education, Public Health, Voices Developments, Womens issues, Youth Development

Our Note on the COVID19 Situation El Salvador

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March 19, 2020

Dear Friend,

El Salvador, like many countries around the world, is reeling from the effects of COVID19. To clamp down on the spread of the virus, on March 15th, the government declared a state of emergency and approved a partial suspension of constitutional rights. What does that look like?

  • Foreigners are prohibited from entering the country by land, air or sea. All who enter illegally or legally are subject to a mandatory quarantine in a government run facility.
  • All educational activities are suspended, private and public.
  • Crowd sizes exceeding fifty people, such as concerts or sporting events are canceled.
  • All bars, cafes and discos are closed; restaurants can only offer delivery or take out.
  • Trade will continue normally. Commercial activities will remain unchanged, including imports and exports, under the proper sanitary control at customs.
  • People are told to shelter in place and only venture out if truly necessary.

On March 18th, El Salvador registered it’s first single confirmed case of the virus, from a Salvadoran returning from Italy, who defied the barrier the President put in place around the perimeter of the country. Because of citizen denouncements, he was picked up and tested positive for the virus and subsequently the entire municipality of Metapan, in the department of Santa Ana has been cordoned off for the next 48 hours in an effort to find his line of infection.

Impacts on the Salvadoran Society
The majority of the population has reacted with panic, no matter how many calls for calm are made. Supermarkets are crowded and supplies are beginning to become scarce, partly because there is hoarding and price inflations. For example in some places bottled water is selling for three times its normal price.

Bukele has said that the department of labor will do what it can to make sure employers and workers are economically supported during the quarantine, but every hour labor abuses are being called out via social media of workers being indiscriminately laid, off, mistreated or made to work when they aren’t supposed to.
The sectors most economically impacted by this national quarantine are the service industry, domestic workers, day laborers, street vendors, factory and sweatshop workers. Also affected are those Salvadoran families who already live in El Salvador’s precarious situation of water shortage. For young girls and women who face abuse at home, the situation of isolation becomes even more serious. It encourages victim control and greater submission of the victim.

Impacts on VOICES’ work
VOICES, like other NGOs, is having to adapt to these measures. For example, this situation forced us to cancel the annual South Bay Sanctuary Covenant delegation this March, as well as suspend the special delegation of teachers from Amando López to the United States in April.
Likewise, the SBSC fundraising event scheduled for April 26 in California, at which our director was to speak, was canceled.

Also with the suspension of classes the reproduction phase of the ECHO project workshops in Morazán is on hold; likewise, some community activities, workshops and meetings.

It’s safe to say that human rights don’t simply go away because of a national quarantine, and neither will VOICES’ commitment to accompanying our local partners as best as we can. As an organization, VOICES’ staff are adhering to the rules put in place by working from home.
This involves catching up on programming materials and fine tuning our evaluation frameworks, but we are also finding other ways to support our partners in the following ways:

Women’s Network of Morazán (9 municipalities served)
– Providing 15 canasta basicas for the Network’s most vulnerable members and their families.

Amando Lopez grade school (9 communities served)
– While some students may enjoy the meal provided by the school, other families may see it as a lifeline. The school’s staff compiled a list of 88 students who are most at risk from malnutrition and we will work with them to find the best way to help feed these kids during the quarantine.

Youth Development Association of Morazán (3 communities served)
– This inspiring youth group has had to cancel all of their programming including their special activities, community events, workshops and schools like their school of nutrition, which not only serves as a means to teach recipes, but also supports families’ ability to practice food sovereignty through the family farms component. We will work with AJUDEM to ensure that those most affected will have access to plants, seeds and compost to keep their farms growing.

El Salvador is a resilient country full of ingenuity and as long as we continue to practice true solidarity, we will all be able to come out of this pandemic with heads high and the prospect for a brighter more sustainable future.

Atentamente,
The VOICES Team

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Womens issues, education, Capacity Building

Maria’s Dream to Teach

Meet Maria, 

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Maria is a popular education teacher in the Amando Lopez community grade school who VOICES is committed to supporting this year, by providing her with the living wage that she is not entitled to by the Ministry of Education because she lacks certain academic credentials.

Maria teaches Science, Health, Environment, Literature, Arts and Physical Education classes to 3rd, 4th and 5th graders.

Maria’s days begin early.

She wakes up at 4AM to clean her home, wash dishes and prepare breakfast for her husband and 4 year old daughter Hazel. After she drops Hazel off at Preschool, she begins her own school day. At noon, she picks up Hazel and goes home to prepare lunch, rest in her hammock and if she’s not called on to be a substitute teacher for the afternoon session, she prepares for the following day of classes. At the end of the day she washes clothes and prepares dinner for everyone before going to bed around 10pm.

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Maria is no stranger to hard work.

“I’ll always remember the summer before 9th grade, when my father told me that I wouldn’t be able to study because it was time for my younger siblings to start school. I felt really sad. I told him that I would pay my own way. That was the day I began working mornings with my brothers and father in the sugarcane fields. When we were done, I would run home as fast I could to wash up and get ready for my afternoon classes. After school I worked on my aunt’s chicken farm. That is how I put myself through high school.”

Increasing the quality of education in our partner communities continues to be of importance to VOICES. In recent years, we have supplemented teachers’ salaries, provided school transportation, covered operational expenses, provided small scholarships for high school students and continuing education courses for teachers.

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Last year, VOICES’ board members were so impressed by Maria’s commitment to teach that we were compelled to make a commitment of our own. Since Maria doesn’t officially show up on the school’s roster, they can only pay her $100 per month.

