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!

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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.

Politics

The Swearing In of El Salvador’s New President

Version en Español

iOn June 1, Nayib Bukele was sworn in as the new President of El Salvador. Bukele dabbled in political life in 2012, under the banner of the FMLN party when he won the mayorship of Nuevo Cuscatlán and three years later, in 2015, when he became governor of San Salvador, the capital. His differences with the left-wing party caused his expulsion from it on October 10, 2017. He won the presidency under the Great Alliance for National Unity (GANA), a right-wing party founded by former members of ARENA.

His first speech as president lasted 24 minutes in which he spoke in generalities, without referring to his outlook for the country, or to what his priorities will be. Generally, in their inaugural address, elected presidents reflect on their vision of the country they receive, and what their strategies will be during the five years of their administration.

For his part, Nayib Bukele called for national unity and asked Salvadorans to work hard to move the country forward; but most of his speech was dedicated to exalt his followers, who were present in Plaza Barrios. He also reminisced about his father in an extensive anecdote; thanked his wife; criticized previous governments for unfulfilled promises and reiterated that he will do what he promised in his campaign… making difficult decisions.

As expected, the FMLN harshly criticized the content of his speech, calling it “superficial” through a statement via their official Twitter account. The party argued that the speech did not express commitments or proposals to the important problems facing the Salvadoran people, such as the privatization of water, pension reform and citizen security.

ARENA issued a press release in which it “extends its hand to President Bukele so that he can make a correct government in accordance with the law and institutions; and strive to meet the urgent needs of the people who demand more opportunities that improve their quality of life.”

Both parties agree that the new government faces a country with complex problems. A recent article by the news agency BBC Mundo states that Nayib faces five major challenges as the President of the most violent and poorest country in Latin America.

The main one is the violence. Bukele will face a complex and entrenched issue that is considered a real national security problem, and which has translated into the omnipresence of gangs in the lives of Salvadorans; gangs that sometimes control entire lives. Homicides, extortions, drug trafficking and human trafficking are common crimes associated with gangs.

Poverty is another of the chronic problems. According to the Economic Commission for Latin America (ECLAC), El Salvador was ranked the third poorest country in Latin American between 2015 and 2017. However, 37.8 % Salvadorans still live in poverty.

Corruption, scarce investment to generate sustainable sources of employment and an opposing Legislative Assembly are other obstacles that the new government will face. How will they do? This is still a question that remains unanswered.

The most structured response the incoming government has put forth is their campaign platform, called Plan Cuscatlán, however, it is unknown if this will be adopted as a government plan or if it will undergo substantial modifications. Plan Cuscatlán is an extensive document consisting of 1,075 pages, which identifies parts of the economic model to be implemented, for example, a commitment to mega infrastructure projects such as an airport in the eastern part of the country and train service along the Salvadoran coast.

According to the economist Julia Evelyn Martínez, there are enough signs to conclude that the new government will adopt a neoliberal economic model strongly committed to the interests of the United States. “I have analyzed Plan Cuscatlán and as a result of that analysis I have concluded that what it offers for the next five years is more neoliberalism than there has been in the last 30 years,” Martinez stated during a television interview.

In fact, a few hours after Bukele’s inauguration, President Donald Trump said: “The United States is ready to work with Nayib Bukele to promote prosperity in El Salvador and the hemisphere. Congratulations President Bukele on your inauguration.” With this type of support it can be intuited that the political and economic influence of the United States in El Salvador will increase over the next five years.

What does constitute a positive signal is that the President’s first executive order was directed to the armed force to “remove the name of Colonel Domingo Monterrosa from the barracks of the Third Infantry Brigade.” This is a controversial order because for the Armed Forces, Monterrosa is to this day considered a hero; however, he has been identified as responsible for the El Mozote massacre, so demystifying his name is good for the country’s wellbeing.

Despite both positive and negative signals, it is important to wish the new President all the best, especially since June 1st he became the captain of the ship in which all Salvadorans travel, although it is worrisome when the captain doesn’t point clearly where the ship is heading.

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NUEVO PRESIDENTE EN EL SALVADOR

El pasado uno de junio Nayib Bukele fue juramentado como el nuevo Presidente de El Salvador. Bukele incursionó en la vida política en el 2012, bajo la bandera del FMLN cuando ganó la alcaldía de Nuevo Cuscatlán y tres años más tarde, en el 2015, se convirtió en el alcalde de la capital, San Salvador, pero sus diferencias con el partido de izquierda lo llevaron a su expulsión el 10 de octubre de 2017. La presidencia la ganó con el partido Gran Alianza por la Unidad Nacional, GANA. Un instituto de derecha fundado por exmiembros de ARENA.

Su primer discurso como Presidente tuvo una duración de 24 minutos en los cuales habló generalidades, sin referirse a la visión que tiene del país, ni cuales serán sus prioridades. Generalmente en su discurso inagural los presidentes electos suelen reflejar su visión del país que reciben, y cuáles serán sus estrategias durante los cinco años que durará su gestión.

