Newsletter 21 December 2009

BACK TO SCHOOL?!?!? I am back at school... back in the states and images from last week are haunting me. Faces and images of buried lives flash through my head when I'm trying to sleep, to walk, to study, to....We all walk around as if we are invincible and although we may feel something close to sadness when we see the headlines about floods in international news, our thoughts soon shift to upcoming football games and Thanksgiving plans just as fast as this news makes its way out of the media. Yet in El Salvador it is not passing and it will be a long, long haul. JENNA KNAPP NOV. 19TH It was heartbreaking, standing there in the ruins of the house littered with the shattered remains of the family’s life, listening to this man tell us about his sister and her family. The hardest part was knowing that their deaths could have been prevented. DECEMBER 8TH UNNATURAL DISASTER BY MAGGIE MATTAINI From the states, it feels as though there is so very little that we can do but spread news and gather our financial resources for those in need. As so many of you have written, this "disaster" is due only in part to the rains; more truthfully, those suffering have been most marginalized and simply forgotten by the senselessness of symbolic but oppressively controlling powers. Mudslides like this one carved their way down to not only the basin of the lake, but the flatter lands where most local farmers were growing their beans and corn. Both of which would provide not just food stuffs but the only income some campesinos would generate. DEC. 8 KATY ERKER

Heavy rains in El Salvador on November, 7th 2009 killed over 190 poor Salvadorans and have left 15,900 homeless. On November 8th Sam Baker, Santa Clara alum, received a call from Mercedes Monge, from the community Santa Maria de la Esperanza in Santiago Texacuangos. 4 community members died, and all were without food and water. Could we bring supplies? Of course. When we arrived, we realized this was more than landslides and heavy rain. The entire municipality looked like a scene from an apocalyptic movie, and we quickly realized this was a full blown disaster. On the drive back to San Salvador, Mercedes called to thanks us, and ask w if we could come back the next day to help another community. We returned. Our rag tag disaster team grew from a group of North Americans volunteers to happened to be in the country in conference in mid-november, into a movement of hundreds of students, North Americans donating and reading the blog, and Salvadorans who dreamed that another world was possible. After two weeks of deliver basic food and water supplied on foot, we realized our rag tag team needed support of an NGO, because there is no local NGO in Santiago Texacuangos. We have thus become the link between affected communities and NGOs like the SHARE Foundation, CRS, and the UN’s World Food Program. We have consolidated into a working group that meets weekly in San Salvador composed of NGO workers and students. We are Salvadoran and North American. We are all volunteers. We are a budding organization trying to fill in the gaps where the government and other NGOs fail, and will do our best with the resources we have to rebuild physical and emotional lives for as many people as we can afford to reach.

How long can a child with diarrhea live without clean water?
NOV. 11 2009
Each community we visited was so thankful to receive these resources. One community, although still very thankful, expressed that they had a concern beyond hunger. They brought us to the one remaining wall from a house that had fallen down the mountain. The wall now stood as a towering threat over many houses below. With the foundation of the Earth currently in a very fragile state, the natives of the town said that they were unsure what to do. They did not have the resources or knowledge to securely and safely demolish a wall, so we told the community that we would inform organizations that can provide assistance with this problem. But what are they to do in the meantime? NOV. 25 BRIAN BELCHER

Design by: Jonathan Velasquez; Photos by Chris Hallberg, Ashton Easterday, Beth Tellman, and Danielle Mackey; Translation Marvin Cortez

FOOD SECURITY: This program would consist in filling the primary and urgent food and water needs of the communities (500 families) who are not covered by the World Food Program or covered by other NGOs. While we work to find institucional aid for these communities, we will fill immediate food needs. The second phase of this program would include workshops, technicians, fertilizar and other inputs needed to revive the agricultural systems destroyed in the hurricane. We will focus on organic agricultura, as it will simultaneaously stimulate local economic growth, reduce crop loss vulnerability as organic systems tend to withstand climatic stress, and will empower the community with new knowledge and tools to feed their families. We will work with UNES (Salvadoran Ecological Unit) and other local partners. Beth Tellman, Mercedes Monge, and Sara Garcia will oversee the project, which we hope to implement until the next harvest, approx. 12 months.

