Immigration

Being a Woman in El Salvador, Part 3 – Ser una Mujer en El Salvador, Parte 3

“Violence is an obstacle that prevents women from developing their own initiatives, and economic activities.”                       -Ana Elena Badilla, UN Women representative In El Salvador, violence is a significant risk factor for women and a very real obstacle to their personal and economic development. The gangs which control so much of the country, plus the deeply entrenched machismo, create an environment where women are not safe in their own neighborhoods. Gang control is so pervasive in neighborhoods around El Salvador, that many girls are forced into sexual slavery as girlfriends of local gang leaders. The girls have no choice in the matter…they must join the gang or be killed. The problem has become so grave that young girls are fleeing El Salvador, and […]

Numbers – Cifras

I opened the newspaper, and the numbers screamed out at me. A lot of talk about El Salvador is reduced to its numbers. Number one murder rate in the world…Leading the world in the number of child homicides every day…Number one rate of femicide…Record numbers of undocumented child refugees fleeing El Salvador for the U.S…High numbers of daily deportations. Headline after headline points to the number of the dead, the number of criminals, the number of students dropping out of school because of the violence, the number of new shelters being set up around the country as families are forced out of their homes by the killings on their doorsteps. The numbers climb until they swirl around like some vast, dark cloud of despair. The numbers can crush us. When […]

The Human Trafficking Risk Facing Migrant Children

  “Love you neighbor as yourself.”  We grow up hearing this concept that comes straight from the teachings of the Bible. We believe it, and it may even move our hearts to action. But who are our neighbors? This month is Human Trafficking Awareness Month so I want to take a moment to consider our closest neighbors and the trafficking risks they may be facing. If you are in the U.S.A. and reading this, your neighbors include Mexicans and Central Americans. You don’t have to go far to meet them. As I’m sure you’ve heard, the violence in Central American’s Northern Triangle (Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador) are sending hundreds of vulnerable children north in search of peace and safety. The situation is grim in El Salvador for children in high-risk […]

Our Girls

Yesterday marked the International Day of the Girl. It’s a day to focus on girls, and issues that they are facing around the world. It’s easy to see girls as vulnerable and in need of protection but we can also see them as powerful members of their communities. Research tells us that when girls are educated, their whole communities are impacted. We can acknowledge the challenges, but also celebrate the victories. Here in El Salvador, girls are facing overwhelming obstacles. Many of the girls we work with have experienced the very worst that life has to offer in the very short time that they have been on this earth. Some have been trafficked, others abused and neglected. Many of them live in fear. The situation created by gangs and poverty […]

The Ripple Effect

When you drop a stone into a pond there is an initial plunk and then the splash of water. Around the place where the stone dropped ripples spread out until the calm, quiet of the pond is completely interrupted by ripples of various sizes. No part of it is left untouched. I am seeing that violence has a similar affect on society, at least on the society here in El Salvador. Our tiny home has made international news for the worst possible reason…a soaring homicide rate. August closed with more than 900 murders. That is in a country the size of Massachusetts. As the ripples of violence spread, lives are marked by terror and fear. Some of the women who sell bras in our Free The Girls program can no […]

At Risk

Risk. It’s a word that we hear thrown around in conversation. “Don’t risk it.” “Take a risk.” “At your own risk.” Sometimes the thought of a risk seems thrilling, exciting, on the edge. Other times it seems foolish and like something best avoided. We do a lot of things to take the risk factor right out of our lives. We live in homes with doors that lock, and drive cars with airbags and seat belts. We make choices about our health, our bodies, and what we put into them. We wear sunblock, and floss our teeth to lower our risks, to extend our lives, and to avoid sickness and pain. But what if you were born “at risk?” What if you stepped out of a warm, safe place and in […]

A Third Too Many

This weekend our newspaper reported a sobering and disturbing statistic about girls in El Salvador. At latest count, thirty percent of all pregnancies in El Salvador are to girls under the age of 15. That is roughly 1 out of every 3. The text under the headline reported that many of the cases are rapes. You can read the report in Spanish here. This is terrible news for girls. The reality is that girls in El Salvador are in crisis. They are vulnerable to rape, abuse, and trafficking. These girls leave school and enter a cycle of poverty that is virtually impossible to break.  A third of all pregnancies to girls under 15 is a third too many. Unfortunately the news isn’t much better for boys. Tori had to do […]

Immigration…It’s Complicated

This morning as I was driving in my car listening to talk radio, I heard about the latest public awareness campaign. This one is called “Dream Versus Nightmare” and is targeted at educating would-be immigrants about the potential perils involved in taking the journey North. I also opened the paper earlier this week to read the latest news from last week’s meeting between Obama and Central American leaders. As I flipped through the paper other stories were reported…the skyrocketing number of Salvadoran students killed so far this year, another double homicide, more Salvadorans abandoning their neighborhoods in the dark of night because gangs caused them to fear for their lives. There are complicated messages out there…it is absolutely true that immigration can take a dream and turn it into a […]

Fun at the Immigration Office

Yesterday morning we spent several hours at the immigration office renewing our visas for another year in El Salvador. It’s a necessary part of life here, and it’s always an experience trying to navigate the red tape while keeping our very bored kids under control while we all wait to get approved. This video in both Spanish and English is actually quite hilarious. This year things went really smoothly, but it always seems like there is a crazy amount of paperwork that needs to get done ahead of the yearly residence renewal!  

Did You Know?

In my last post, I highlighted the need for one-on-one connections with our friends on the street. That’s the heart of the Lighthouse Project. The more we get to know our clients, the more we learn just exactly what they are up against. For example, did you know that El Salvador has a higher death rate from alcohol consumption than any other country in the Americas? Did you know that men in El Salvador are 27.8% more likely to die from an alcohol related cause than women? (You can read the full article here). Did you know that this past weekend, the Salvadoran newspaper La Prensa Grafica reported that 40 children have been murdered so far in El Salvador this year? Forty lives 17 and under have been cut short since January […]