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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

El Salvador Immersion Trip Exploring Post-Disaster Reconstruction

El Salvador Immersion Trip Exploring Post-Disaster Reconstruction:

August 5-15, 2010

Calling all passionate people! Whether you’re an engineer, architect, accountant, peacebuilder, or artist, chances are this trip will provide an avenue for you to expand your understanding of the complexity and necessity of your field post-disaster and your place in this world. Please read on!

On November 7th 2009 heavy rains in the wake of Hurricane Ida left 190 Salvadorans buried beneath mudslides and 15,000 people homeless. Seven of the country’s fourteen municipalities experienced destruction from the flooding and mudslides. The international community heard about this flooding for no more than a day in international media, and El Salvador quickly declared the state of emergency over.

Yet four months later the destruction is far from over for many families across El Salvador. A group of committed community leaders in the region of Santiago Texacuangos is working to create a model for sustainable reconstruction and community revitalization in the wake of this disaster.

The upcoming trip will explore the plethora of issues surrounding this disaster and this particularly innovative reconstruction efforts including (but not limited to):

  • Causes of the flooding (deforestation, large scale development projects, historical marginalization…)
  • The politics of aid in the aftermath of “natural” disasters
  • The necessity of innovative engineering post-disaster to reconstruct water-sources, evaluate slope stability, and create a disaster prevention plan
  • The value of community organization to demand the rights of a dignified lifestyle

While these are essential areas to highlight, we have quite a bit of flexibility as far as what issues we cover and how we spend our time in country. We are open to incorporating your diverse passions and interests into the trip in every way possible. We hope to bring an interdisciplinary group of about 10 delegates (18 and older) to enter into the Salvadoran reality and learn from those who have spent their lives on the margins of society.

While trip plans are flexible based on group interest, some possibilities include:

-Participating in a disaster prevention workshop led by Salvadoran NGO Equipo Maiz

-Visiting the Divine Providence chapel and hospital where Archbishop Romero lived and was assassinated in order to understand the history of current marginalization in El Salvador

-Working alongside of community members to plant live barriers/build retention walls to prevent future flooding (contingent on the weather)

-Cultural exchange forum with community members, arts therapy activities (ie mural painting, etc.)….

We really have room for creativity here and can craft our time to meet your passions.

Delegates will stay with homestay families for a portion of the trip

Spanish language skills are preferred but not required.

In-country transportation and food costs will be covered, but delegates will have to pay for the flight and vaccinations. (Flight will be between $630 and $700)

Interested in attending?

Contact me at (317.748.7175) with questions or for an application.


tudent Awarded Grant for El Salvador Peace Project

April 9, 2010


Renée LaReau,, (574) 631-5098

jenna knapp.jpg

Notre Dame senior Jenna Knapp, an anthropology and peace studies major, has won a $10,000 grant for a project she designed to improve disaster prevention efforts in an agrarian region of El Salvador.

The project will be funded by the Davis Projects for Peace, which sponsors grassroots projects designed by college students to promote peace. Knapp will lead a delegation of Notre Dame engineering and peace studies students to the region of Santiago Texacuangos, whose agricultural crops were destroyed by Hurricane Ida in November 2009.

Student delegates will participate in community-led disaster prevention workshops and reconstruction efforts that include creating terraced soil and planting native izote plants between crops, which helps prevent mudslides in the wake of natural disasters.

Research shows that communities without dependable livelihoods are more susceptible to violent conflict.

“When people think of peace, they immediately think of active conflicts,” said Knapp, who will graduate from Notre Dame in May. “But structural violence, such as economic imbalance and unequal access to resources, plants the seeds for conflict years before it erupts."

Santiago Texacuangos is susceptible to such violence, Knapp said, because its residents were displaced to the area as refugees during El Salvador’s civil war, which took place from 1980 to 1992. The region’s landscape, which had been largely deforested to make way for development projects, was not well-equipped to sustain agriculture on a long-term basis.

Knapp hopes the students’ 10 days in El Salvador will increase their understanding of the roots of violent conflict.

“This experience can help them work for peace in whatever field they end up,” she said.

After graduating, Knapp will spend a year in El Salvador researching gang violence prevention and rehabilitation. Her research is supported by a Fulbright Fellowship.

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