COVID 19, education

Educación Rural en Tiempos de COVID-19

maestro-DIADELMAESTRO
“A teacher affects eternity; he/she can never tell where his/her influence stops.”              -H.Adams

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Hoy, honramos a nuestros maestros, tanto populares como formales. Qué mejor manera de hacerlo que escuchando su realidad, sus luchas y sus esperanzas. A continuación compartimos las historias de tres increíbles educadores de una zona rural de El Salvador.


JOSE DORE RAMIREZ

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Desde el momento en que se emitió el decreto de emergencia por COVID-19 en marzo, creímos que el rumbo de la educación no cambiaría, que serían solamente unos días los que estaríamos sin estar en nuestra institución educativa, pero no fue así, cada día de fue complicando la situación.

En los primeros días lo vimos normal, solo nos(MINED) dijeron que preparáramos unas guía para unos 15 días y que buscáramos los me medios para hacerlas llegar a nuestros estudiantes. De ahí que comienza nuestro gran desafío: el cómo. 

Hay que ser honesto que muchos docentes su gran limitante es el uso de la tecnología, y de ahí que algunos colegas no encontraban la forma de hacerlo. Eventualmente, se rompió esa barrera, gracias al hecho de que dentro de nuestro personal tenemos dos Licenciados en Informática, y un centro de cómputo que cumple con las condiciones mínimas. Así pudimos ayudar algunos compañeros a buscar los mejores medios de comunicación con nuestros estudiantes, también creamos grupos de WhatsApp, subimos las guías a nuestro sitio web y imprimimos algunas para entregárselas a los estudiantes que no tienen ningún acceso a la tecnología.

Ahora, una vez que los estudiantes tenían sus libros de trabajo, surgió el siguiente gran problema: cómo esos estudiantes podían entregar su trabajo y a tiempo. Algunos estudiantes, especialmente los de primer año, nunca han usado, y mucho menos crearon una cuenta de correo electrónico. O algunos no saben cómo convertir sus archivos de trabajo en formatos que sean fáciles de enviar. Muchos estudiantes se quejan de que no pueden completar sus tareas porque no tienen acceso a las computadoras todos juntos.

Todo esto podemos sumar, que en nuestra sociedad no hay una cultura del uso de la tecnología de una forma adecuada, ni una buena orientación de que aplicaciones son útiles para que a los estudiantes les facilite mejor hacer sus tareas.

Como Docente de informática, yo creo que el gran reto que tenemos hoy es abrir esa brecha digital y orientar a nuestros estudiantes para que hagan un buen uso del recurso tecnológico con el que cuentan.

Durante los próximos meses, nuestro futuro educativo se encuentra en una etapa incierta, y a partir de ahí debemos hacernos una serie de preguntas:

  • ¿Con que nivel de aprendizaje llegaran nuestros estudiantes? 
  • ¿Habrán puesto en práctica las recomendaciones o indicaciones dada por el Docente?
  • ¿Estamos responsabilizarnos a nosotros mismos como maestros?

Y así podemos hacernos muchas preguntas, para llegar a la conclusión que estamos en un sistema que tanto el estudiante como el docente no estábamos o no estamos preparados para enfrentar estas pandemias o crisis. Nos están capacitando en el uso de plataformas en línea y esperan que migremos nuestra cultura educativa a una digital, casi de la noche a la mañana. En lugar de alentar sus esperanzas, este cambio ha llevado a un gran número de maestros y estudiantes a vivir con incertidumbre.

Al enfrentar un futuro impredecible para la educación, nos recuerdan las palabras que un gran filósofo dijo una vez: “Sé que no sé nada.”

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FLORA

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La Pandemia generada por el COVID-19 ha sorprendió a todo los estratos de la vida en todo el mundo. En nuestro país El Salvador, dadas las condiciones de desigualdad y pobreza se ha tenido que improvisar en todas las esferas, las acciones para hacer frente a dicha Pandemia.

En lo que concierne a la educación, de igual manera se han improvisado acciones para contribuir a la continuidad a los aprendizajes del estudiantado en general.

Algunas de estas acciones están encaminadas a fortalecer la comunicación telefónica con padres y estudiantes para dar orientaciones específicas. Se han entregado guías de trabajo en físico a cada estudiante, y en el caso de mi asignatura, matemáticas, existe un libro de texto y un cuaderno de trabajo para cada estudiante. Se han formado y fortalecido grupos en WatsApp con estudiantes y padres para las orientaciones pertinentes, y en algunos casos se gravan videos cortos explicando algún contenido y se envía según la necesidad. A pesar de estos logros, es importante mencionar que hay un buen grupo de estudiantes cuya familia no cuenta con teléfono inteligente mucho menos con computadora e internet, mucho menos energía eléctrica.

Debido a que nuestra escuela Amando López está situada en una zona 100% rural del país conocida como Bajo Lempa, hoy enfrentamos los siguientes desafíos:

  1. Como fortalecer la cultura digital en nuestro personal docente que satisfaga las necesidades educativas del estudiantado, a través de la formación docente y la gestión de las herramientas tecnológicas que tenemos a nuestra disposición.
  2. Cómo prepararnos para la posibilidad de regresar a clases presenciales y lo que eso implica dado que todavía estamos en medio de una pandemia.
  3. Como apoyar gestiones para que se dote de herramientas tecnológicas y internet al 100% de estudiantes o comunidades.
  4. Como fortalecer la cultura de apoyo de padres y madres hacia sus hijos en materia de educativa.
  5. Como impulsar iniciativas tendientes a minimizar el impacto psicológico de la crisis en los estudiantes y comunidad educativa en general, que favorezca la práctica de valores morales y por ende la calidad de los aprendizajes.

Para enfrentar los desafíos antes mencionados, consideramos que como maestros del centro escolar tenemos las siguientes fortalezas:

  • La buena disposición del personal docente para la actualización en el uso de las herramientas tecnológicas y otras estrategias de trabajo en función del proceso de enseñanza aprendizaje.
  • Padres y madres de familia en su mayoría están preocupados por la continuidad del proceso educativo para sus hijos e hijas.
  • Nuestro centro escolar cuenta con Internet, gracias al apoyo de la Escuela Internacional Carlos Rosario de Washington, D.C. y ONG Voces en la Frontera.

Esta coyuntura dejará muchos aprendizajes y lecciones para la comunidad educativa incluyendo personal docente. Los padres y madres ahorita están valorando de mejor manera la importancia de la educación de sus hijos/as. Los docentes han realizado la necesidad de actualización profesional, el uso adecuado de herramientas tecnológicas y otras estrategias para el proceso educativo. Finalmente, una gran mejora que estamos viendo es que la vida familiar se ha fortalecido y con ello la manifestación de los valores humanos.

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MARÍA ORELLANA DE CHICAS

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Debido a COVID-19, hemos iniciado una nueva forma de enseñar a los estudiantes por y mi experiencia personal como maestra desde marzo no ha sido fácil al principio de adaptarme a esta nueva realidad. Pero, junto a mis compañeros iniciamos las visitas domiciliarias para empezar un nuevo proceso educativo con los estudiantes padres y madres de familia.

El proceso de enseñanza-aprendizaje cambió totalmente, pues no se ha permitido el contacto físico con la comunidad educativa, entonces tuvimos que cambiar la estrategia para enseñar las sesiones de la clase. He creado un grupo de WhatsApp con estudiantes y padres que utilizo para enviar digitalmente guías educativas o coordinar entregas impresas. Cuando trabajo con mis alumnos durante las visitas ocasionales a la casa, siempre sigo las medidas sanitarias, como el uso de una máscara, gel de alcohol y siempre manteniendo mi distancia.

Otro factor importante que hemos tenido muy en cuenta es el papel de la familia, es decir, el padre y la madre también están enseñando en casa con guías educativas bien explicadas, lo que a su vez nos ayuda a mejorar nuestra enseñanza.

Hoy todos los maestros reciben clases de internet en Google classroom, también yo estoy actualizando mis conocimientos pero lamentablemente no cuenta con una computadora personal pero de alguna forma espero en el futuro obtener una. Como maestros, hemos creado un grupo asesor para ayudarse mutuamente y resolver las dudas con respecto a la orientación familiar.Aunque pensamos que no estábamos preparados para esta difícil tarea de impartir clases a través de las redes sociales, poco a poco nos estamos entrenando en el camino.

En cuanto a la esperanza en el futuro en materia educativa, me gustaría volver a las aulas y poder enseñarles a los estudiantes presencial pero está difícil. Ojala y pronto termine este virus para poder retornar a las escuelas. Sería bueno clausurar por lo menos el año lectivo, y esperemos que en septiembre volvamos nuevamente.

