Saturday, March 26, 2011

3-26-2011 Closing Thoughts

As we prepare for our departure, I am filled with amazement at the possibilities of change evident in the children and the fureza, or strength, and the hope that many of the El Salvadorans have during their daily struggle. Especially given the continuing violence by gangs and death squads and government forces. So in a country filled with a long history of United States bankrolled violence and repression and again, the daily struggle against staggering odds, it is a mystery how such resilience is manifested and maintained in the populace of such an impoverished country.

This hope for change is some of what we experienced in Community Octavio Ortiz in the Bajo Lempa, a place where in family after family you see a community built and maintained by strong loving bonds and children and their parents filled with joy, gratitude and a spirit that is filled with abundant love. I will never forget the words of Mauricio the community directiva president when he said, "I do not make a whole lot of money, but what I do earn is the good will of my fellow man." I wonder what is more important. Dead trees, what we call money or the will and favor of people we interact with. Simple answer is the later by far.

I will also never forget helping bring firewood for the trapiche or sugar mill and watching the whole process work right in front of me. Or wheelbarrow food for Mauricio's cows. OR playing soccer with some of the youth, and scoring the first goal of the game. Watching their smiles and hearing their laughter was almost too overwhelmingly awesome. Some of these kids have so few options and most of them are very negative choices. As some of our presenters have said for the vast majority of the children their options after high school, or for the lucky select few college, are to either join a gang, or join the police or leave the country, mostly for the States, as portrayed so realistically in the movie Sin Nombre.

El Salvador is without a doubt  a microcosm for the world, especially the for the numerous countries where US involvement is historically and perpetually devastating due to direct military intervention or bankrolling, and ¨free trade¨. For one there is nothing free about free trade. It devastates and exploits rural communities world wide, families, and causes assassinations of individuals who protest, livelihoods are at stake for the sake of the greed of the worlds top 5 percent those who can be big shareholders is the World Trade Organization and World Bank.

As one of our presenters said El Salvador is an average country, if this is how the world is, how do I want to live my life? I want to live mine in Solidarity with El Salvador, and this trip was a great reminder to me of the hope that Arch Bishop Oscar Romero, Padre Rutillio Grande and Padre Octavio Ortiz and countless other martyrs and innocent people, see Voices Inocentes the movie, symbolized, lives on in the daily struggles for justice, equality, rights, and livelihoods, a fight that I feel blessed to be able to help them with.

I really loved this delegation, will treasure its memory, and I will always, always as long as I live, show my love and solidarity for the Salvadorans. More posts to come or follow me on Facebook.

There is so much more to say.  Suffice it to say say that I can't wait to come back in the near future.

peace love and harmony

Andrew Drewiske Durham

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

3 24 2011 In Communidad Octavio Ortiz

We left San Salvador and arrived in the Lower Lempa communities, we joined in for the Mass in Ciudad Romero, where they celebrated their 30th anniversary and Romero's life on the 31st anniversary of his assessination. The mass was well attended and the youth choir sang songs as part of the worship. The message was about the hope Romero gave us and reminded us to be in solidarity with eachother. We were reminded that the support of the US and Obama was appreciated, and also the sad history where the funding for weapons and training of the army that killed so many was supported by the US. We need to focus on the humanity and justice for all, including the poor to create a just society for all in El Salvador and across the world.

We were then greeted by the community and our host families in Community Octavio Oriz (also called La Canoa), the pre-school sang welcoming songs, and we enjoyed getting to know eachother and renewing friendships created over the years.
After dinner with our wonderful hostfamilies and a little resting time in the hammocks, we enjoyed a concert in Ciudad Romero together with our hostfamilies, and danced and talked and had fun with the childrend at the fair.

We enjoyed the clear starlit sky on the way home, and were welcoming a nice rest in this hospitable community. How humbling and grateful we all were about the chance to be together in solidarity.


3 23 2011 Divina Providencia

Monseñor Romero, la voz del pueblo he defended his people until the end of his life.  His struggle was not in vain, people are still surviving and hoping for change.  He still remains alive in many people´s hearts today.  Living oppression, hunger, poverty and suffering are sometimes ways to make people come together and share thier beliefs and have faith.  This is my first delgation trip to El Salvador, I thought I was a positive person and encouraging.  These days its been hard for me to think of ways of how to help a never ending cycle of injustices salvadoreans have lived and are living.  However, thinking of what Sister Carmelita said to our group it made me realize I have a commitment to myself and others.  I construct the society we live, we are the power of our actions and our lives, how will we spend our lives?  I truely feel fortunate to have been able to particpate in such a meaningful trip that has changed my way of being, there is a new light that will never shut down.

¨No abandonare a mi pueblo, sino que correre con el todos los riesgos que mi ministerio exige¨ Monseñor Romero
I will not leave my people, I will run all the risks that my ministry implies.


