ocean.

Dramatic videos show large waves flooding houses, swimming pools, restaurants, and seaside villages, but they don’t show the long-term affect on water tables in coastal communities.

MontecristoMontecristo in the Bajo Lempa region of Jiquilisco, Usulután reports that since the surges began earlier in the month, their well water has been contaminated with seawater. There is no freshwater available in the community. This would be a serious issue in any community, but for Montecristo it is especially serious because the community is located in dense mangrove forests and is only accessible by foot or boat. There is no way that a water truck could get to Montecristo and supply them with fresh water.

Voices on the Border met with the community leaders and the Bajo Lempa Water Cooperative and have begun the process of getting them tapped into the region’s water system, but this will take time and a relatively large financial investment. And the community wants to be sure that they do not disturb the mangrove forests they are charged with protecting. In the meantime, the community has to bring in 5-gallon jugs of water by boat – an expense that no one can afford. Voices will meet with the community again next week to continue planning how to best address the issue.

There are reports that many small communities along the coast are reporting the same issue – salinization of their well water.

Storm surges are not random occurrences. They are a product of hurricanes and cyclones, and can travel for thousands of miles, affecting regions far from the storm. Scientists predict that as ambient and ocean temperatures rise with climate change, and cause larger more powerful storms, coastal regions will be subject to larger and more devastating surges. The National Center for Atmospheric Research predicts that “the greatest threats from sea level rise and future storm-surge effects will likely occur along the Pacific Coast,” which is where the latest storm surges landed.

In 2009, the Center for Global Development published a paper titled, “Climate Change and the Future of Storm-Surge Disasters in Developing Countries.” It identifies El Salvador as among the top five low-income countries vulnerable to storm surges. They estimate that more than 50% of El Salvador’s coastal agricultural economy and nearly 100% of wetlands are at risk of flooding caused by storm surges. “For the majority of indicators used in this research, we observe the most consistently-severe exposure to risks for El Salvador, Yemen, Djibouti, Mozambique, and Togo.”

Even more specific, however, in a paper published in 2007 titled “Vulnerability and Adaption to Climate Change of Rural Populations in the Coastal Plain of El Salvador,” experts predicted that water tables in the Bajo Lempa would be salinized by 2020. The report says there is a medium to high level of threat that by 2020 there will be “salinization of aquifers due to the combined effects of floods and tides in the coastal fringe.”

This month’s storm surges are just another reminder that climate change is a reality and is happening now, and it is the impoverished communities around the world are suffering the consequences. Even if we are able to get Montecristo tapped into the Bajo Lempa water system, it won’t decrease the emissions of green house gases or decrease the risks of future storm surges, hurricanes, floods, and other disasters.