After we communicate with you about your academic background, personal interests, and professional goals, we will pair you up with a fellow classmate and give you a praxis site in a local Salvadoran community. You will accompany this community two full days each week for the entire semester. Through this learning environment, you will become more aware of and sensitive to the realities of those who are struggling to end social injustices while working to promote human dignity. You will become part of this Salvadoran community not as a volunteer, but as a learner.
- San Antonio Abad, Comunidad Maria del Campo
- La Javia, Tepecoyo
- Fundacion de Desarrollo Social, Antiguo Cuscatlan
- Las Nubes, San Ramon
- Santa María de la Esperanza
- Zacamil, Tepecoyo
- La Valencia, San Ramon
San Antonio Abad
Comunidad Maria del Campo
San Antonio Abad is a semi-urban community in San Salvador that is about a 20-minute bus ride from the Casa. This community, which is comprised of 70,000 habitants, is divided into sectors, demonstrating great economic disparity and facing many diverse challenges such as unemployment, broken families, lack of educational opportunities, and immigration. San Antonio Abad has experienced much suffering during the '70s, '80s, and '90s due to violence associated with the war. The community draws strength and inspiration from their many martyrs, such as the 4 youth and priest who were killed during a retreat at the parish center, El Despertar, in 1979.
La Familia Quintanilla, a large campesino family from Suchitoto, also lives in the community of San Antonio Abad. Because of the violence related to the civil war, they had to flee their home in the early 80’s to find refuge in the city and are now accustomed to an urban lifestyle. Most of the children are studying or working in the greater San Salvador area. Their family and neighborhood consist of many individuals striving towards social change through participation in Christian base communities, environmental organizations, and community organizing.
Role of Casa Student: Mornings are spent visiting community members and visiting important historical sites near the community. Afternoons are spent teaching a small adult education / literacy program in the home of a nearby community member. The group is comprised of a group of about 10 adults who have had very little access to formal education. In addition, Casa students share meals with the Quintanilla family, participate in various reflections, and visit public schools.
Tepecoyo is a rural community located about 1 hour from San Salvador in the department of La Libertad. Primarily, the people have dedicated themselves to the cultivation of coffee, brick making, and the production of milk products such as cheese. However, with the fall in coffee prices, many of the landowners are no longer producing coffee, leaving most people in the area without work or income. As a result, many families have been forced to look for work in the city in order to meet basic needs for their families. La Javia is a nearby rural village just outside of the small town of Tepecoyo and is made up of 3 zones.
In response to the high levels of malnutrition among children in the community, there is a small community kitchen program that serves about 28 children. The program is lead by a woman who has been accompanying her community for over 10 years and has generously offered her home a place to gather. Mothers with children in the program take turns preparing and serving food for their children. In addition, computer and English classes are offered and the children in the classes receive a snack each day to address the issue of malnutrition.
Role of Casa Student: Students spend most of their time in the house where the community kitchen is run, building relationships with the families who live there as well as the families and children who come for meals. Students plan simple English classes for the children of the community and accompany the mothers with the preparation and distribution of food in the community kitchen. Students also have opportunity to get to know members of the larger community through visiting homes of community members located in the hills of La Javia.
San Miguel Tepezontes
Fundacion de Desarollo Social, which is located within walking distance of the Casa, is a local, non-governmental organization that provides a variety of services with a focus on medical care, community outreach, and education. The foundation has a number of different health care projects, such as a medical clinic, pharmacy and dental office. In most clinics, only primary health care is provided and patients are required to travel to a public hospital to meet with a specialist, where the waiting list extends for months.
At FUNDESO, patients have access to meet with many different specialists in areas such as physical therapy, gynecology and optometry. With access to specialists, patients receive valuable and necessary care at an affordable price. With funds from German donors based in El Salvador, general consultations cost about $4.50 and medicine in the pharmacy is about half the price found in other private pharmacies. About 350 people visit the clinic every day. A team of medical providers, social workers, and volunteers attend to the patients. Medical brigades also promote health care and prevention in schools, marginalized communities, and coffee farms.
FUNDESO has a variety of social programs in a small rural community, San Miguel Tepezontes. ‘Creciendo con Amor’ provides development and education for the community’s children and parents.
Role of Casa Student: Students experience and discuss the realities of the health care field through accompaniment of this private clinic in the areas of nursing, physical therapy, and social work. Students also visit San Miguel Tepezontes, participating in the program ‘Creciendo con Amor’. Students also offer English classes to a small group of health care workers in the clinic and also a small group of women in the clinic’s cafeteria.
Mariona is an urban community located 6 miles north of the capital, San Salvador. As a result of the economic crisis in the country, the town has grown quickly in recent years as people are migrating to the city from the country in hopes of better living conditions. There are approximately 150,000 habitants living in 18 small communities. Mariona is also home to the largest male prison in the country, called “Esperanza.”
In one of the sectors of Mariona, there is a team of 3 families who serve as Casa students' guides, teachers, and mentors. These families have creatively responded to the community’s struggle with violence. One community member works with Salvador Craft, a group created to support 12 women’s cooperatives throughout the country that make artisan products. The dream of Salvador Craft is threefold: to continually work towards having a market where they can sell their products at fair trade prices, to have a creative space to imagine new products, and to strengthen their members through community and solidarity spaces. These families also facilitate and participate in meditation and massage/energy therapy workshops.
Role of Casa Student: Casa students spend time accompanying the families in the various activities mentioned above. Specifically, several times a semester students have the opportunity to travel to cooperatives of Salvador Craft to learn about their history and mission, most of the cooperatives are located in rural areas. Students spend mornings immersed in the daily life of the families, participate in a weekly meditation, and occasionally receive artisan workshops. Additionally, students facilitate a creative space for a small group of young children, integrating English classes with song, art, and games.
San Ramon is a semi-urban marginal community in San Salvador (about a 20 minute bus ride from the Casa)
El Pueblo de Dios en Camino is a Christian Base Community, which is based in the practice of liberation theology. Founded in the local community of San Ramon, it is run by local leaders and community organizers. This community emerged in 2000 in response to alienation from the local, conservative parish and has since developed as an important support for the marginalized people in San Ramon. Programs and services offered include a soy project, a tutoring program for at-risk children and youth, a weekly Bible reflection, a scholarship program for young children and youth, a support group for single moms, and an artisans' cooperative. In addition, El Pueblo de Dios en Camino has made an intentional pastoral decision to reach out to the rural, marginalized community of Las Nubes with the main objective of accompanying the people in their daily struggle for the basic necessities of life.
Role of Casa Student: In the community of El Pueblo de Dios en Camino, students spend most of their time in Las Nubes. Students walk uphill forty-five minutes to Las Nubes, which is located on the San Salvador volcano and does not have access to running water or garbage collection (just recently the homes in the community received electricity). Here, students accompany families, assist with basic house construction, and daily chores. At midday, students eat with families in Las Nubes. At El Pueblo de Dios en Camino, located in San Ramon, students spend time getting to know the community members and hearing personal testimonies. Many semesters, students teach English classes to children from the nearby neighborhoods in Las Nubes and San Ramon
Santa María de la Esperanza
Santa Maria de Esperanza is located 20 kilometers from Sans Salvador and is a repopulated community with the majority of habitants from Chalatenango, the northern most part of the country. The community was founded in December of 1982 with the help of Padre Fabian Conrado Amaya Torres, parish priest from Ilopango and Maryknoll sisters Ita Ford and Maura Clarke. The community began with only a few families and, over the years, grew to its current population of 60 Families. Santa Maria is divided into 3 sectors: Guadalupe, Monsenor Romero, and Sagrado Corazon. Each family has 300 square meters and a piece of land (called tarea) that is rented for $10 / year where corn and beans are cultivated. Due to the location of the community and the extreme hills and valleys, Santa Maria and surrounding communities are prone to flooding and landslides during the rainy season.
Currently, the community has a water committee, an emergency response committee, a board of directors, an elderly group, a youth group, various religious reflection groups, 3 agricultural groups, a women’s group, a land commission and the locally run school. In addition to the organized groups, there are various activities planned each year. They are a harvest festival in November, monthly mandatory community service activity, collective crop planting, Sunday mass, and ‘tardes alegres’.
Role of Casa Student: At the local school, casa students teach English and art classes, while being involved in other activities to support the teachers. Students also collaborate with the local farming initiatives. Also, visits are made to community members’ homes and nearby towns with the goal of building relationships and learning about the current reality.
Zacamil is a rural community about a 30 minute up-hill walk from Tepecoyo, which is located about one hour outside of San Salvador in the department of La Libertad. This small district has an economy largely dependent on coffee; however, with the fall in coffee prices, many of the landowners are no longer producing coffee, leaving most people in the area without work or sufficient income. As a result, many families do not have means to survive and many children go without education because families cannot afford the basic costs (uniform, food, school supplies, transportation, etc.). Zacamil is also home to Yovani, a young man who was injured in an accident that left him wheelchair bound.
Role of Casa Student: Students have the opportunity to accompany Yovani and his family while assisting him with his physical therapy, teaching English, and encouraging his painting and poetry. In addition, Casa students teacher basic English classes to children from the community. Students also get to know members of the larger community through visiting homes of community members located in the hills of Zacamil. Students learn about realities of El Salvador’s health care system and of highland, rural life through the relationships built with the family.
Plan del Coco
La Valencia and Plan del Coco are located in a rural zone of San Ramon located at the base of the San Salvador Volcano. San Ramon is a 20-minute bus ride from Antiguo Cuscatlan. From there students walk 30-minute to the communities of La Valencia and Plan del Coco.
El Pueblo de Dios en Camino is a Christian Base Community founded in San Ramon and is run by local leaders. This community emerged in 2000 in response to alienation from the local, conservative parish and has since developed as an important support for the marginalized people in San Ramon and the surrounding areas. El Pueblo de Dios en Camino has made an intentional pastoral decision to reach out the communities of La Valencia and nearby Plan del Coco.
The families of La Valencia and Plan del Coco have limited access to public services such as running water, electricity, and garbage collection. The communities are mostly made up of elderly women and men, single moms, children, and youth. Both communities are at high risk of mudslides as the heavy rains make the terrain incredibly vulnerable and unstable. For this reason, these community members are becoming increasingly aware of their fragile connection to the environment. Much organizing has happened to educate the community and also assist them in an evacuation plan should a mudslide occur.
Role of Casa Student: Casa students are involved in the daily activities of La Valencia and Plan del Coco, with much of their time dedicated to teaching English classes to the children from the communities. Many home visits are conducted as well, where students hear personal testimonies from community members. One afternoon a week is spent at El Pueblo de Dios en Camino, teaching English to the children in San Ramon. The students have the main objective of accompanying the people in La Valencia and Plan del Coco in their daily struggle for the basic necessities of life.