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Friday, September 23, 2011

Filling a big hole with tires- preventing more than landslides

September 10th/11th, thanks to the generous donations of the Ryan Alaniz and the Futbol Project, Fred Sanchez, Sally Chamness, and Megan Doss, the youth group from the community of El Sauce went to Joya Grande for the weekend to fill a big hole with tires. This project we started in August with St. Thomas Aquinas Delegation, and only got about halfway done, so the youth were convinced that we had to finish it. They made a budget and wrote a letter- click here to read.
tito, with his accounting notebook in hand
The El Sauce kids had to do the planning, including going to Joya Grande to coordinate the project, figure out where to eat and sleep all weekend, and plan activities with the youth group in Joya Grande. They split up roles for the project-tito, the defacto leader of the group, handled accounting and money. Jorge was in charge of making sure we all had a place to sleep. Mirna was in charge of foto documentation etc. It was the first activity that they planned and executed as a group, important for thier leadership and team building.

henri, 8 , children's emerency comittee la marmonera
And its El Salvador. Not all goes right, always. The bobcat we solicited nearly 3 weeks prior came 3 hours late, setting us back. Our water contact did not deliver the water, so I had to drive around the community looking for jugs of water to fill to keep us all hydrated.  We honestly expected a bigger turnout of adults in the community-nearly all the work was done by children from our emergency committees and the youth from joya grande and el sauce. But we nearly finished, drenched it sweat at 3pm, ready to jump into beautiful Lake Ilopango. We might have continued had we not ran out of tires!

In an evaluation of the event, the kids reflected on how good it felt to help out another family, and try to accomplish a project they started. Many kids told us it was the "best weekend ever.." Because we didn't just work! The El Sauce kids decided to spend the night in the Casa Comunal of Joya Grande, and build relationships with the youth of another community. Each youth group presented the history, mission, and vision of their group, and the challenges they have had making change in their own community. El Sauce was pretty impressed with the Joya Grande youth's many projects- plans to put up a Red Cross post in Joya Grande, extensive surveys of the community, and a Halloween party to raise funds for the group. Jonathan from CEIBA then gave a presentation on obligatory military service in El Salvador (the governments newest "violence prevention" plan).  We discussed the structure of WHO makes decisions FOR youth in El Salvador- and the fact that youth are not actively involved in writing such proposals and projects. Everyone was unanimously against obligatory service, and concluded that the real problems of gang violence are rooted in unemployment and lack of access to education. To follow up on these issues, CEIBA is involved with CIPJES , a national network of youth organizations that encourage political and democratic participation. We sent two of the El Sauce Kids, Jorge and Linda, to the CIPJES formation schools to learn about many issues affecting Salvadoran youth- among these- integral strategies for violence prevention.

and then of course, we danced! Joya kids brought their HUGE booming speakers, and we got down in the Casa Comunal. but alas, not for long. at about 10pm, we were told that the local MS/13 clic from nearby community Shangallo had rolled it, and we had to keep it down so they wouldn't notice and come mess around. Hard times to be a youth in El Salvador these days....
We reverted to playing cards and indoor soccer, altho the shouts coming from each mini goal was just as loud as the booming reggaeton...

untying the human knot on the island
first boat ride ever for many
I passed out, exhausted at 10pm on the girls side of the room...trying to place police and prevent any frisky business. I was abruptly awaken by shouts of the boys running around at about 530am, as they rushed off to climb the nearby coconut trees to prepare our coconut juice drink for the soccer tournament. Nearly 100 coconuts, a few boys, and a rope! We has breakfast with the Joya Grande kids (their treat!) and took off for the island. The boat ride was pretty exciting, since most of the El Sauce kids had never been in a boat, and most couldnt swim. We did group integration activities, and shared our dreams for the next 10 years- some of which traditional development world might frown upon.... "work hard in the carpintery shop to support my family" and "become a liscenced mechanic and own my own maintence facility" and "go to the USA to be with my sister." Their dreams, from their realities.

Thanks to Ryan Alaniz's Futbol Project, we then distributed 4 sets of jersyes, socks and shorts! (one for each women's and men's team in each community). Sweating in our new gear,
enjoying our coconut juice, sweet victory, and NEW JERSEYS!
we closed with a soccer game, which the El Sauce kids won, 9-1, even though they were younger and smaller than the Joya kids. They played as a team, they didnt swear at each other, and they really passed the ball. Some of the gansters showed up to play for the Joya team, and it felt really good to beat the kids who thought they were cooler and badder...     

  At our weekly meeting in El Sauce, Tito informed me that the Joya Grande kids would be coming to visit El Sauce, and kick their butts in soccer. Their idea, their logistics, their youth group. That is project sustainability- give youth groups skills to plan and fundraise, and the responsability to manage an event...and they start to plan and execute their own projects. It may seem small or silly, but to live in a world of poverty and violence and take the initiative to plan intercomunal youth a bold step in the right direction for violence prevention. What kids need here is to be given a PLACE, a VOICE and to feel VALUED.

When a good friend Colette interviewed the El Sauce kids on violence prevention ideas, one kid replied, "well, I think what CEIBA is doing you know, coming here and opening up a space for us to feel good and hang out." Pretty simple concept- but somehow so complicated for the government to take seriously. Art, soccer, and education....are probabaly much cheaper projects to run than obligatory military service. In fact, in one weekend we spent $400 to fill in a sinkhole to save someone's house, foment intercommunal youth participation, discuss obligatory military service, talk about our dreams, and play soccer. Clearly, we prevent more than Josue's house falling over. This kind of good clean fun and positive development of our ideas and dreams, as well as critical analysis of government policies, is cheap and effective violence prevention. The real win of the weekend was not the service project- it was the space that was created for youth to participate, help out, and ENJOY BEING YOUNG, something that doesnt happen very often here.

So this weekend, I get to give El Sauce kids $40 of what they raised to make the BIGGEST bucket of Tang  ever been seen, and 100 chicken sandwhiches for a post game matter who wins.

1 comment:

  1. What an uplifting post. These are exactly the type of events I would like my family to be able to participate and help with. Thank you for all that you are doing for these kids.