This program include therapy and psychological attention for inhabitants of 4-5 communities affected by hurricane IDA, with the objective of helping people overcome post-event trauma. A team of psychologists and social workers will assess emotional health of the community and implement intervention work in groups. The goal is to move community members from being victims of a tragedy to becoming agents for change, uniting the community in a desire to work together. In addition to crisis intervention therapy (which lasts about 4 weeks), we hope to work for 6 months in a process of social-cultural animation. This will also add to community resilience and adaptive capacity in future disasters. This project will be lead by Dany Portillo from CRISOL (Solidarity Group in Response to Crisis Intervention) with additional Support from the Quino Caso Foundation to include poetry and painting therapy, organized by Jonathan Velasquez over the next 6 months.

COMMUNITY ORGANIZATION AND RISK MANAGEMENT: This program consists in organizing communities with a special attention to risk management. This program includes leadership workshops for local community leaders, a disaster prevention committee to prepare communities for future disaster with emergency planning, and democratic participation and political empowerment. The objective is to teach communities how to help themselves by contacting international NGOs, manage community funds, and organize and demand aid from their local government. This serves as a basis for community growth, and will be essential in maintaining good data collection (family surveys, medical needs, setting and measuring reconstruction goals etc.). Mercedes Monge will be in charge of this project, and will work with NGO UNES (Salvadoran Ecological Unit), who will send experts to identify vulnerable community areas and possible solutions. This will include mitigation such as building live barriers a.k.a basic terracing with native species such as the izote plant. We hope to accomplish basic mitigation and increased organizational capacity over the next 4 months.

Letter From Mercedes to the Friends of Santiago Texacuangos, December 3 2009
Hello Friends, It is a pleasure to communicate with you. On this day, Thursday, we have a meeting with all the community leaders of Santiago Texacuangos to explain the difficulties we have had with the local priest, who did not take into account elected community leaders for the World Food Program for the victims of Hurricane Ida. He did not listen to community leaders because he did not share their ideology or religious creed. This is a violation of human rights. In a disaster or public calamity people should not be marginalized due to religious belief nor political ideology. Friends in solidarity with Santiago Texacuangos are indignant for this inhuman act demonstrated by the Catholic hierarchy. As if this was not enough, the same priest said in public pass that we who have asked for help are taking advantage of this same help. Only the leaders can give testimony to the communities that represent us. This is an unjust accusation by the priest. For this reason we are publicly denouncing the priest because it is necessary to stop the corruption. This priest professes a false god, and not the God of life and the God of the poor. We know that Monseñor Romero accompanied his people in the fight for justice of an oppressed people during many years. To give the poor a Little bit of food is to be rebellious. To give all of your physical and emotional energy to serve your people is to be dangerous. Everyone who knows me known that I fought for the poorest of the poor for many years. I have the work of my life to unconditionally support my testimony. For this reason, I ask for your solidarity with me and my people that suffer all kinds of misery. God is here in every human being that breathes. Thanks for building the true reign of God. Romero illuminates us and gives us the wisdom to do things well and act with justice. It is time that the people rise up against injustice and corruption against the large economic powers and the religious that maintain their privilege while the poor die of hunger. God illuminates us and Romero said YES to the reign of God that is built in every human being and in the poor people. For this we all fight, we who believe in true justice. Thanks for being with me and my people.
Mercedes Monge.
Santiago Texacuangos sits on beautiful Lago de Ilopango, just 30 minutes from the capital, San Salvador. It was not the epi-center of the disaster November 7th, and has thus remained on the margins of aid, forgotten by some, but not all





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Song to resurrect a dead mother

There was one wall left standing of a house that was completely demolished in a landslide. Its cracked pattern resembles delicate china that has been damaged; and indeed, the house tumbled something akin to that under the weight of the rushing earth. The family of four who lived here were buried in their sleep and found at 7:00 the following morning. Their I sing with the dead of the land. names: the father, Carlos Alberto; the 26 year-old mother, Mirna Guadalupe; daughter With all the eyes of the dead children, I sing. Azucena, who just celebrated her 9th birthday; and daughter Guadalupe Lizbeth, 10 months old.
You must sing, while you can. A woman sings with hope. Mirna's wooden bed-turned-coffin (photo below) She was unearthed with her arms around A peasant sings his misery.

little Guadalupe.

