Youth in El Salvador face many challenges. Lack of access to quality education is a critical one, and lack of access to job opportunities comes in close behind. Many of the brightest young people leave the country to increase opportunities for personal development, yet fewer than ten percent will successfully complete high school after settling in their destination country. Those who stay in El Salvador have fewer economic opportunities, and some join gangs involved in drug trafficking or other criminal activities as a matter of economic survival. For the future of El Salvador, youth need sustainable alternatives that encourage their positive participation in their country’s future.
Since 2002, EcoViva has supported youth programming in the Lower Lempa region of El Salvador. Over time, the programs have changed to reflect the needs of local youth to include leadership training, capacity building, educational opportunities and extracurricular activities including art and sports.
To ensure the continuation of these programs and to strengthen the future generations in the Lower Lempa, we founded the Viva Fund in 2011 at our 15th anniversary celebration. Initially a scholarship fund, the Viva Fund has expanded along with our programs in El Salvador to include support for other initiatives. This year, youth have become entrepreneurs, putting their education and leadership training into practice by creating economic opportunities for themselves and other members of their community.
In a region of the world where some people- and increasingly minors- are pushed out of their countries due to violence and a severe lack of economic opportunities these youth stand out, creating solutions within their communities.
Full of confidence, motivation, and ideas, the young leaders work together to invest in their future and the future of their communities. Together, they create opportunities for community engagement, creative expression and sustainable livelihoods.
Mangrove Radio was started in 2001 as a first response system for disasters in the Lower Lempa region of El Salvador, and is currently run by young people who create original programming. The radio is currently broadcasting Monday through Saturday from 5:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., and covers local, regional and national issues through daily news programs, a bi-weekly environmental show and regular reporting on public events. Regular shows provide information on sustainable agriculture, environmental issues, culture and health.
In early 2012, the Mangrove Radio station was experiencing signal problems, and the youth collaborated with Radio Izcanal and ARPAS, the national network of community radio stations of El Salvador, to broadcast some of their programs nationally. However, later in the year the signal was strengthened and the station now reaches over 200 communities.
The youth program has established a total of 13 libraries with the support of the Salvadoran Secretary of Culture, Izote, and ConTextos. The goals for the program are to promote and support literacy, while also providing information about local history. Youth have been trained to become reading promoters and host reading circles in their communities.