San Salvador 13
Wed, 30 Jan 2008
Hi all- Well this is my second last report so you had better enjoy it! Some interesting statistics:
1) 1070 people leave El Salvador every day because of the lack of opportunity here. Many people make less than $10.00 per day....often working in the garment industry, which is the biggest industry here. Most go to the USA and try to get in illegally and end up working in the 'underground economy'.
2) 18% of the GDP of the country is from money coming in from the outside.
3) the average number of years that the people who have left continue to send money in is 11 years.....so it's a long hard slog even if you manage to get out!
So we visited our last project today. It is a little place called San Francisco Chinameca. This is a project where land was bought by Rainbow of Hope for some families after the 2003 hurricane. We first met with some of the board members who explained some of the programming that they do. Their objective is to improve the conditions in the community especially for youth and women. They started out with a musical group, 200 books for their library, a computer, and 15 people willing to volunteer their time. A community center has been built that now has a library with about 2000 books, a sewing project has been started for the women where 8 women now work regularly to create crafts and clothing for sale, there are English classes for children, now 2 computers with computer classes, sports tournaments for the women and children, dance classes.......progress is being made. It is their dream to maintain their cultural background through song and dance and according to them, 40% of the youth are receptive to the idea. As is usual with these things, there is more ambition than resources to carry them out! The municipality and the mayor have not been willing to work with them so it has not been easy to move forward with their programs. The way it seems to work here is, if you don't follow the party lines, you are not likely to get much help. The ARENA party is the ruling party here and they have been in power for forever in this part of the country. They are right wing conservative not as a rule receptive to a lot of social programs. The posters and pictures of Che Guevera on the walls of the community center pretty much tells where they are coming from! They are likely to be supporters of the left wing FMLN party. After looking around the center and 'presenting' one of the clarinets I brought to the association, we went off to have a look at the land that Rainbow of Hope bout for the 12 families. It was about a 5 minute drive away down a side road. The land is only about an acre big. You have to understand that is on a rather steep slope. Each family has a small plot of 8.5 meters X 12.5 meters on which to build a house. Only two families have built a dwelling of any kind thus far and the others are living in temporary facilities elsewhere. Nine of the families are single parent families headed up by women (all too common here), and the other 3 are 2 parent families. The families will get title to the land (this will be a vast improvement in itself) and the land will be able to be inherited but not sold. At least in some parts there is very little suitable land to build on here. So much of the building can look a bit helter skelter often seeming much too close to the road. Much of the land is considered unstable and the dwellings they build are of adobe or block with corrugated iron roofs so are unable to withstand much in the line of hurricanes or earthquakes without major damage. But they do what they can with what they have. So they will build retaining walls, use a lot of fill, and live in what we would consider overcrowded conditions and than God that they have what they do! I guess the good thing is that much of their lives are lived outside and the shelter they require can be quite minimal in a climate like this. But talk about plots with a view.....Unbelievable!
It was arranged that we have lunch down the road at another coffee COOP in Santiago, Texacuanangos. This plantation was much smaller than the previous one we were at....with only 50 associated members and producing only 800 quintals (1 quintale = 100lbs) of coffee per year. Again, both rainforest and organic coffee is produced. The coffee pulp is turned back into organic fertilizer. As it was the end of the harvest, the coffee was spread on the ground drying. Lunch was the usual but very comfortable informal setting outside, on rather rustic table and chairs beside all the coffee processing equipment. The food is always simple but good.....red bean soup, rice, tortillas..... We were then taken for a walking tour of the plantation. They also grow some fruit so we were given mandarins straight off the tree and saw other fruits growing....most of which I had never seen or heard of. Most of the walk consisted of a trail through the forest which was full of all sorts of tropical vegetation, from bananas, to oranges, to mangoes....They were quite proud to show off their operation. One of the women who came on the walk was there former head of the COOP for 14 years....the only women head of a coffee COOP in the country! It was quite a wonderful walk.....quite steep in places. We then went off the plantation office down the road , where the coffee was also roasted and of course.....bought coffee.
We headed back into town and did some business at the mall, and hauled about 80 lbs of coffee that we brought from the coffee plantation to the CIS office for resale.
Supper was at the outdoor garden cafe where we were last weekend that overlooks the city. By then it had cooled off to a comfortable 25C or so!....very pleasant temperatures.
Well I have things to do yet, one of them viewing the stars from the rooftop. Life is tough!
So I will close and fill you in on tomorrow's adventures when they happen!
All the best,
V & C