Sorry for the late posting this week, we've had some power and internet issues here! As I am on a very short time frame for posting this, I'll forgo adding pictures this week but will make sure there are lots next week!
First of all, I want to say "bienvenido mis amigos/as salvadoreno/a". This week one of my colleagues asked for my blog address. With the help of GoogleTranslator a few colleagues here have visited my blog and read some of my postings. Jonathan told me that he particularly liked the section about him setting up my cell phone! In all seriousness, I am very pleased that people in my ADES family are reading along and I hope they will let me know when I inevitably get things wrong!
This week I want to write about two experiences. The first involves a lovely young family - Mom, Dad and two daughters ages 7 and 2. Dad is involved in a program at ADES to help him increase his family's income. Through that service it became known that his daughters have medical issues that need more attention. Dad got introduced to my boss, Gilma (pronounced Hilma), and she has been working on the medical issues. One day I had the opportunity to accompany Gilma and Oscar, another staff person, to the local hospital to discuss the situation. In the end, Gilma got the Director and the Head of Pediatrics to see the two daughters and to make the referral (complete with free x-rays if needed) to the children's hospital in San Salvador. Gilma arranged a meeting with the family and to discuss the next steps. I was able to accompany her and Oscar on this community visit as well.
The place where the family lives is in a rural village about 40 minutes by pick-up truck from our office. The last 8-10 kms of the trip is really, really rough road. We found the family waiting for us by the side of the road. The girls are really cute. Both girls have deformed hands which are particularly pronounced for the 2 year old. The girls also have feet and eye problems and have recurring serious lung issues. They are very, very petite and the 7 year old is only slightly taller than her 2 year old sister. We decided to accompany the family to their home. This is a 40 minute walk literally down a mountain on a steep footpath. The 7 year old walks this daily on her way to and from school. It was tough going in parts and at one point, Gilma, while telling me to be careful, slips and falls. She was fine, but I think about how difficult it would be to get someone out of here if there was an accident.
We eventually reached the house. The location was stunning. Much to my surprise, there was some electricity - lights and couple of plugs. Of course, the house is unbelievably clean but it is literally on the side of a mountain in the middle of nowhere. As we walking back up the mountain, Gilma explains to me that the girls problems are the result of chronic malnutrition and gestational malnutrition. I feel like I am in a World Vision commercial, it is the first time I have looked into the eyes of a beautiful child who is malnourished. This week Gilma accompanied the family to the local hospital, where the little girl was diagnosed with ongoing lung issues. The referral is being made and they will both see pediatric specialists in San Salvador, eventually. In the mean time, the father continues to work with staff in the “economia local” program to increase the family’s income. There are no practical supports available to this family so it is likely that the lack of food problem will persist for the foreseeable future.
My emotions are all over the place about this situation. I am very pleased that ADES is the type of organization that “goes the distance” with families. Even though this is not her “job”, Gilma’s advocacy has made sure that two girls will get medical care. At the same time, I am deeply saddened that in this world of plenty these two beautiful girls and their parents, just don’t have enough. I have also been told that this situation is not unique here. I know that and that my reaction, over time, will be less visceral. However, I suspect that I will carry this family with me for a long time.
Later last week, I went to an event to commemorate the assignation of Oscar Romero, the Archbishop of El Salvador on March 24, 1980. At this event, my job was to get everyone to sign the attendance sheet. They needed to print their name, the name of their community and sign it. Gilma also gave me an inkpad in case people wanted to make a thumbprint rather than a signature. This was a group of about 80 adults of various ages. In the end I managed to get 64 signed the attendance sheet. I have worked with people with low literacy levels in Canada, but I had never seen a group of people work so hard to print their name and their signature. Each person literally took about 5 minutes – once they understood what they needed to do. Probably a dozen or so put their thumbprint. Once again, I realized how privileged I am to have the literacy level I have in a second language.
In terms of what ADES does...You have already read a bit about the work of my team with women and youth. There is also a “economia local” team that works with households to increase local production through small home based businesses. Another group of people are working to improve the education system and a fourth team is working on issues related to mining and water and there is one person working on human rights issues. Finally there is a group of people in administration who, like their counterparts everywhere, keep the agency going on a day to day basis. I will talk more about the work of ADES in future blogs as I understand it more. Just let me say that I feel deeply honoured to work with this passionate, committed, fun and highly skilled group of people.
As part of the popular education, staff at ADES have many, many shirts and other items with logos and sayings on them. On Wednesday, I was asked to pick out a shirt from a small selection in the “Economia Local” office. I got wind yesterday of a conversation about me getting a “camisa de ADES” manana. I carefully put the shirt in my backpack thinking that I received it to wear at an event the next day, but as it turns out I will receive another shirt for that event. I learned this when someone stopped by to ask if I didn’t like my new shirt, because I wasn’t wearing it! I am just about to go for lunch, and wearing a new shirt is way too much pressure…sure to slop…so I’ll put it on after lunch! I am very pleased to have my first “ADES” corporate wear. It feels like another step in the integration process.