The community of El Bario is located in canton Platanares within the municipal jurisdiction of Suchitoto in the department of Cuscatlan. Suchitoto was one of the three areas that was most affected by the civil war in El Salvador. Much of the unincorporated area of Suchitoto is located on the skirts of the famous Cerro Guazapa a guerilla stronghold only some 30 miles from San Salvador. The repopulation of El Bario in July of 1986, was one of the first organized during the civil war at which time the area was still considered an active war zone. Despite this the people of El Bario returned to their lands and lived under constant attacks and abuse by the government forces from 1986 until the end of the conflict in 1991.
Carmen Broz our project founder accompanied the repopulation as one of the many members of a SHARE Foundation caravan. The delegation was detained by the Salvadoran armed forces in Aguacayo about 3 miles from El Bario. After 3 days of negotiating only one member of the delegation was allowed to accompany the 64 returning families and the donated building and food supplies. The rest of the delegation was detained another 3 days and then taken to the Guatemalan border where their passports were stamped “Persona non Grata” making it impossible for them to return to El Salvador.
After her passport was lost, Carmen applied for a new one so as to be able to return to El Salvador. Carmen returned to El Salvador in 1989 and contacted the leaders of El Bario to see where aid was most needed. At that time malnutrition especially in the children was a priority. Our first support included paying a pediatrician and gynecologist to provide monthly check ups, training in the use and production of soy beans, helping to start a day care center and support to the small school at which time only was for 1st-3rd grades.
El Bario is the largest and one of the most organized communities in the area and is considered by the city to be a center of the zone. The community now consists of more than 190 families and has a population of about 900. Since 1995 our support has been directed specifically in the area of education. Over the years we have paid teachers salaries, provided vocational training in sewing, baking, cooking, computers and electrical installations. We have also provided school materials and books for the library. One of our largest expenses for many years was paying the salaries of middle and high school teachers, now most of these costs our covered by the ministry of education. The school in El Bario now provides K-12 education and receives students from 7 surrounding communities, the alumni population in 2007 is close to 500.
In 1999 when the first students from El Bario graduated from high school and came to Carmen to thank her for supporting them, a question was brought up. What now? Carmen knew that without financial aid it would be virtually impossible for these 9 young and bright students to continue studying. This same year we began our university student loan program, providing no interest loans to students that had attended the school in El Bario. Student may repay their loans through social or communal work, paying the costs of higher education for a younger sibling or repaying the amount they received in small monthly payments.
Needs in El Bario: funds to buy text books for the school library, equipment for the new science lab, laptop computers for the computer lab and a fund for teacher’s supplies. They welcome volunteers for teaching English, individual tutoring in math, science and language and for the detection of learning disabilities in K-6th .
Morazan, The agricultural cooperatives of El Gigante (see photos) and Sueños en Jocoaitique (see photos)
In 1991 some of the future founders of the Cooperative El Gigante heard news of woman (Carmen Broz) who was providing support in other parts of El Salvador. Among these men and women were many who had recently returned from refugee camps in Honduras and at this time were living in the northern part of Morazan were seeking aid. In the first meeting, close to Perquin another stronghold of the left wing guerilla, Carmen was scared at first as some of the men were still armed. Slowly she told them that she worked only with organized groups because the needs in El Salvador at that time were so great. The men and women not at all worried said "OK we'll in touch once we have organized."
Carmen did not hear from Morazan until early in 1993 when some of the same men came to visit her in San Salvador and now legally organized as the Agricultural Cooperative of El Gigante. The cooperative formed by some 60 members and their families is located only 1 mile from Perquin in the poorest department of El Salvador, Morazan. Because members of the cooperative El Gigante obtained agricultural lands under the peace agreements in two different cities, they were forced to form another cooperative in Jocoaitique some 15 miles from Perquin. So by 1995 the two cooperatives “El Gigante” and “Sueños en Jocoaitique” were now operating each as its own legal entity.
Since our support started in Morazan we have provided medical exams to women and children, books and furniture to the libraries and day care centers and scholarships to 3rd-12th grade students.
In 2001 our first eligible university students entered our student loan program and in 2007 we are supporting 6 students from the two cooperatives. We now have a student house in San Miguel where most of our students from this area are studying.
In 2006 project AGE was started providing reading glasses to seniors, the project combines training in the making of local handicrafts and social activities with our high school and university students.
Christian based women's association in Apulo (see photos)
In 1998 Carmen was contacted by Sister Monica Thieblin, who had been working in marginal communities in the area of Apulo for many years. Apulo is an urban community only 20 minutes from San Salvador, and is located in what could be called a tourist area for Salvadorans. In their first meeting Monica asked for financial aid for 4 high school students from very poor but socially active families. Carmen asked the question of why should we invest in these particular students and was answered by one of the more active local leaders, Marta. Marta explained to Carmen that the only future for most of the young women of this area is prostitution, still legal in many parts of El Salvador. She continued to explain that what they wanted was to train future community leaders not professionals. Well it was these words that convinced Carmen to take on Apulo. Since that time Marta has passed away and 3 years ago Sister Monica turned over her supervision of our support to a newly formed women's association. Two members of the association Fran and Diana are now active members of our local committee. The Communal Association for the Poor Lake Water Area (Asociacion Comunitaria para los Pobres de la Cuenca del Lago) now not only supervises our funds for high school scholarships but also manages funds from other donations in a K-9th grade scholarship program for some 45 children, sons and daughters of their members. They also now have 2 barter stores in the area where anything from shoes, CDs and beans to services in computer repair and baby sitting are exchanged by men and women in Apulo.
Since Palo Alto Friends Meeting El Salvador Projects started supporting this Christian based community in Apulo we have helped 12 high school students to finish their schooling. Also we have also supported at a higher level 1 nurses aid and 1 registered nurse to finish their advanced studies. In 2007 we are supporting 8 high school students, of which we hope to have 3 new candidates for the university in 2008.