From July 31st to August 25th, I, Daniel Teodoro, was in El Salvador to work on a mission in the impoverished community in the Tasajera Island, off the coast of La Paz. My work involved gathering a group of 10 college students, national and international, to visit Tasajera to work on 3 main projects: Women empowerment, community clean up, and village mapping. This year’s progress has been marked by unparalleled bonding, both within the EMANA group and with the community underlying the spirit of love and compassion. Our primary goals were (1) expanding Salvadoran student membership, and (2) strengthening community partnerships through project collaborations. Establishing a functioning organization in el salvador whose operatives are trustworthy, reliable, and efficient at project management has been a very important accomplishment for EMANA.
EMANA volunteer week
In order to accomplish our primary goals, we organized a week long volunteer camp in Tasajera. From Monday to Friday a group of people that didn’t know each other, but shared common Emana values, signed up for a week of service and learning.
Suzy Marselis (NED), Daniel Teodoro (ESV), Luis Rodriguez (ESV), Jason White (USA), Gerardo Luna (ESV), Fiona Wolzak (NED), Claudio Kriegel (BRZ), Francis Escalante (ESV), Arturo Escalante (ESV), Carlos Escalante (ESV)
Six Salvadorans, one Brazilian, two Dutch, and one American bonded much better than expected. With a diverse range of academic backgrounds and schools of thought, diversity was a rich source of knowledge and perspectives that yielded great results.
- Women Empowerment Group
Throughout the week we worked closely with a group of young women that have been gathering twice a month on Saturdays to do handmade jewelry from seashells and other natural materials. This group has been led by university student Carlos Escalante and funded by EMANA, with the initial goal of providing women the opportunity to develop their money making potential; most of the things they make are sold to tourists and locals. This project seeks to empower women through a space of sharing and encouragement of ideas; promoting interaction among women in a deeply machista community is a step forward in the protection of human rights.
- Community Clean-Up Project
As the community of Tasajera aims to become an eco tourist destination, hoping that an increase in tourism can bring an increase in income to local families, a group of 20 young Tasajerans have been working together to clean up the streets of the community every Saturday; making the community more beautiful and appealing for tourist and locals alike. Under the leadership of Noemi, a 26 year old woman who claims she received the calling from God to assemble the group, the group called “Youth on Watch” have been operating for 2 years. Each member gets paid $13 a month for their cleaning services, and despite the symbolic amount, many depend on it to provide basic needs to their families in a time of struggle.
Our team worked with them for a day, alongside their team we set out to clean up the streets of Tasajera community in order to state two things: (1) We were there to serve the village, and (2) we believe that trash management is essential for a healthy environment.
- Mapping of Streets of Tasajera Community
The last major project of the volunteer week was the development of a map of the community. This was an important project because of the lack of geospatial information of the community. This project had the initial goal of developing a map of the community that would facilitate visitors, missionaries, and tourists with a guide through the village containing features such as churches, schools, stores, police post, main ports, restaurants, common areas, and streets. With the professional assistance of Suzanne Marselis (The Netherlands) and the guidance of local Francisco Funes, the project came to a successful conclusion when the final map was handed over to the tourism cooperative of the community, who accepted our contribution as a significant step forward for the community in providing missionaries and visitors the tools to immerse in the community and its culture.
The Tasajera experience is very special, because we don’t “advertize” our Christian faith on paper, instead we teach by example. Our team was instructed to follow the Christian values of EMANA and to filter every decision they make through the Jesus filter. Various people expressed a shift in perspective experienced throughout the trip, moments that changed something in them and opened them more to the love of God. At different times, God worked on people through different means, some attended local churches for prayer, others worshiped God with musical instruments, and others asked that we pray for them. Many in the group were intrigued about what they saw in us and started to ask questions about God and how to sustain an intimate relationship with God that allows one to stand firm in Christ and not stumbling all the time. Constant conversation and teachings of the importance of prayer, service, and selflessness were constant throughout the week.
EMANA Structure and Development Projections
For years EMANA has been focusing on developing a network of educated social operatives that can be reliable, trustworthy, and faithful to the EMANA values. The need to improve the implementation of development projects in impoverished communities is not limited to our group, in fact, this is the major concern of multinational non-profit organizations that fail to provide proper maintenance to expensive projects. I can say with confidence that our team has evolved into a full-functioning organizational structure, capable of providing the following services: (1) Community assessment, (2) project development and implementation, (3) logistics for international groups, (4) project administration and (5) research planning.
The most important part is not the design of a plan, but the guarantee that such plan can be implemented successfully in a community with different culture, language, values, and social norms. Such is the specialty of EMANA, and this is why the structure we have achieved to this day is prepare to address the needs of the impoverished communities of developing countries. These communities are victims of environmental, social, and economic policies not limited to a single state or country, but rather to regional and global realities. We are just merely preparing ourselves to be experts at community development in anticipation of increase of poverty.