Step 1: Community Engagement – Education

During the period of October 25 – 31 in Tasajera Island,

I set out to investigate the current academic situation in the community. I met with the teacher and the director of local public school and toured the facility. The first-hand experience, besides learning of the teacher’s perspective, reassured me of the urgency in which EMANA has to act. The conditions are so bad that they may be reaching a tipping point.

The plan is to develop strong connections with all actors of the community; also called community engagement phase. November is a very important month in which a multi-sectoral committee, which will oversee the Summer School project, will be formed and meet regularly to determine which way is best to intervene with the school.

The Relation Youth-Education:

“Being a teenager is a sin here in El Salvador” stated Francisco, a member of ADESCO (Community Development Association), as he explained the risk teenagers find themselves in when gangs control certain territories. In several areas of El Salvador, gang members demand students to join their gangs, and if they deny they get shot.

This is a warzone, and young people are the most vulnerable in communities where their parents are afraid of sending them to school, because they are concerned they won’t come back. This is the reason why our project focuses on education, to reach out and empower those young kids who are afraid of learning.

What’s the current condition in Tasajera?

There are 2 schools in Tasajera. One is public (k-9), and is funded by state funds, and the other is private (k-12), and is funded by Christian organizations. It’s worth mentioning that all high school students in Tasajera go to the private Christian school to earn a high school degree.

About the Public School:

  • Infrastructure

Even though the infrastructure of the public school has been recently restored with support of Spanish NGO Ayuda en Accion, it still faces great challenges before it can be considered a safe learning place.

Among the main issues are the lack of general hygiene and cleaning, non-functioning bathrooms, unfiltered groundwater, rundown outer walls, insufficient and broken desks. In addition, I observed a lack of learning supplies (books, notepads, pencils, etc.) and supplies for extracurricular activities.

  • Educational Capacity

In terms of the educational quality of the public school, there are a few issues that were synthesized after several interviews with teachers and community members. A main issue is the fact that there are only 2 teachers in the school (including the Director) who take care of about 120 students. This problem is attributed to the lack of funds of the student families to cover the education cost entirely. In addition, public funds are very limited and according to the Director, Carlos Velasquez, it is only enough to cover a few books and materials, but not enough for every student.

  • Educational Needs

The teacher and Director of the public school expressed the need to strengthen reading and writing in young students, because there are many 6th graders that cannot read properly or write. This is a big concern when it concerns the learning abilities of students and the side-effects poor reading/writing skills have on learning as a whole.

In addition, the Director expressed the concerns about the self-esteem of students and the need for psychological interventions to assess and improve character development counteract the psychological effects of broken families, poverty, and deteriorating social fabric.

About the Private Christian School:

There is less to mention about the Christian School “El Sembrador”, because in a way, they are better suited than the public school. This school is part of a church and is being funded by the central “El Sembrador” church in San Salvador. Thus, it is perceived to have higher quality teachers and education.

However, after interviewing Ernesto Peralta, Director, I found out that in fact the challenges are similar in terms of the students; all students belong to the same community and have the same poverty and social problems. Finally, we agreed that both Directors (Public and Private) will join the Committee to work together on an educational intervention that is community-centered.

 

Arriving to Tasajera

Rain had been pouring in El Salvador for 2 days already by the time me, Carlos Escalante, and volunteers from His Children Foundation, were on the road to Tasajera last Saturday Oct. 17. It had been one year and two months since I last saw Carlos, and he picked me up outside the house I was staying in San Salvador at 5:52am on that day.

With grey cloudy skies and raindrops in my face I made my initial approach to the island; I was walking into my new workplace.

Volunteers of His Children Foundation and the local women’s group Sea Artisans were scheduled to distribute to the community donations from Mansfield University; which included clothing, shoes, and toys. This activity was performed successfully and the donations were given to 200+ families.

Surrounding the donations event, I made my goal to contact my most trusted ally in the community: Pastor Aristides Arce. The report from him was not as favorable as I expected. We sat under the palm hut behind his church, and I noticed he was hesitant to open up directly to me, waiting for me to express my intentions upfront.

After a few minutes, we quickly regain the trust we were used to. He explained some community members were not satisfy with the way I have been helping the community, as they thought I was channeling help for certain groups and not to others. I explained to Pastor that I was aware of my lack of communication with the community, and that this time I intent to communicate well with the community leaders about EMANA and its vision with Tasajera regarding education. After a 1:45 hour long conversation and a hot chocolate and pastry, I was pleased with having his blessing.

Later than evening, I met with Luis Recio, a Spanish student who is living in Tasajera since July and is working in there with a regional NGO called CORDES. Luis is one of the many Alcala University students that volunteer every year in this region, and he is an Environmental Scientist. This was no surprise, as we knew we would meet up since early June when I was visiting Edgar Hita, director of Central America Cooperation program, while in Madrid.

Our conversation with Luis was great, we agreed on working together in developing a waste management plan for Tasajera and carry out organic farming workshops together. Luis also agreed to provide support from his side to EMANA’s project to develop a Summer School Program and improve education in Tasajera. All in all, we are going to make great things together.

Luis Rodriguez, a current EMANA member, was also in Tasajera and we agreed to work together in the development of the Steering Committee and ADESCO.

Right before leaving Tasajera on Sunday, I met with Walter Pena, president of the Local Association for Development (ADESCO) to discuss the development of a Steering Committee with community members, school teachers, and other stakeholders to lead and oversee the School Program and other sustainable development goals.

I left Tasajera Island with a clear vision of the challenges and opportunities ahead of me, and after arranging all the necessary things, I will return to Tasajera to start the implementation process at the end of this week. stay tuned.

Thanks for your attention.

 

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

Blessings,
Daniel Teodoro