Por su parte Nayib Bukele hizo un llamado a la unidad nacional y pidió a los salvadoreños trabajar fuerte para sacar adelante al país; pero la mayor parte de su intervención la dedicó a exaltar a sus seguidores, presentes en la plaza pública donde se celebraba el evento; recordó a su padre en una extensa anécdota; agradeció a su esposa; criticó a los gobiernos anteriores por las promesas incumplidas y reiteró que hará las obras que prometió en su campaña, lo cual implicará tomar decisiones difíciles.

Como era de esperar, El FMLN criticó duramente el contenido de su discurso, a través de un comunicado en su cuenta de Twitter, calificándolo como “superficial”. El partido de izquierda sostuvo que en el discurso no expresó compromisos, ni propuestas ante los grandes problemas que enfrenta el pueblo salvadoreño, tales como la privatización del agua, la reforma de pensiones y la seguridad ciudadana.

De igual manera, el partido ARENA emitió un comunicado de prensa en el que “le extiende la mano al Presidente Bukele para que pueda hacer un gobierno correcto apegado a nuestras leyes e institucionalidad; y se empeñe en atender las necesidades apremiantes de nuestro pueblo que clama más oportunidades para mejorar su calidad de vida”, expresa el texto.

Ambos partidos coinciden en que al nuevo gobierno le tocará hacer frente a un país con problemas complejos. Un artículo reciente de la agencia BBC Mundo expone que al nuevo Presidente le tocará enfrentar 5 desafios en el país más violento y pobre de América Latina

El principal es la violencia, Bukele se enfrentará a una compleja y enquistada cuestión, considerada un auténtico problema de seguridad nacional, que se traduce en la omnipresencia en la vida de los salvadoreños de las pandillas, quienes en ocasiones controlan barrios y colonias casi en exclusividad. Los homicidios, extorciones, el narcotráfico y la trata de personas son delitos comunes asociados al accionar de las pandillas.

La pobreza es otro de los problemas crónicos, el referido artículo señala que según la Comisión Económica para América Latina, CEPAL El Salvador se destacó como el tercer país de América Latina que más redujo porcentualmente su pobreza entre 2015 y 2017. Sin embargo, el 37.8% de salvadoreños y salvadoreñas sigue viviendo en la pobreza.

La corrupción, la escasa inversión para generar fuentes de empleo sostenibles y una Asamblea Legislativa contraria a sus intereses son otros de los obstáculos que deberá enfrentar el nuevo gobierno. ¿Cómo lo hará? Aún es una pregunta sin respuesta.

Al respecto la referencia más estructurada que se tiene es su plataforma de campaña, denominada Plan Cuscatlán. Se desconoce si este será adoptado como Plan de Gobierno o si sufrirá modificiaciones sustanciales, el Plan Cuscatlán consiste en un extenso documento de 1,075 páginas, en el que se identifican pistas del modelo económico a implementar, por ejemplo hay una apuesta a la implementación de mega proyectos de infraestructura; un aeropuerto en el oriente del país y un tren que va a recorer la costa salvadoreña, son de los proyectos más emblemáticos.

Según la economista Julia Evelyn Martínez hay señales suficientes para entender que el nuevo gobierno adoptará un modelo económico de corte neoliberal y que estará fuertemente comprometido con los intereses de Los Estados Unidos. “He analizado el Plan Cuscatlán y como resultado de ese análisis he concluido que lo que ofrece para los próximos cinco años es más neoliberalismo del que ha habido en los últimos 30 años”, manifestó Martínez en una entrevista de televisión.

De hecho, unas horas despues de su juramentación el Presidente Donal Trump expresó: “Estados Unidos está listo para trabajar con Nayib Bukele para promover la prosperidad en El Salvador y el hemisferio. Felicidades Presidente Bukele en su toma de posesión”. Con este tipo de respaldo puede intuirse que la influencia política y económica de los Estados Unidos en El Salvador se incrementará en el próximo quinquenio.

Lo que si constituye una señal positiva del nuevo Presidente es que su primer orden ejecutiva fue dirigida a la fuerza armada: Quitar el nombre del coronel Domingo Monterrosa del cuartel de la Tercera Brigada de Infantería. Esta es una orden polémica porque para la Fuerza Armada Monterrosa es considerado un héroe; sin embargo, ha sido señalado como el responsable de la masacre El Mozote, por lo que desmitificar su nombre es bueno para el país.

No obstante las señales positivas y negativas, es importante desearle lo mejor al nuevo Presidente, sobre todo porque a partir del uno de junio se convierte en el capitán del barco en el que viajan todos los salvadoreños y salvadoreñas, aunque preocupa que el capitán no diga con claridad hacia donde se dirige la nave.

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, 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: