EMANA August 2014

Summary

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.

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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)

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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.

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  1. 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.

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  1. 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.

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  1. 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.

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Spiritual Impact

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.

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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.

 

Religion of Love

EMANA is not a religious experience. However, it will be a highly spiritual one.

(I will explain this statement, bear with me)

Whenever one of us thinks about religion, we think of  “GOD”, and then different thoughts flood our minds. Perhaps most of them are unanswered questions about the idea of a god. Philosophers are exceptionally skilled at developing those thoughts into more questions, hoping to reach a clear-cut conclusion, hoping to find peace in their hearts with questions of their mind.

In EMANA, we don’t believe religion is God, or that God is a religion. We believe in purpose, and if anything exists, then it has purpose of being.

To illustrate the point of purpose, try to imagine what happens when a baby is being formed after an sperm and and egg come together in a woman’s womb. Two different cells, of miniature size, come together carrying within them only a ‘genetic map’, the DNA, of what they are meant to become. Imagine the combined cell expanding and then splitting in half, then they continue to expand and multiply over and over again. As you picture this image, ask yourself how does each miniature cell knows ‘where does it belong?’ ‘what organ or body part is it meant to become?’. Of course the answer lies in the ‘genetic map’ carried within each of those billion cells. This is how one cell knows it’s meant to become a fingernail, and another knows it belongs in the eye.

As humans, we can see ourselves as ‘cells’ of the larger human-kind body, carrying a ‘genetic map’ within ourselves. This map is what we, in EMANA, call purpose. We believe every human being has something to contribute to the world, and it’s of good and not harm. Sadly, many people in the world are blinded from their purpose and/or don’t know how to interpret their map.

EMANA is a spiritual experience

We believe that our purpose can be revealed through love… unconditional love. In fact, EMANA is the practice of unconditional love, doing selfless acts of love to help people in need, without expecting anything in return.

It is EMANA’s goal and duty to assist the poor people of El Salvador and the world. We choose to act in good faith, with the shared belief that helping people not only fulfills a general humanitarian goal, but most importantly helps Us find our own purpose in life. This is not a theory, this is not something you can understand with your mind, this is the reason why EMANA exists in the first place.

During an EMANA experience one thing is for sure: you will be filled with joy and love. After participating in our projects, most of the time, participants return to their lives being changed and with a different worldview; their lives change for the better. Many factors add up to a positive experience, among them are cultural exposure, selfless intentions, and a group of amazing people to share a new culture though a selfless perspective.

Young people from El Salvador, United States, Canada, Brazil, and Germany have been part of EMANA so far, and all of them carry on their lives feeling connected to this project and always longing to return. Next, you can see the 7 values that we believe in:

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Supporting Progress: WOMEN

Climate change, government corruption, and economic turmoil are complex issues that require complex solutions. Such is the greater context in which we found the community of the Island of Tasajera, El Salvador back in 2009. The community of 1,846 inhabitants living under the poverty line have been on a steady decline becoming poorer over time.

In November 2013, we set out to understand the root of the situation and formed a Community Diagnose task force. This group, led by Salvadoran and psychology student Carlos Escalante and funded by EMANA, studied and surveyed the Tasajera community to understand 7 key aspects: History, Habitability, Economy, Education, Recreation, Governance & Participation, and Perception of their future. An initial goal of this study was also to locate areas of potential development, of which the lack of women’s involvement in all socio-economic spheres of Tasajera was a clear conclusion throughout the study.

Women,” as Carlos describes, “are hard working stay-at-home wives and mothers, they wake up early to get the ingredients and make food for their family, then stay busy with the cleaning of the house; a difficult task in their coastal & sandy environment.” “They complained that men are usually sleeping when they are not fishing,” Carlos continued, adding that “women have a lot of potential to assist in the development of their community“. This was not a problem 10 years ago, when fish stocks were abundant. Every time a husband would return from the ocean brought with him plenty of fish to sell and provided for the house and family. To this day, more often than not, fishermen return home empty handed and continue piling up dept.IMG_1517

Although environmental pollution is a major problem, fish decline is mostly attributed to the booming fish industry continually abuses their permits throughout the coast line since 2000. As the community has witnessed a steady decline of their economy and increasing poverty, Carlos advocates it is crucially important to empower women with an encouraging environment, “making sure they know they can contribute to the progress of their community.”

As described in our About page,

“…When we determine an imminent need, we design a development project that will satisfy such need.”

On July 7th, EMANA, under the direction of Carlos E., have partnered with the community of Tasajera to create a woman’s group called “EMANA Youth: women entrepreneurs” in which we will engage with 22 young women in a regular basis to develop business ideas and unlock their potential. At this point the project is about teaching them how to make hand-made jewelry and crafts that can be sold to tourist of neighboring regions and in the United States and the world.

I asked Carlos Escalante to share a little bit about his experience in Tasajera and the goals of the newly created Emana Youth initiative. This is what he wrote:

“Anyone visiting the island realizes the great needs of its people in terms of poverty and social exclusion. Through the information gathered in the Community Diagnosis, we were able to visualize and comprehend the nature of various issues affecting the community today. In this effort, not only we managed to describe the community present situation but the historical factors that have contributed to its occurrence. Also, we identified distinct psychological and social factors that are part of the effects of historical institutional neglect, natural disasters, and a vast of socio-economic issues that have affected the community. This factors include mistrust in interpersonal relationships, broken community sense, and gender issues. Aside from the serious effort of trying to understand and describe the community, we also managed to establish invaluable relations with lots the inhabitants; this being the best part of this experience.

EMANA Youth participants on a jewlery workshop
EMANA Youth participants on a jewlery workshop

 The Community Diagnosis of Tasajera Island has been a process that has allowed me and the ones involved to get closer to the people and their daily routines. Throughout this process we paid attention to a series of comments made by the local participants on their perception and expectation of their future. These comments revolve around the idea of eagerly expecting a ‘maquila‘ or a big industry to come in and provide jobs for everyone. These statements sum up the feelings of abandonment, scares opportunities, and lack of personal confidence from which we considered that youth should be our working priority.


EMANA Youth initiative was conceived in response to this situation. The initial concept was to organize a mixed group of men and women to gather and make a sustainable project for them to achieve alternative solutions to the issues affecting the community. This idea brought in practice some constraints, which made us narrow the focus of the group. We decide to focus on the most vulnerable ones in the community: women.  Most of the strongest community issues in Tasajera affect women the most, yet remain invisible to the outsider; such as domestic violence, early pregnancy, lack of recreational spaces and activities, limited life plan, etc.


This project has begun with an initial goal of granting a group of 22 women alternatives on recreation, economic growth, organization, and strengthening relationships.  We have taken the first steps by supporting them with materials and teaching how to make handmade jewelry as they think about business strategies in the region.  During the first part of each session we make use of games and interactive dynamics to strengthen ties within the group and work on issues such as teamwork, coexistence, and relationships. The income gathered from sold jewelry will be a motivational aspect to achieve maintenance and self-sustainability in the group. With this project we aim to give women new perspectives on their possibilities and organizational capacity to help them find better solutions for their daily reality.” – CARLOS ESCALANTE