So what motivates you??? This is a question that I have been pondering this week. Every Monday morning our agency training contains a portion that is technical, focusing on whatever the theme of the week is. The other portion is designed to motivate us. This section I have found a bit odd. Generally it involves singing ballads of the history of El Salvador and chanting slogans. This week’s training was about how to design and craft this portion of a meeting. Finally I understood that this section of the meeting is focused on motivation (which I previously didn’t know) and that it likely doesn’t resonate with me (aside from the language issues) because this not my history or my culture. What does motivate me to do work in social services or to be in El Salvador. In generally I realized that I like to feel that I am a part of something bigger than me that is working to help the Earth be a better place.
We then had to break into our small groups and talk about ways in which ADES can do this portion better. Basically our group decided that the staff at ADES need more commitment to the bigger fight for social justice, more respect for each other and more discipline. It was interesting for me because I think this group of people is incredibly committed and works very, very hard and long hours. Asking them to do more was not the approach I considered. Interestingly when most of the other groups presented, their answers were somewhat similar – that staff needed to do more.
At one point, I offered my idea. That for me it is important to know about the impact of my actions and work. The focus here is so communal that there is no individual staff development. There are no supervision meetings or annual performance appraisals. My idea of a supervisor having a conversation with their staff individually to talk about why their work is important was a completely new idea. Jenny really liked it and thinks that she is going to start having these discussions with her staff in the admin department, where the link to the bigger goal of social justice can be a bit harder to see initially than in some other front line service. I have come to think that in my “regular” life perhaps people are too individually focused, but here I tend to think that people sometimes don’t focus enough on “individuals”.
For me this was a “motivational experiencing” feeling like I had offered a new idea that people liked and that I was able to explain sufficiently in Spanish. I have come to realize that a lot of my legacy in El Salvador will not be about great huge acts, but rather asking questions and offering smalls suggestions.
Today I had another “motivational” experience. I again was asked to accompany staff to a court hearing with the justice of the peace as an International Observer. I was told that the hearing was for some youth from Santa Marta (a nearby rural community). Staff from Santa Marta came along and I initially thought it was to offer support to the families of the youth from their communities. Soon I learned that of the 5 youth arrested, one was the son of a colleague and one was the brother of a colleague. The 5 youth, one aged 16 and the rest 18, were fishing on the weekend. They were near the Honduran Border and were approached by someone and asked to bring 5 bags back to El Salvador. In return they would receive $10. The bags contained Chinese cigarettes. The youth were arrested and charged with smuggling. Apparently this is a serious problem here and the police are trying to crack down. The maximum penalty is 6-8 years in jail. There is a lot of fear that the Attorney General will try to make an example of this youth and young adults.
As a result, ADES pulled all the stops. A lawyer was hired, I was sent as an International Observer and the Human Rights Office in El Salvador was contacted and they send staff to the procedure as well. The lawyer arrived at the hearing with a package of letters attesting to the good character of the young men. There were letters from the head of the local “futbol” club, the priest and various community organizations. It is clear to me, that these are good young men who made a stupid decision and weren’t good at committing a crime and got caught. El Salvador jail is going to do nothing helpful for these youth.
They had been at the police station since Saturday and today is Thursday. While the families have to wait out on the street I spent much of the time in the Justice of the Peace building. The 4 young men over 18 arrived with a 3 person police escort. They were handcuffed in pairs and the cuffs were not overly tight. They were clean, had gel in their hair and had clean and pressed “dressy” clothes. Obviously they had been allowed to bathe and their families had brought them clothes for today. In the end, these 4 young men were released pending further proceedings. There are some technical problems with the case and it is unclear if it will proceed. For the moment, the young men are free. I wanted to get a picture for you, but as soon as they emerged from the building they were mobbed by their families and their Moms were all hugging them and crying. Taking a picture seemed really intrusive. Tomorrow the youth under 18 will have his hearing in “minor court” and likely the same thing will happen.
It is hard for me to believe that I could be part of a good outcome by showing up and saying nothing. There is much that I am learning about the idea of being quiet. Sometimes here saying less really is more - a very hard lesson for me.
This Sunday I will be skyping to my home congregation of Westminster. I am very excited to be a part of the service. Then on Monday 8 members of my family arrive in El Salvador for a week. But before all that, there are agency futbol games tonight. Life is good here!