Maria’s goal is to get her teacher’s license through a distance learning program offered by the National University of El Salvador (UES). Supplementing Maria’s salary will allow her to support her family, afford the costs involved in her coursework and assure a brighter future.

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Visit http://www.votb.org/donate to help make Maria’s dream a reality.

* Popular education is a people-oriented and people-guided approach to education that creates a horizontal transmission of knowledge from a teacher to students by adapting to participants and their context. LEARN MORE
education, Public Health, Sexual and Reproductive Health

ECHO El Salvador has Moved to Morazán

ECHO El Salvador has expanded it’s reach and is wrapping up its first training session for educators and health promoters in the department of Morazán.

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Maritza and Evelyn; our local coordinators

With the help of a great local coordination team and support from from both the ministry of health and education, we were able to compile an impressive list of participants who have been coming together every saturday to receive the training courses from the  team of experts from the University of New Mexico School of Medicine.

We learned a lot from our work down in the Bajo Lempa which prompted us make some changes to the program here in the East. For example, during our Morazán conscription, we made sure to invite not only teachers but their directors as well, so that once the training is over the school teams will have an easier time planning and replicating the classes in their respective institutions.

 

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We also hope to have greater success with local capacitation in the communities, which is why we invited Daniel Perez, Morazán’s health promoter supervisor, to attend this first training session. Not only did he accept but has also offered to assist us in the coordination and monitoring of his team once they are on the ground and imparting classes.

In the Bajo Lempa, we trained 60 participants from six different communities and in Morazán, a total of 75 participants from 16 municipalities will receive training.

Stay tuned to see their progress.

 

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Capacity Building, delegation, education

An Educational Adventure

DSC_0379This past summer was full of really exciting visits. The El Salvador staff traveled to the U.S. to take part in the annual board meeting in Maryland, and two delegations visited us here in El Salvador. The first was an awesome group of young chess coaches and the second was a wonderfully dedicated group of staff from the renowned Carlos Rosario International adult charter school in Washington, D.C.

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This marks the fourth year the group has come to explore, learn and exchange with the people of El Salvador. Recently, they have focused on creating an intentional partnership with the Amando Lopez community school in the Bajo Lempa. The reason the delegates come is not only to increase the cultural awareness they possess for Salvadorans, a population that makes up the majority of their students back home; but also to be able to exchange knowledge with the educators and leaders of the communities that they visit.

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They held meetings with inspiring groups working on youth development, women’s empowerment, LGBTQ rights, and environmental justice. They traveled to Morazán and learned about the history while listening to hopeful opinions about a peaceful future.

In the Bajo Lempa, they facilitated various workshops with the educators and community members on topics such as Self-care in the classroom, reading techniques, the risks of social media, among others. They themselves received workshops in turn from the community’s school staff which you can see more of below in the video.

 

We want to extend our gratitude to the people behind the scenes who made this an unforgettable delegation, and to those who made donations to rural education throughout the various campaigns. With this money, the Amando Lopez school will improve infrastructure, purchase necessary teaching material, musical instruments and fix school computers.

Until Next Year!

education, Food Security, Youth Development

AJUDEM’s School of Nutrition

Remember AJUDEM, that awesome and hardworking youth group in Morazán that serves numerous communities of Ciudad Segundo Montes and in the mountains bordering Honduras?

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Well, VOICES recently signed a new contract with them to support their programs, that we believe contribute to a culture of learning, well-being and non-violence that is desperately needed in the regions we serve.

Below, you can see how one of their programs, the School of Nutrition, plays an important role in the lives of the youth and their families.

education, women & girls

Continuing Education for the Special Needs Teacher

Below, Mabel Barrera, the special needs classroom teacher in the Bajo Lempa shares her experience attending the specialization course “Educational Care for Children with Learning Difficulties” offered by the Universidad Centroamericana José Simeón Cañas (UCA).

“Al principio me sentía un poco nerviosa ya que es primera experiencia de formación formal, ya había escuchado que la UCA es una universidad muy exigente y pensé que en un primer momento no iba a poder cumplir todas las exigencias. Pero la experiencia empírica durante los años que he trabajado me facilito el proceso de aprendizaje, me ha permitido aprender sobre la teoría del trabajo que yo realizó en el aula de apoyo,  también a conocer a maestras de otras partes del país quienes también trabajan en la misma área de la enseñanza, además a significado un esfuerzo físico y familiar ya que para tomar las clases me iba un día antes pero vale la pena ya que me he empoderado en las metodologías para mejor mi enseñanza. Agradezco a Voces en la Frontera y estoy segura que en el futuro va ser importante para mejorar el trabajo que realizó con niños y niñas de las comunidades.”

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“At first I felt a bit nervous as this is my first formal training experience, I had already heard that the UCA is a very demanding university and I thought that at first I was not going to be able to fulfill all the demands. But the empirical experience during the years that I have worked facilitated the learning process, it allowed me to learn about the theory behind the work I do in the special needs classroom, and has also allowed me to meet teachers from other parts of the country who also work in the same area of teaching. In addition to meaning a physical and family effort since to take the classes I travel (to San Salvador) the day before, still it is worth it since I have empowered myself in the methodologies to better my teaching. I thank Voices on the Border and I am sure that in the future this will be important step to improving the work done with children from the communities.”

education, youth

School Transportation in the Bajo Lempa

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Students bus in from neighboring communities to attend classes at the primary school of our partner community Amando Lopez. Before 2014, many parents and guardians were comfortable enough sending kids to school on their own but that all changed after a wave of violence struck the Bajo Lempa. These communities reached out to VOICES, and with the help from the South Bay Sanctuary Covenant group- we began to finance a safe and free school transportation system which has led to an improvement of school retention in the Bajo Lempa.