A child sings his mother s silence. Danielle Mackey, Nov 23 2009 We all sing. The smile of the one who leaves forever. .

I sing with the silence. With every tear which kisses the land, I sing. We must sing together. To raise the fist. To burst the glass. The windows. To powerfully scream the spell fife. To set fire to the ancient gods. With the ire of the death. To fill with our blood, The four points of the earth.

The woman sings that is necessary. We all sing child. Like a bird in flight. Like a wounded mountain. Like a springing river. Like a waterfall in a forest. We all sing together because, It is the only thing left.

Luisa Vala, Rogelia Aguila, and Jesus Villanueva lost their lives 2 weeks ago in Santa Maria de La Esperanza, Santiago Texacuangos, El Salvador, not because of a natural disaster. They died because they were poor. They died because there is no territorial zoning in El Salvador, because they fled their homes in Chalatenango during the 80s to take refuge on a mountainside that would later fall upon them and crumble their temporary housing that due to poverty, became their permanent home. This does not have to happen. I am overwhelmed with the magnitude of suffering and injustice at this entire situation. But I am equally overwhelmed in the next instant with the over powering generosity and resilience of humanity. Beth Tellman, Nov. 20 2009

Financial Overview
FINANCIAL REPORT AS OF 12.13.09 TOTAL REVENUE (donations) 12,235 EXPENSES: Food Water Communication (Calling Cards) Housing Repairs Gas and Transportation Clothes Blankets/mosquito nets Medicine Paypal wire transfer fees Other Total Expenses CASH AVAILABLE D = donated $ 5,898.65 $ 3,784.95 $ 415.00 $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ 160.00 100.00 804.00 D 362.50 152.20 70.00 50.00 5,898.65

We all sing together children, and You will see that, Your mother has not died. She comes with the rain, and Their fishes. She springs like a fertile cornfield From heart of the land. She sings too From the other side of the mirror. So that we all come back to life.. __________________________ Jonathan Velasquez. (Quezaltepeque, El Salvador)

