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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Ever-Present Past: Moving Forward in Post-Disaster El Salvador

Jenna Knapp got top 5 Senior Seminar Paper at Notre Dame wooohoo!! this is an excellent analysis of what happened and is happened in the reconstruction process. email me or jenna if you want a copy (its like 24pgs but totally worth it). jknapp1@nd.edu. Here is an interesting snippet below I read. We leave with 14 salvadoran for honduras tommorrow to exchange with communities who rebuilt after Mitch. woohooo SOUTH TO SOUTH EXCHANGE!

Ever-Present Past: Moving Forward in Post-Disaster El Salvador
Jenna Knapp
Senior Seminar Paper
Spring 2010

For three hours we traversed downward over gutted mountainous terrain carrying only what would fit on our backs. We passed entire communities sitting uneasily on church floors, their homes reduced to rubble. They showed us where they’d dug her baby out from beneath layers of mountainside when dawn chased away the night. They pointed to the slope he was fumbling up to reach his mother before he, too, was buried. They needed the water we carried yet they sent us further down the mountainside to Joya Grande, where lines of people waited for the meager rations we’d managed to provide. Their pilas had run dry and they were no longer sweating—there was nothing to sweat. Several chaotic hours later they dispersed, some with beans, rice, oil, and water, and others empty-handed. Yet for once, the shocked deliverers of aid dared not merely patch up a broken system, and before forging ahead they first looked deeply behind…

Fundación CEIBA (Crear Espacios Integrales Para el Bienestar Ambiental-Creating Integrated Spaces for Environmental Wellbeing)

Having explored the layers of structural violence that exacerbate the effects of disasters in El Salvador as well as the shortcomings of previous aid efforts to address these root causes, let us turn to a young organization that seeks to reverse these harmful trends. Fundación CEIBA grew out of the chaos of the opening vignette following Hurricane Ida on November 8th 2009. It consists of a team of Salvadorans and one north American who are committed to creating spaces for the restorying of Santiago Texacuangos based on the narrative of community organization, participatory democracy, collective trauma therapy, and popular education rather than on that of repression and relocation. Fundación CEIBA partners with community members, fellow NGOs, state actors, and an international solidarity network to create lasting community settlements safe from the pending effects of climate change, deforestation, and large-scale development projects. It is currently engaged in a number of projects aimed at the creation of a narrative that is not marked by marginalization and disjointed relief. For instance, CEIBA founders are organizing a Central American conference for NGO leaders to come together to collaborate on ideas surrounding how to make structural changes in post-disaster settings. Additionally, CEIBA is working to form a paralegal clinic in Santiago Texacuangos in an effort to alleviate the injustices surrounding land ownership that have plagued the region for centuries. CEIBA is also leading various art therapy workshops so as to address deep-seeded trauma in the community on a collective level that often reaches back far beyond the hurricane. Only by addressing the collective chosen trauma of the community will they be capable of organizing and moving forward with the hopes of a better future.
Fundación CEIBA does not seek to merely address “post-disaster reconstruction,” which would imply that what is needed is to simply re-construct what existed pre-disaster. Rather, Fundación CEIBA is committed to creating self-sustaining spaces for community organization and environmental protection through proactive processes that are capable of regenerating themselves over time. Ideally, these efforts will create spiral of peace and development instead of a spiral of violence and destruction (Lederach 1997: 75). CEIBA recognizes the way in which disasters expose the suffering beneath structural violence that is otherwise silenced and begs for a dramatic restructuring of society into a place with a higher level of resilience to cope with and prevent destruction from natural hazards. While it may appear to be micro-oriented in application, the impetus that drives CEIBA’s approach is not one that awaits the policy and decision from the highest level, nor does it assume that its particular action provides a comprehensive response to system-wide problems. Rather its efforts paint a different canvas of social change, which depends on the practices of accessibility, reconnecting people in actual relationships, and local responsibility (Lederach 2005: 144).

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