Me gustaría agradecer a los donantes por su apoyo a nuestra escuela y a mí personalmente, especialmente en estos tiempos difíciles, esta ayuda ha sido extremadamente importante.

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Rural Education in Times of COVID-19

Today, we honor our teachers, both Popular and Formal. What better way to do so than by listening to their reality, their struggles and their hopes. Below we share the stories of Dore, Flora and Maria, three amazing educators from rural El Salvador.

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JOSE DORE RAMIREZ

From the moment that the emergency decree becasue of COVID19 was issued in March, we believed that the direction of education would not change, that it would only be a few days of no class, but this hasn’t been the case and each day the situation becomes more complicated.

For the first few days it was normal, MINED simply told us to prepare our teaching guides for 15 days and to find ways to send them to our students. Hence our great challenge begins: the how.

It’s necessary to be honest, for many teachers, their greatest limitation is in the use of technology, meaning some colleagues couldn’t find a way to take that first step. Eventually, that barrier was broken, thanks to the fact that within our staff we have two Computer Science graduates, and a computer center that meets the minimum requirements. We were able to help those technologically challenged colleagues to find the best means of communication with our students, we also created WhatsApp groups, we uploaded the guides to our school website and we printed some to deliver to students who don’t have any access to technology.

Now, once the students had their guides the next big problem arose: how those students could hand in their work and on time. Some students, especially freshman, have never used, let alone created an email account. Or some don’t know how to convert their work-files into formats that are easy to send. Many students complain that they can’t complete their assignments because they don’t have access to computers all together.

We can chalk all this up to the fact that in our society there isn’t a culture of the adequate use of technology, nor a good orientation of which applications are useful for students to make it easier to do their homework.

As a computer teacher, I think that this is a great challenge, the need to widen that digital gap and guide our students to make good use of the technological resources they have.

Over the next few months, our educational future will be uncertain, so we must ask ourselves a series of questions:

  • What level of learning will our students arrive at?
  • Will they have put into practice the recommendations or indications given by the teacher?
  • Are we holding ourselves accountable as teachers?

From these questions, we’re able to reach the solemn conclusion that, as students and teachers, we are in a system that hasn’t prepared us to face these types of pandemics or crises.

They are training us in the use of online platforms and expecting us to migrate our educational cutlture into a digital one, almost overnight. Instead of encouraging their hopes, this change has lead a large number of teachers and students to live with uncertainty.

As we face an unpredictable future for education we are reminded by the words a great philosopher once spoke: “I know that I know nothing.”


FLORA MEMBREÑO

The pandemic generated by COVID-19 has surprised all strata of life around the world. In our country El Salvador, given the conditions of inequality and poverty, it has been necessary to improvise in all aspects of life, our actions to face this pandemic.

With regard to education, our actions have also been improvised in order to contribute to the overall continuity of student learning.

Some of these actions are aimed at strengthening telephone communication with parents and students to give specific guidance. Physical work guides have been delivered to each student, and in the case of my subject, mathematics, there is a textbook and a workbook for each student. Groups have been formed and strengthened using WhatsApp with students and parents for relevant orientations, and in some cases short videos explaining some content are recorded and sent as needed. Despite these achievements, it is important to mention that there are a lot of students whose family’s do not have a smartphone, a computer with Internet, much less electricity.

Because our school is located in a 100% rural area of ​​the country known as Bajo Lempa, today we face the following challenges:

  1. How to strengthen the digital culture in our teaching staff that meets the educational needs of the student body, through teacher training and the management of technological tools that we have at our disposal.
  2. How to prepare ourselves for the possibility of returning to face-to-face classes and what that entails given that we are still in the middle of a pandemic.
  3. How to support the efforts to equip 100% of our students and their communities with technological tools and internet access.
  4. How to strengthen the culture of parental support towards their children’s education.
  5. How to promote initiatives aimed at minimizing the psychological impact of the crisis on students and the educational community in general, which favors the practice of moral values and therefore the quality of learning.

To meet the challenges aforementioned, we believe that as teachers we possess the following strengths:

  • The willingness to update the use of technological tools and other work strategies based on the teaching-learning process.
  • Most parents are concerned about the continuity of the educational process for their sons and daughters.
  • Our school has Internet, thanks to the support of the Carlos Rosario International School in Washington, D.C. and Voices on the Border.

This situation will no doubt create many new lessons for the educational community including the teaching staff. Parents, now more than ever, are greatly appreciating the importance of education. Teachers have realized the need for professionally updating their knowledge of technological tools and other strategies for the educational process. Finally, a huge improvement we are seeing is that family life is being strengthened and with it the manifestation of human values.


 

MARÍA ORELLANA DE CHICAS

Due to COVID-19, we instituted a new way of teaching students since March and personally it has not been easy for me to adapt to this new reality. However, together with my colleagues, we began making home visits to embark on a new educational journey with students and parents.

The teaching-learning process changed completely, since physical contact with the educational community has not been allowed, we have had to change our strategies to teach our classes. I have created a WhatsApp group with students and parents which I use to digitally send educational guides or coordinate print deliveries. When working with my students through the occasional house-visit, I always follow sanitary measures, like the use of a mask, alcohol gel and always keeping my distance.

Another important factor that we have taken very much into account is the role of the family, that is to say, the father and mother are also teaching at home with well-explained educational guides, which in turn helps us improve our teaching.

Currently, all teachers are receiving via internet training in the use of Google classroom. I am also updating my digital knowledge but unfortunately I don’t have a personal computer though somehow I hope to get one in the future. As a school, we created an advisory group to help one another and resolve any doubts regarding home teaching.  Even thought we were not prepared for this difficult challenge to teach via social networks, little by little we are training ourselves along the way.

I hope very soon to get back into the classroom and to be able to teach the students in person, but this is difficult right now. Hopefully soon this virus will pass and we will be able to return to our schools. It would be good to close out at least the school year, hopefully by September we will return again.

I would like to thank the donors for their support of our school and for me personally, especially in these difficult times, this help has been extremely important.

 

agriculture, Agua/Aqua, Womens issues

THE BEST THINGS IN LIFE ARE FREE…

… Like giving from your heart


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With 587 confirmed cases and 13 deaths, COVID19 is gaining momentum here in El Salvador. Last night, the Salvadoran government decided to extended it’s lockdown measures until May 19th. This means that more people will be out of work, more kids won’t be getting their free school meals (or access to education for that matter), more abuse victims will be subject to more violence and human rights violations will no doubt persist.

To meet the needs of our communities during quarantine, we created a COVID19 Emergency Fund, in order to reach as many vulnerable people as we could. To date, with this fund we have helped over 140 families feed themselves, 14 families maintain their vegetable and livestock farms, and we’ve been working with schools to figure our ways to bring internet to more communities so that all students can fully participate in their online learning.

With the mounting restrictions, we can only do so much as an organization to help during the lockdown, so we’ve found new and innovative ways to communicate, coordinate and monitor the aid that’s needed.

This #GivingTuesday, you can be assured that any donation, small or large, will ensure our ability to carry on providing for individuals and families who’s very survival depends on them going out and earning their day to day income.


 

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

Our Note on the COVID19 Situation El Salvador

Download the PDF letter

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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!

delegation, youth, Youth Development

Learners Without Borders 2019 Delegation to El Salvador

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Justin, Jeremy, Daniel, Quinn, Jack and Andrew

This year the Learner’s team grew and we were lucky to welcome back Jack and Jeremy and welcome for the first time Justin, Andrew, Quinn and Daniel. 

Not only did the Learners’ team grow since their last visit but the group that participated in the chess camp grew as well. Enthusiastic young people from six neighboring communities came to Amando Lopez to join in on the fun activities Learner’s team had planned.

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Before heading to the Bajo Lempa, the group explored San Salvador, the countries capital city. They hiked a volcano, walked around the historical center, leathered about important Salvadoran history, ate pupusas and even visited the Chess Federation of El Salvador. In the Bajo Lempa, when they weren’t planning chess, the team got to tour the community, it’s schools, the forests and even a local zoo. 

Close to 100 players participated in this year’s tournament and of course, everyone was a winner!

In the end, the Learner’s team sat down with the community to help them develop their own local chess club which we are very excited about.

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We know a lot of planning and fundraising went into this delegation which is why we want to thank Learners Without Borders, the young coaches for spending a part of their summer with us, and their families and friends who made this all possible.  

 

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.