Santa Clara University

Room number: 32

Using education to make a lasting impact on young lives in El Salvador

Haydee Diaz '96

Using education to make a lasting impact on young lives in El Salvador 

For the past four years Haydee Diaz ’96 has lived in San Salvador, El Salvador. Her volunteer experience has been focused on dealing with the issue of migration and how to promote policies and programs that will help Salvadorans stay at home instead of making the life-threatening journey to migrate to the U.S. or elsewhere. However, her most recent volunteer program has been the most rewarding to date. The University of Central America (UCA), a Jesuit University and sister school to Santa Clara, has developed a scholarship program to honor the lives of the six Jesuits and two women who were murdered during the civil war. The scholarship is to help very talented, but also very poor students attend the UCA. To date the scholarship program has 45 students, and her volunteer work is to help the UCA create a fundraising strategy and annual campaign to fund the scholarships for those 45 students and many more. Haydee feels this project is so important because it profoundly changes the life of a person, their family and their community. The students who receive the UCA Martyr Scholarship are from families facing extreme poverty and although the students are brilliant, pursuing a college education is a far off dream. Thanks to the Scholarship fund, these students are able to graduate from one of Central America's most prestigious universities. They go on to start great careers, help their families move out of poverty, including helping their younger sisters and brothers also complete their schooling and the vast majority of them go on to jobs focused on addressing El Salvador's problems and become community or national leaders. One recent scholarship recipient, shortly after graduation started working as a journalist for the country's largest newspaper and her investigative journalism revealed high levels of corruption in the Ministry of Health which greatly impacted the quality of healthcare received by poor Salvadorans. Haydee feels her contribution to the Scholarship Program is like the gift that keeps on giving, the Scholarship benefits a student for the four years he/she is in school, but the impact in their life, in their family, and to the betterment of El Salvador continues for many years to come. 

El Salvador is a poor country with huge problems of poverty, violence, and inequality. Living here the problems can seem overwhelming, like there is so much to do, so many issues that need attention and help. For Haydee, the important thing, is to find one issue like this, the Scholarship Fund, that has a lasting impact in the lives of so many people who are touched by it, and thanks to it, create a new generation of leaders who are graduating from the UCA and tackling the country's problems and needs head on. She believes her support is just another grain of sand that makes it possible to change forever the lives of these students and their families.