Step 3: Adopting “Local Language”

The Tasajera Summer School project remains in Phase 1 – Community Engagement phase, and will move to Phase 2 – Program Development – on January 14, 2016. In accordance with the project action plan, the selection of “Learning Areas” was carried out by the local Committee of Information and Development. This update is about the challenges faced during Phase 1.

One of the most important principles in community development is also one of the most difficult to implement: “adopting local language”.

I am not talking about learning the language of the community, or adopting local customs for oneself, or agreeing to its religious and daily life practices. Adopting local language is to translate your message into local terminology, and to develop an ear to interpret local needs without biased filters. We can say that adopting “local language” is really the leveling of the communication field between the expert (external) and the community. This is easier said than done.

The first, somewhat obvious, step to adopting the local language is to be willing to listen. We developed a process to interview and survey people from different sectors of Tasajera community (e.g. tourism coop, church leaders, school teachers, youth reps, student parents) to find out what are their educational priorities; in other words, what they want to learn.

Figure 1 displays the Summer School model including 5 priority “learning areas” that were chosen by community representatives, 1 additional local request, and 1 external consideration. The next phase will involve recruiting volunteers who wish to participate or contribute in any of these learning areas.

School model_community

figure 1. Tasajera Summer School model with 7 total learning areas.

Rationale for community selection

The second step of adopting local language is to process the information collected, and interpret the community’s selection. Why do the local community prioritize the need for such knowledge and education?

Computer Skills. Community members in Tasajera are aware of the rise of the internet age and they want to be part of the globalized world. The job market has also put pressure on people to have basic computer skills for jobs that previously didn’t required it. The challenge is that poor people in El Salvador lack even the most basic knowledge of computing and programs like Word processing tools. In addition, the rise of mobile internet users has opened up opportunities for mobile learning.
Language (English). Speaking English has become very desirable in El Salvador as it directly affects income; English-speaking call centers are one of the few growing industries, and are among the highest paid salaries. In addition, it has become government policy to encourage ecotourism development in Tasajera  Island and surrounding ecosystem. Tourism is a promising industry in El Salvador, its Pacific beaches host over 1 mil tourist every year from USA, Europe, and Latin America; most of which are English-speakers. Local community associate speaking English with better employment opportunities as tour guides, hotel managers, or development aid.
Reading and writing. As we have reported before, the local school system has been deficient in teaching kids how to properly read and write. We believe it is essential for a community to have higher levels of literacy as a foundation for educational development, which leads to overall community wellbeing.
Water (sanitation and filtration). Clean drinking water is certainly one of the biggest concerns of Tasajera community. During the course selection period, community representatives actively argued in favor of water education and filtration projects. Over the last 2 years, the tidal phenomenon has intensified in the Pacific coast, resulted in unprecedented salt water intrusion in groundwater wells in the region. More people now have to travel longer distances to collect drinking water for their families. This has cause great concern among the local population about their sustainability and survival.
Ecotourism. It is national policy since 2012 that the Jaltepeque Bay and its surrounding Mangrove forest will be developed as an ecotourism destination. The government seeks to harmonize the economic needs of the communities, including Tasajera, with the protection of the natural environment and the services it provides. Ecotourism can become a profitable industry for local communities. Therefore, the community wants to be more educated on the challenges and opportunities of ecotourism. This includes an entrepreneurial perspective.
Mechanics (engine repair) – ADDITIONAL. The community is very interested in learning mechanical skills related to engine repair. Being a fishing community, people in Tasajera mainly do business by boat (boats with a wide range of engine types). According to community members, there is only one person in the community who can repair engines. People are eager to learn this skill. This learning area, however, is considered an “additional” option by EMANA, because of the potential logistical challenges developing this course would bring. (open for discussion)

Analyzing the local development context

There is a clear relation between the development goals of Tasajera community and the protection of the natural resources. In fact, the safe and sustainable exploitation of the natural resources is assumed to be the only way local communities may achieve economic development and therefore improve their wellbeing.

Perhaps the most important example of this in Tasajera is the Turtle Conservation hatchery. Started in 2006 with the help of USAID and conservation NGOs the local community started buying sea turtle eggs from “egg collectors” to stop the illegal market of turtle eggs for consumption. Today, the Turtle Hatchery is seen as one of the most important income sources in Tasajera. More than 200 families get benefited from it every season. It is common  to see dozens of people walking at night on the beach searching for turtles laying their eggs.

Local leaders and NGOs are developing strategies to market the conservation and liberation of turtles as a tourism activity that builds awareness and facilitates capital into the community.

CCC donations arrive to Tasajera

Progress notice:

On Tuesday September  29, after many months of shipping logistics, coordination with our partners “HisChildren foundation”, and government paperwork (which required working lawyers to get the shipment approved with the President of El Salvador’s Office, the donations from Mansfield University have arrived to the island of Tasajera. We are awaiting further details and pictures of the final delivery. We will soon be ready to distribute the donations to people in need on the island.

Here is a message by Senior EMANA Director, Daniel Teodoro, thanking the volunteers for their hard work.

Dear friends,
Today we are close to see the fruit of a diligent, patient, and collaborative work. I received confirmation that the donations from “Collection Collaboration Campaign,” from Mansfield University, PA arrived to Tasajera Island. This is something that deserves attention.
Without knowing each other, we were all willing to “chip in” and to act in faith for a reason. There are many things I have seen throughout this process, and they deserve our attention, and for those of us who dream to make a difference in the world, there are many things to reflect upon:

for project details – READ MORE

Jason White, from Mansfield University, for being brave enough to “test the waters” of international aid with this idea. May this international effort encourage you and make you more determined to overcome the processes of helping those who need it the most, overcoming communication, language, and bureaucratic challenges. I know we can entrust you with this victory, to do the right thing and emanate your own light to those in PA to forge lasting connections and build peace and prosperity one community at a time.

Kurt, founder of HisChildren Foundation, and the entire foundation deserves full recognition for their willingness, their almost blind support, and for their true missionary heart even without being completely aware of what Tasajera community means to some of us, and what exactly CCC stands for. Your heart and your staff will never be forgotten, and you will receive your reward for being a role model for us and the country when it comes to serving the poor.

Roger, CEO of Sistemas Aereos, a God given friend. Only someone who knows the value of helping and the need there is in El Salvador, would do something like you did. God has put you in that position to be a blessing to others and is exactly what you are to the people of Tasajera and to us. May God repay what I will never be able to, donating the transportation from Miami, FL to El Salvador for FREE, with abundant blessings for your family and business.

EMANA stands only as the collective name for a network of young “dreamers” who believe help has no borders, and that desire and will is the only requirement for helping communities. We believe that by doing so, we “emanate” the light of God to others – there is a lot to learn and grow before we can reach the impact we want to have in El Salvador and the world. Good start.
Whether you know it or not, this is a very significant achievement.

The fruit of this project is yet to be fully seen, as we learn more about how to help others, I dare to say we may have gained an significant ally in the coalition against poverty in El Salvador: Mansfield University of Pennsylvania. Let’s not underestimate the significance of this project, as it serves as a trial or test for what is yet to come.
Special thanks to Kurt, Steve, Carlos, Roger, Jason, and Mary for everything.

Check out Project Page

Daniel Teodoro