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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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, 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.

 

education, Public Health, Sexual and Reproductive Health, youth

Evaluating the ECHO Model in the Bajo Lempa

The training portion of Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) came to an end last month with the second and final session of Bajo Lempa participants being certified as Sexual and Reproductive Health educators by a group of medical professionals from the University of New Mexico. In total, 41 teachers and 17 community health promoters participated in the program.

Over the last two weeks we had the pleasure of hosting Nutritionist, Grace Palm and Gynecologist, Hannah Palm; the two health education consultants from UNM. Since the beginning, these two young doctors have showed nothing but dedication and proved vital in the development of ECHO materials and as facilitators during the video trainings. They came to visit the communities, conduct in-person focus studies and sit in on some of the classes being replicated during their stay.

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Two groups of teachers, one group of health promoters and one group of school administrators participated in the focus studies where conversations were constructive, collaborative and full of ideas for the future. The classes they observed were well prepared and well taught and most teachers adapted ECHO’s methodology to fit their own group dynamics.

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Jose Acosta, VOICES’ director expressed during the final evaluation with school administrators, “If this proves a successful method to adequately capacitate those who’s role it is to impart such programs, the goal to ultimately implement the ECHO model into the education curriculum can be realized.

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The two with their host family and VOICES’ executive director.

Photos of classes being reproduced in schools and communities: