Safety & Security
The safety and security of our students is our top priority. Casa de la Solidaridad has long implemented significant safety measures for El Salvador and follows the best practices related to health and safety in keeping with The Forum on Education Abroad’s Standards of Good Practice and the Association of International Educators (NAFSA).
We maintain a strong network of in-country contacts including the US Embassy and Peace Corps, as well as other university, community and governmental leaders. We constantly monitor safety announcements related to El Salvador through Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) and social media. We also maintain a strong network of local community partners in the neighborhoods where students live and volunteer.
We co-founded Casa in 1999 and have been co-directing it ever since. We take the safety and security of our students very seriously. As parents (we have 4 daughters - ages 16, 14, 11 and 7) we understand that some will have concerns regarding the safety of their children. While no study abroad program can guarantee safety, we are confident that our policies and procedures, which have kept our students safe for the last 17 years, continue to do so today. Here are some examples as to how we approach safety and security:
- We have excellent sources of information regarding national security issues. We have strong relationships with the following institutions: Jesuits at University of Central America, U.S. Embassy and Peace Corps, Salvadoran Government, Non-Government organizations such as Catholic Relief Services. The local correspondent for the New York Times teaches the Casa history class.
- We have strong relationships with our Salvadoran partners in the local communities (we refer to them as praxis sites). One of Trena’s main responsibilities is maintaining solid relationships with Salvadorans in the communities. The praxis site supervisors are trusted leaders in each of the communities and share in the responsibility of ensuring the students’ wellbeing and overall safety. The supervisors are individuals who know their communities extremely well and agree to inform us immediately if they ever feel an increased risk to our students. Trena visits the communities at least 5 times each semester and conducts two evaluations per semester. One aspect of that evaluation is safety.
- Students take private transportation to all Casa related activities including to praxis sites.
- Each student is provided with a cell phone so they can contact program directors at any time.
- Student live in Antiguo Cuscatlan, one of the safest neighborhoods in el Salvador. There are no gangs in Antiguo Cuscatlan. The police station is right next door to Casa Romero, one of the student houses. In addition, we have 2 security guards who watch the houses at night.
- We also have extensive policies set up to ensure students’ safety. For example, students are not allowed to walk in the neighborhood alone after dark, students are not allowed to travel outside of the neighborhood alone, students cannot take public transportation at night, etc.
In August, 2016 SCU sent an independent security assessment team down to El Salvador to conduct a thorough analysis of the safety and security situation. Based upon this assessment, Dennis Jacobs, Provost of Santa Clara University, informed the SCU community on November 29, 2016 that, “Santa Clara University will be restarting its signature program– Casa de la Solidaridad– beginning in Fall 2017. The Casa program has provided students with a life-changing experience, through a curriculum of classes, praxis involvement, and on-site personal and spiritual reflection based on the relationships students develop with campesinos and illuminated by Jesuit spirituality.”
Anyone wanting more information regarding issues of safety and security can contact Co-Director Trena Yonkers-Talz at firstname.lastname@example.org.