Voices recently published a spring 2009 newsletter. Below are excerpts of the community updates. To view the full newsletter click here.
Comunidad Segundo Montes
Julie (Voices volunteer) and the folks in Comunidad Segundo Montes have been working hard. ALGES (the Association of War Wounded) recently rented out a second space next to their office. The new store sells beverages and snacks, and offers photocopying services–a hit with the kids coming from and going to school. Last year ALGES built and rented out space for a small eatery that has become a favorite spot for locals.
These efforts are significant. First, ALGES is taking steps to fund its own activities by engaging in a business venture. The money they earn ensures their independence and sustainability, and allows them to better serve the community. The project is also significant in its promotion of small business. El Salvador is facing a grim economic reality in the face of the global crisis, and small businesses such as these keep money circulating in the economy and provide people with jobs. Thank you to the congregation at St. Peter’s Church in Charlotte, NC for their ongoing support of Voices, ALGES and other partners in CSM.
During the recent elections, Radio Segundo Montes hired 30 interns to help them cover the voting in CSM. On election days in January and March, Radio Segundo Montes provided the youth with a press t-shirt and a $5 calling card, and drove them to different polling stations in the area. The youth called in to the radio several times while the polls were open, reporting on the number of voters and any instances of fraud or conflict. In addition to providing valuable information to the radio station, the project got youth involved in the political process, and hopefully sparked an interest in civic participation that will last long beyond Election Day.
Salinas del Portrero
Representatives from many of the 14 cooperatives in Salinas del Portrero met on March 26th to call for a reorganization of the directiva (community council) and a re-evaluation of several initiatives with nonprofit aide groups. Calling themselves the Committee for Community Development, the group identified several issues they want to address, including security, transportation, education, roads, and health. Before this meeting, the group had already led a successful campaign to lower the fare that pick-up trucks charge to travel from Salinas to Tierra Blanca. They are now working with the local police to address the rise in crime, which has recently included car jacking, attempted rape, and aggressive drunkards. The group will soon petition the Ministry of Education to increase the grade level of their school from 6th to 9th. Currently, 40 students travel to Tierra Blanca to attend 7th-12th grades.
The local health committee remains active, and is supporting Rubidia (the ASPS health promoter) in her monthly home visits to check in on patients with diabetes and high blood pressure, as well as provide prenatal care for the community’s women. Rubidia and the health committee just completed a coordinated community mapping project in which they identified each home and family, and the shrim farms in 11 local areas. They use the maps to help track their patients.
Following the elections, the Ciudad Romero directiva turned its attention to two important celebration–the commemoration of the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero, and the anniversary of the founding of their community. The directiva is also busy renovating the community park. The new design includes a new stage, a mural, a garden, a jungle gym, a new basketball court, and a plaza commemorating the nation’s history with bust of Monsenor Romero and Farabundo Marti.
Marina (the ASPS health promoter) continues to address the public health issues in Ciudad Romero, providing family planning services, teaching families how to maintain their compostable toilets, and giving talks at schools on hygiene and other topics. According to Marina, the most pressing health issues in Ciudad Romero include diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney failure, asthma and respiratory problems. Diarrhea related to water-born pathogens remains an issue, though the number of cases has decreased with the use of a new model of latrines as well as access to higher quality water piped into the community.
Comunidad Octavio Ortiz (La Canoa)
Comunidad Octavio Ortiz is limiting the impacts of the current economic and food crises on their community with initiatives that will increase local food production. Local farmers will increase and diversify their agricultural production so that they are more self-sufficient and less vulnerable to skyrocketing food prices. The increased production will also stabilize the local economy.
To facilitate the transportation of crops, the Directiva is planning to improve roads within the community. They are beginning to grade and gravel the main streets as well as the side roads that lead to the farmlands that surround the residential area.
The Directiva is also planning to increase their community’s cultural life, especially among youth. To accomplish this goal, they would like to build a second level onto the Casa Comunal that will be used for music and art classes, movie viewings, and many other purposes. They will also add space for a small store to sell food and other goods produced in the community.
Early one Saturday morning in late March, community members gathered at the local trapiche (a sugar cane mill) to bring it back life after two years of dormancy. By noon, kids were playing with taffy, while adults were wrapping blocks of unrefined sugar in dried husks. Producing artesian sugar for cooking, sweets, and molasses, which is used in making cattle feed, can be a lucrative operation that brings the community together and may even result in a small, local tourist industry.
Under Arecely’s (the ASPS health promoter) leadership, the COO health committee remains strong. Working in partnership with the local Ministry of Health clinic, Arecely and the health committee have led numerous health campaigns, fundraisers, and advocacy initiatives, and participated in several trainings.
While the community is excited about the possibility of having greater access to government ministries once the new administration takes office on June 1st, they are increasingly aware of their responsibility for their own development and sustainability.