$ 6,336.35

Dear Friends, I hope you are enjoying the warmth of family and friends in this holiday season. May God bless you with the gift of love as you have blessed so many Salvadorans with the gift of solidarity. I realize that your contribution came out of a generous place that many of you hold in your hearts for this struggling country of El Salvador. Without your donations, we would not have been able to feed nearly 1,000 families. You have given enough to enable the space for Mercedes and I to dream about how we can aid the reconstruction process. I cannot express the energy Salvadorans receive when I have the privilege of telling them that Xavier College Prep raised nearly $1,000 dollars. Nearly a week later, St. Peters Catholic School in Kansas City MO raised a similar amount in a [Save El Salvador Campaign*. Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in Indianapolis, IN (my alma mater), raised $3,500! Mercedes thoroughly enjoyed getting to Skype the students and see the faces of those who still care about the victims of the hurricane. Thank you for reading the blog, sharing our stories, organizing your schools, and giving hope to Salvadorans. The disaster is far from *over*, but we are starting to shift from crisis to rebuilding. Your support has been essential in crisis intervention, and will continue to be critical until the next harvest, October 2010, when people can begin to feed themselves. I want to personally thank those who have provided me with emotional and spiritual support in such tumultuous times. There are more of you than can be named, but special thanks is well deserved to my mother, father, and brothers who were integral in turning short-term relief into a movement, to Robyn Caponi who read my plea for aid at the Brebeuf President´s dinner, to Father Mark Ravizza and his anonymous supporting families who got us cash for supplies during pay pal glitches, to Jenna Knapp and Jen Latimer who spoke and organized workshops at the Ignatian Teach-In in Fort Benning Georgia, to Mercedes Monge for showing me that the Salvadoran Martyrs are truly alive and working, to Enrico and Sabine for organizing Seattle University to fill their luggage with supplies that enabled us to give bedding to those sleeping on the floor a week after the storm, to the Casa de la Solidaridad Program for making hundreds of college kids fall head over heels in love with El Salvador, to the SHARE foundation, whose last minute donation will enable to deliver last minute critical aid Christmas Eve morning, to Danielle Mackey and Laura Hershberger whose advice has been invaluable, and to Jonathan Velasquez who has taken care of me when I have been unable to take care of myself. The media forgot the storm in 4 days, the Salvadoran government declared the emergency over after three weeks, but for thousands of Salvadorans, the emergency is certainly not over, and is not ending in the near future. But you have not forgotten, and you have kept giving. Of course, we need money to buy seeds, rebuild crops, send community leaders to risk management workshops, etc. However, most importantly, you donations have been a sign of hope for thousands of Salvadorans- because they know they are not forgotten. Each one of your names gives us the hope that we can rebuild, that we can work together, and that in the face of the darkest sides of humanity exhibited by blatant corruption, impunity, and injustice, ANOTHER WORLD IS POSSIBLE. There is another brighter side to humanity exhibited by students raising thousands of dollars, North American college kids hiking the mountains for hours alongside tired Salvadoran counterparts, and the resilience of women like Mercedes who refuse to be a victim and become an agent of change. The story of a not so natural disaster is not unique to El Salvador; in fact, nearly every natural disaster is rooted in economic injustice, political impunity, and a lack of environmental planning. I hope this causes all of us to reflect on how we build our world. What we buy, eat, and build is connected to WHY El Salvador has no territorial zoning, WHAT business fight this law every time congress tries to pass it, WHO is stealing the little aid available, and HOW it came to be that temporary housing for displaced victims of war in the 80s became permanent housing the literally killed human beings in 2009. We will have learned nothing if we do not place this disaster its necessary political and economic context. We must learn to take care of our resources if we ever intend to treat the poor with any sense of dignity. Feliz Navidad y Año Nuevo! Beth Tellman, December 21 2009 Good morning Ignatian family. As we gather here today we remember the Jesuit martyrs’ urgent call to social action with the poor in a world that often seems to be falling apart. Just two weeks ago on November 8th the world did indeed fall apart for thousands of Salvadoran families whose homes were buried in mudslides and washed into rivers as four-months worth of rain poured down. My friends and I were in the country, and as the body count rose we received a call for aid from the community of Santa Maria de la Esperanza. With a pickup truck and backpacks full of water, we began what would evolve into a massive relief effort. After walking down a mountainside of uprooted trees and undistinguishable roads, Mercedes, the community leader took my hand and tearfully led me to the remains of a home where her friend Rojelia had been buried in bed when the mountainside literally fell on top of her. Her orphaned children now reside on the church floor alongside the rest of the community where they overhear plans about how to move forward with no water source, no inhabitable homes, and no crops remaining. Mercedes knew we had not brought enough food to last them through one day. Yet she told us they had to be in solidarity with the many communities around lake Ilopango that have received no aid at all and so she sent us with the selfless spirit of the martyrs to continue bringing supplies to other isolated communities. As the week carried on the 192 dead ceased to be a statistic and became 9-year old Josue who ran up to the church for safety and was buried alive on his way. The 75,000 in need of humanitarian aid became Vanesa, whose slender frame may not hold out against the diarrhea plaguing her body from drinking unclean water. And our responsibility to partner with Salvadorans in order to create sustainable communities in the wake of this not-so natural disaster became all the more real.

