Hope in the Land of the Saviour

By John Ellis

P1000583A week in El Salvador (=the Saviour) in Central America has been an unforgettable and moving experience. The new focus area for our URC Commitment for Life programme is Central America and Christian Aid organised, very efficiently, a trip for four representatives of the United Reformed Church to see at first hand some of the projects that are being supported.

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Clean water gushes from a project supported by Christian Aid

The Christian Aid model of working is to use its money to support expert national partner organisations.  This partner organisation then uses its local knowledge to support key projects empowering communities. We saw this model enabling wonderfully positive results in a variety of settings: urban and rural, near the Pacific coast and in mountain villages, with women’s groups and youth groups, in political campaigning and in building viable businesses. We saw the impact the supply of clean water can make on an isolated village – even if they could only afford the electricity to have the water pumps operating for three hours a day.

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The next generation …. just home from school

The representatives of Christian Aid’s partner organisations were uniformly impressive, as were Christian Aid’s local staff. One of the former, for example, an economics think tank called FUNDE, was strikingly insightful and sophisticated, and regularly consulted by the Government.

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Josie Ramos in North East El Salvador

 

 

 

 

We also met some extraordinary individuals. Josie Ramos is 29 and hopes soon to complete his university languages degree: for each day of teaching he makes a five hour round trip from his village of Cacaopera to the town of San Miguel. Passionate for his community and country to maximise its potential, he is also the leading light of the local youth work, teaches in the local High School for no pay (because there is no funding) and does his share to keep his own family budget afloat by tailoring. And he smiles easily and almost all the time!

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The Altar at which Oscar Romero was murdered

The inspiration behind a great deal of the most constructive work is Archbishop Oscar Romero, murdered while celebrating Mass in 1980, and now “our saint”: an almost tangible presence and source of determination and hope in this predominantly Catholic country.

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Graffiti marking the territory of a violent gang

 

 

Sadly there is a very dark side to El Salvador too. Drugs, gangs outside the rule of law, violence, corruption, deep poverty and low life expectancy are all part of the story. The economy could not survive without its links with the United States but is a painfully unequal partner in trade negotiations.  A great deal about El Salvadorian society is at best very fragile.

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Gathering for Mass in Perquin Church

But the dominant memory is of Hope and how much Christian Aid is contributing to that.

4 thoughts on “Hope in the Land of the Saviour

  1. Ruth

    Am I right in thinking that the murder of Achbishop Oscar Romero was one of the subjects of Riding Lights Theatre Company’s production of “A Different drium”?

  2. Sheila Rudofsky

    Kindly send me a copy of your article on El Salvador. I would like to share it with the mission group as we are thinking about supporting the project for Commitment for Life. I was not successful in trying to save it from the Mods’ blog.

    With thanks even in a busy week.
    Sheila Rudofsky

  3. Pingback: Simon in El Salvador | St David's Uniting

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