3 23 2011 Thoughts on Solidarity and Hope

Standing in the front of the church where Romero preached and was assessinated March 1980 we all choose a word in memory of Romero, my word was hope, here are some thoughts on hope and solidarity

Stories and wounds that remind us
Stories and wounds that connect us
Inner Strength
Stories and wounds that heal and remind us
Community that supports us
What does the future hold?
Stronger together
We step forward
We see a future
With hope and solidarity more promising


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

3 22 2011 A Model for Learning and Living in Solidarity

Delegations can be double edged but at their best leave you inspired and redeemed.  Today was like that.  We began with an interview with Sister Peggy O´Neill, who has been in the country since 1986, working in a refugee camp and then in a small town north of here occupied during the war by returned refugees and several hundred soldiers.   She helped the civilians endure hunger, violence and attrocities in that period and continues working there while being a Professor of Theology at the UCA (University of Central America).  She runs the Casa de Solidaridad at the UCA, which hosts American students for a semester of study and work in El Salvador.  She gave a stunning discourse on her experiences and approach to life and service, speaking of solidarity in facing hunger with a person who was sharing her last food, and of humanity´s need to make each life an echo of the big bang.  She also spoke of being committed to the ongoing struggle of addressing the countriy´s problems, and of the value in metaphorically storing wisdom and experience for use later in life.  It´s little wonder that she has inspired many of her students, including our delegaton leaders, to continue working here.  We were awestruck.

Later in the day we visited the Romero Center at the UCA to view the story and place of the 6 Jesuits´ murders in 1989.  We followed with an interview with Jesuit Fr. and Professor Dean Brackley, who came to the UCA shortly afterward and has worked tirelessly for human rights in El Salvador.  This talk was similarly stunning, ranging from women´s rights to the politics of Liberation Theology in the Catholic church.  Delegations are double edged in that one gets to meet and talk intimately with exceptional, committed people who have made profound sacrifices in their work here, but asks ´´what can we do?´´  How can we measure up?   Sister Peggy, in touching on experiences while focusing on her approach to life, and Father Brackley´s call to discern one´s deepest vocation ' that which one can look back on and say ¨my life mattered¨  point to a path, and provide some of our best moments here.


3 21 2011 Gender and Mental Health insights

On Monday in the afternoon we visited the wonderful campus of UCA (University of Central America) and had a session on Gender and Economics. Julia Evelyn Martinez, former minister of Women´s affairs now at UCA shared her insights and available statics on the challenges women face in El Salvador today.

Julia shared how the issues and the solution needs to be looked at from both political, women´s rights and economic perspective. Specifically women in rural areas face multiple challenges in having to manage multiple roles and jobs, while facing high rates of sexual asaults, low percentage of ¨¨property ownership and economic security. Also representation of women in government is quite low, lower than 10 years ago, which makes change and advocy for women´s issues more difficult. Hope is seen in women´s movements connecting together and focusing across the economic stability, human rights improvements for women and political participation.

Later we met at Guest House El Torogoz with Oti Guardado on Mental Health after Trauma´s related to war and current health related traumas. She related to us her journey and the journey of several martyrs and the mental emotional impact on the survivors facing so much death, torture and fear around them. Oti is working with groups and individuals on sessions processing their experiences and focusing on balanced mind, body, spirit energy work to strenghten their inner balance and reintegrate hope and healing in their life.

An inspiring and informative day. We ended with group meditation, healing and breathing reflections grounded in our learnings and feelings being together in solidarity in El Salvador. We felt connected and shared the healing energy with those we met and are still to meet. We shared our thoughts and despite the real challenges, fears and work ahead we felt grateful, thankful, inspired, hopeful with the people of El Salvador and our delegation.


Monday, March 21, 2011

Online Journalist, Fear, Hope. President Obama and Michelle Here Tomorrow

Worship yesterday at the church, Madre Maria de los Pobres in the very poor neighborhood of La Chacra, was very inspiring and joyous in many ways. Several of the young  people read Scripture, others were in the choir and band, and the church was full.  Padre Luis spoke without notes in a warm way.  His message was how Jesus helps us overcome fear and live in hope  When he prepared for communion, he exchanged smiles and gave a friendly pat to one of the two men assisting him.  When we were passing the peace, I went up to pass the peace to Padre Luis and he gave me a very warm hug. Later he gave warm hugs to others in the church.

Today Carlos Dada, who was a Knight Fellow at Stanford University and came to one of our SBSC events, told us of his work getting his online weekly newspaper, El Faro, started.   He and his team do indepth reports and challenge people to be informed readers.  Carlos told us that El Salvador is the most violent country in the world in terms of the number of murders in ratio to the population and impunity is a major reason for this.  There are various ways to fight impunity in addition to convicting and sending people to prison.  El Faro works to show people who were guilty of terrible crimes so that some of them or others will feel embarassed or sad and guilty about what  they did.  Carlos hopes that more good people will loose their fear and will work to change things and make a difference. 

El Salvador is looking forward to the visit of President Obama and Michelle tomorrow and the next day.  This is an extraordinary visit in many ways including that the Obamas will go to the cathedral and visit the tomb of martyred Archbishop Oscar Romero.  Before this the US supported the right wing ARENA government that was founded by the intellectual author of the assassination of Archbishop Romero. Salvadorans are excited about his visit and have a heart connection with Obama.
Rather than focusing on problems, El Faro is investigating the 5 municipalities where there have been no murdres in last years and are reporting on good things that are happening in those municipalities.  The findings are impressive and help people overcome their fear and live in hope! 

This delegation is a great joy in many ways!