Jenna Knapp, Ignatian Family Teach-In, School of the Americas Protest, Ft. Benning Georgia November 19th 2009

Generous doners
Jason Parry Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School Froehle Family -Mrs. Laura Hall’s Sixth Grade Homeroom and K-8 Students of St. Peter’s Catholic School in Kansas City, Missouri The Caponi Family The Knapp Family The Ravizza Family The Tellman Family Xavier College Preparatory School, California martha lehman Janine Sheppard Cathy Plump Catherine Ford Margaret Waters Myles Minton Ashton Easterday Denise Kolenz The Altemeyer Family Brebeuf Jesuit Teachers The Angulo Family Alexis Mielke Katherine Gerlich Richard Belcher Victoria Shelton Kimberly Coppin Brian Belcher The Belcher Family Emma Cordes Katie Power Dave Graf/ Power of Touch N. Karen Deming Patrick Schweiger Grace Nixon Mary Lynch Chris and Dale Collins Bill Easterday Family Jim Forest Lisa Enright Jenna Knapp Emory Lynch Katy Erker Francesca McKenzie Tay House Christian Community New Orleans Sam Baker Sadie Beauregard Adrian Sandstrom Frances Loberg Ashton Easterday Cheryl Dieterly Michelle Bezanson Castleton Family Dentistry Kennedy Family Amy Fisher Mike and Annie Martin Bob and Karen Dietrick Emily Pollom the Pollom Family Inner Peace Yoga Students Linda Hegeman Wynn McShane Janie Shumaker the Sapp Family the Brumleve Family Allie Dunne Pat Flajole Megan Raimondi Betsy Purner Skander and Tracy Nasser Meredith Swinehart Shelece Easterday Katherine Gerlich Nicholas Sanchez Anna Kolhede Olivia Amadon Nick Klinger Jesuit Community Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School Julie Walker G Paul Peterson David Decosse Emma Jehle Allison Stohl Lara Brandstetter Kimberly Carbaugh Mallory Schwarz Mary Wolf Alicia Quiros Marisa Ornelas Sarah Shane Ronald Mead Eddie Alexander Maria Eduarda Cardoso Mandy Sobrepena Allison Rausch Charlotte Karney Laura Redelman Au Soleil Healing Inc. Jason Parry Mandy Liebscher Pearson Kyle Ozawa Rachel Blanton Carley Knapp Jennifer Grontkowski Paul Knapp Christopher Proctor Parvaneh Angus Kira Harvey Carol Counsell Allison Ford Becky Dieschbourg Michelle Reilly Mary Ann Wallace Markus Schaufele Erin Whinnery Elizabeth Fatout Julie King Marta Petersen Debbie Sahm The Mancher Family Tessa Weston Natali Rodriguez Shintaro Doi John Marrin Anne Schaufele Joe and Liz Kulesa Lauren Trout The Hupomone Fund Maggie Hargrave Jim Lochhead Michael Tellman Matt Tellman Carol Crenshaw Stafford and Clara Pile Tessa Brown Lauren Rossi Carrie Clark Michelle Bezanson Erin Schlitts Thomas Counsell Billy Sladek Bradley Coffman Bud Frutkin Jennifer Moyano Christopher Wahoff Jaclyn Dittrich Leslie Garrison Brain Bird Amanda Skinner Christopher Proctor Parvaneh Angus Kira Harvey Carol Counsell Allison Ford Becky Dieschbourg Michelle Reilly Mary Ann Wallace Markus Schaufele Erin Whinnery Elizabeth Fatout Julie King Marta Petersen Debbie Sahm The Mancher Family Tessa Weston Natali Rodriguez The Sullivan Family Shintaro Doi John Marrin Joeseph Heithaus Anne Schaufele JL Kato The Jesuits of the Uni- Joe and Liz Kulesa Lauren Trout versity of Central The Hupomone Fund America Maggie Hargrave various anonymous Jim Lochhead families… Michael Tellman Thomas Counsell Matt Tellman Billy Sladek Carol Crenshaw Stafford and Clara Pile Bradley Coffman Tessa Brown Bud Frutkin Lauren Rossi Jennifer Moyano The Sullivan Family Christopher Wahoff Joeseph Heithaus Jaclyn Dittrich JL Kato Leslie Garrison The Jesuits Brain Bird of the University Amanda Skinner of Central America Charlotte Karney Nana and Papa Tellman. Laura Redelman various anonymous families.. Au Soleil Healing Inc. Carrie Clark