My Ten Weeks Volunteering in El Salvador

As I mentioned in my previous post I’m currently volunteering in El Salvador with Progressio under the International Citizen Service for 10 weeks in the community of Santa Marta, in the north of El Salvador. My project is split into organic agriculture and working with a local tourist group and I’m in a group with 12 other British volunteers.

In one half of the project, we’ve been working under sustainable agriculture; working in the existing greenhouses (los invernaderos) and creating a completely new organic greenhouse from scratch . We look after the crops that grow (tomato, cucumber, chilli) and make fertiliser (bokachi) using chicken remains, cow faeces, mud and more! This fertiliser is completely organic and is therefore more time-consuming than the chemical fertilisers most farmers use. We’ve also done a lot of manual work in the greenhouse, using pickaxes, hoes and spades to create a sanjo, which is a trench designed for the rainy season, so the water does not flood the grounds of the greenhouse. We’ve also been working to create an organic farm outside of the greenhouses for crops.

With the tourism group we are building a historical route to commemorate El Salvador’s past, restoring their underground shelters to what they would have looked like during the war and adding this onto the walking route.  Additionally, we have created two new campsites for the historical walking routes, Guerrillero and El Mirador. The latter of which have the most stunning views I’ve seen in El Salvador. It’s a shame the tree’s blocking the view…

We’ve also been assisting with the local tourist’s group litter campaign (campagna de limpieza) in a bid to clean up Santa Marta. Upon coming here, I was very surprised to find out that there was litter strewn everywhere; in the streets, the plaza, in the football pitches and by the schools. Some point the finger (poner el dedo) at the Americanisation of Salvadorian culture as the majority of rubbish lining the streets are junk food packets. The community has an annual clean-up but this obviously isn’t sufficient and so rubbish collected in the home is often burnt. Right in the midst of our litter campaign, someone dragged a four-foot tall bin out of the town hall and tipped the rubbish right outside the front door….and then proceeded to burn it. This is right in the heart of the community!

To help combat the problem of litter, we ordered twelve new bins for the community and using tools and concrete, cemented them in the community, with two bins right outside the town hall, where previously there was none. We also organise weekly litter collections amongst the volunteers to classify the rubbish into recyclables and non-recyclable materials.  As part of an independent mini-project, we also held a poster competition, with entrants needing to design posters with a message against litter, in the local schools. We then laminated the top ten and gave out prizes.

We also held meetings and designed agreements for local leaders in the community regarding rubbish. We sought to make it the responsibility of the local police, the shop owners and the schools to ensure that Santa Marta was being kept clean and would be kept clean in the future.

For the historical route, we also conducted interviews with war veterans and people from the community who lived in Santa Marta during the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, so that testimonials of the past would always be remembered. These will complement the historical route and remain as a relic of the past. We also designed and painted a mural in the townhall (Casa Communal) which depicts the history of Santa Marta and El Salvador:

mural

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One thought on “My Ten Weeks Volunteering in El Salvador

  1. […] Spanish, I could say very little and this occurs with all students. It was only when I spent 10 weeks in El Salvador that I built my level of Spanish and got to speak it confidently and with ease. 10 weeks of […]

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