EcoViva’s Community Empowerment Tours have changed the lives of hundreds of people. We offer the unique opportunity to see social change in action and experience the power of local grassroots efforts that stretch back over twenty years. Our next tour is scheduled for November 11 – 17, contact EcoViva at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. The following letter was written by Aaron after traveling to El Salvador on a Community Empowerment Tour this spring with American Jewish World Service through EcoViva:
I wanted to personally thank you for the opportunity to participate in a truly moving trip to El Salvador. I was extremely impressed by the work of EcoViva and La Coordinadora in the city of Ciudad Romero and the communities of Bajo Lempa.
It was my first experience participating in a field project working to enact social justice on a community and local level and it was indeed life-changing. I was deeply captivated by the work of La Coordinadora and their four programs of community organization, production, commercialization, and environmental protection.
Not only did we get the amazing chance to install an irrigation system for Don Israel and his family on their finca as part of the program of agricultural production, but we also got to learn about and participate in activities pertaining to the other three programs as well. Sitting in on community organizing meetings, working on the design to diversify Don Israel’s production, speaking and engaging with farmers and community leaders about the obstacles confronting commercialization, and getting our hands dirty in some bocachi- an organic, more environmentally friendly, low-cost fertilizer made from natural ingredients widely available in the area- are just some of the activities we were fortunate to take part in.
AJWS also did a fantastic job in cooperation with EcoViva and la Coordinadora planning activities that enriched our experience, giving us the opportunity to learn about the local communities, what they are experiencing, and how we can help in a sustainable way. Our first day in Ciudad Romero we had an amazing introduction to the region, its history, culture, and people from Chungo, a Ciudad Romero local and community leader. We visited with Estela Hernández, the newly elected representative to the Salvadorian legislature from the department of Usulután, and her team at the FMLN offices in Usulután. She is the first woman legislator ever from that department, former president of Asociación Mangle, and a fearless proponent of social and environmental needs for the communities of Jiquilisco. We also visited a local health clinic, met with wildlife rangers from the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources that included a hike through the Nancuchiname forest, and toured a cashew cooperative. These activities helped us explore why these communities are in need of social justice, what local organizations are doing to uplift themselves and empower their communities, what our own country has done to help and hurt El Salvador, and how we, as foreigners on a short-term social justice trip, can help in an impactful and sustainable way.
From our visit with Chungo to the many great experiences with our fantastic group leader Chema, from working alongside and learning from Asociación Mangle members Wilfredo, Porfilio, Rosa, and Juan Luna to sharing meals with Maribel, Marcelina, and Marta, from riding around in the van with Lolo to interacting with community members in the street, spending time with the El Salvadoreños was an extremely rewarding experience. Working side-by-side with seventy-seven year old Don Israel on his finca, sharing in his wisdom and feeling blessed by his gratitude was a particularly meaningful moment for me. I feel we made genuine connections with the community of Ciudad Romero and have formed lasting relationships with the people la Coordinadora and the communities they serve.
As you can see, I was deeply moved by the experience and gladly offer to share that experience in any way that would benefit both the program here and in El Salvador. On a personal level, it was a privilege to act as an unofficial translator for much of the trip. I love the Spanish language and Latin-American culture, and to be immersed in a program like this was a dream come true.
I look forward to supporting the great work of EcoViva and its partners far into the future and would be happy to have a chance to discuss with you ways that I might be of service.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Our next tour is scheduled for November 11 – 17, and registration closes September 1. Join us on this life-altering adventure.
Aaron’s fellow groupmember, Danny Sheinson, wrote an article about his experience as well.