El Salvador 2014: 02

Post 8: 2014-02-10

Time to go sailing. Foundation Cristosal Executive Director Noah Bullock, myself and two other board members had our day of rest sailing Hobie Cat 13’s in a 15 knot breeze. My first time at the helm of such a craft. We sailed on Lago Ilopango. This lake is El Salvador’s largest, at 100 square kilometers. It is over 280 metres deep and exists in the crater of a volcano.

A selfy at Club Salvadoraneo where we rented the Hobie Cats and had some challenging sailing on the lake.

A selfy at Club Salvadoraneo where we rented the Hobie Cats and had some challenging sailing on the lake.

Post 7: 2014-02-10

The board of Foundation Cristosal with some advisers and the Executive Director gathered for this photo on Saturday afternoon.

FC Board

Post 6: 2014-02-10

Our board meetings for Foundation Cristosal are concluded and many members are flying home today. Yesterday the board split and visiting two communities, La Anemona and El Carmen. Susan Burgess and I went to El Carmen. This was an historic visit because the road to the community, with much persistent effort by Foundation Cristosal staff, is much improved. We actually drove a 15 passenger bus all the way to the community rather than transferring to pick up trucks for the journey. More remains to be done to ensure that the first steps on this improvement project are protected.

A beautiful scene, from the village of El Carmen in Usulatan, El Salvador

A beautiful scene, from the village of El Carmen in Usulatan, El Salvador

We celebrated in worship with the people in the community, with Father Manuel presiding.

Father Manuel at El CarmenAfter the service we toured the community, seeing how the road work was developing.

Andres, one of the leadership group in El Carmen, takes a break atop the bulldozer that is doing the work in road repair. While there, the community convinced the workers to also level the soccer field they have in the community.

Andres, one of the leadership group in El Carmen, takes a break atop the bulldozer that is doing the work in road repair. While there, the community convinced the workers to also level the soccer field they have in the community.

Post 5: 2014-02-07

Today in El Salvador Bishop Barahona and Noah Bullock added their signatures to the MOU with St. Mary’s Kerrisdale regarding the Parish of Cristo Rey in Los Calix. Glen Mitchell then presented a cheque for $70,000 US to get the project started. The signing took place on the first day of the annual board meeting of Foundation Cristosal, meeting in San Salvador.

Susan Burgess, from St. Mary's, Obispo Martin Barahona, Anglican Episcopal Diocese of El Salvador, Glen Mitchell, St. Mary's, and Noah Bullock, Executive Director, pose with a $70,000 cheque to kickstart the construction project in the Parish of Cristo Rey (Los Calix) after signing the Memorandum of Understanding between St. Mary's, the Diocese and Foundation Cristosal. Burgess and Mitchell are both members of the Foundation Cristosal board of directors.

Susan Burgess, from St. Mary’s, Obispo Martin Barahona, Anglican Episcopal Diocese of El Salvador, Glen Mitchell, St. Mary’s, and Noah Bullock, Executive Director, pose with a $70,000 cheque to kickstart the construction project in the Parish of Cristo Rey (Los Calix) after signing the Memorandum of Understanding between St. Mary’s, the Diocese and Foundation Cristosal. Burgess and Mitchell are both members of the Foundation Cristosal board of directors.

The board of Foundation Cristosal heard reports from all staff programmers including Human Rights & Legal Assistance, Community Development and the Global Relations School.

Resource Development Coordinator Hannah Lowery presented the board with a strategy to increase resources available to support the three key programs of the foundation in El Salvador.

Resource Development Coordinator Hannah Lowery presented the board with a strategy to increase resources available to support the three key programs of the foundation in El Salvador.

Post 4: 2014-02-05

We left San Salvador today, going to Los Calix to visit the Parish of Cristo Rey. Here St. Mary’s Kerrisdale is working with Foundation Cristosal and the parish community to build a new church building. Plans are ready and the money is available – we’re waiting for a permit from the government to begin construction.

The Reverend Antonio Lopez shows the plans for the new church building at Los Calix in the Parish of Criso Rey.

The Reverend Antonio Lopez shows the plans for the new church building at Los Calix in the Parish of Criso Rey.

Our group has coordinated the gift of a Celtic Processional Cross for the new church in Los Calix. We presented this to the congregation today. Father Lopez was very gracious in his acceptance of this gift, saying that its form gave him lots of ideas about how they could carry this theme into other furniture in the church including the pews they will likely have.

With the new cross made from oak from former St. Mary's pews, here we are with the congregation in Los Calix.

With the new cross made from oak from former St. Mary’s pews, here we are with the congregation in Los Calix.

Later we had lunch at Father Antonio’s house. We were served rice – which El Salvadorans cook to perfection – and potatoes and vegetables.

Lunch at Deacons House

After lunch visited the shrimp cooperative that 23 famlies operate. They produce a crop every three months. There are five tanks in all, filled with sea water and the odd crocodile!

Here, Jacob Muir surveys the shrimp cooperative's operation. In the afternoon heat he decided to run to the far end!

Here, Jacob Muir surveys the shrimp cooperative’s operation. In the afternoon heat he decided to run to the far end!

Then we drove to our accommodations for the night – a hotel near the beach west of La Libertad. The beach here, El Tunco, is among the top ten surfing beaches on the planet.

After a rest at the beach the delegation is returning to Vancouver on Friday. Glen Mitchell and Susan Burgess, members of the Foundation Cristosal board are staying on for the board meetings which last until Sunday afternoon.

After a rest at the beach the delegation is returning to Vancouver on Friday. Glen Mitchell and Susan Burgess, members of the Foundation Cristosal board are staying on for the board meetings which last until Sunday afternoon.

Post 3: 2014-02-04

Today we gathered for breakfast at 6:30 a.m. and by 7:30 a.m. we were heading east and north to the Department of Cabanas. This mineral rich area has been in the news lately because of a Vancouver-based mining company Pacific Rim. The company is suing the El Salvadoran government for $350 Million because it has denied the company the permits they need to operate. In deed, the government has banned all mining in El Salvador.

Antonio Pecheco, Executive Director of ADES - an environmental organization - told us that the people view mining as death. They are very concerned about their poor water supply and what the gold and silver processing will do to it.

Antonio Pecheco, Executive Director of ADES – an environmental organization – told us that the people view mining as death. They are very concerned about their poor water supply and what the gold and silver processing will do to it.

Several local people including  aradio broadcaster told us about the death threats that regularly come because they opppose mining. Their businesses and families have all been threatened. There have been at least four deaths attributed to opposition to mining.

Several local people including aradio broadcaster told us about the death threats that regularly come because they opppose mining. Their businesses and families have all been threatened. There have been at least four deaths attributed to opposition to mining.

Among the dead are Marcelo Rivera. In San Isidro, near the mining site, there is a cultural centre named for him.

Among the dead are Marcelo Rivera. In San Isidro, near the mining site, there is a cultural centre named for him.

The University of Central America has done a study of public opinion in El Salvador about mining and it is overwhelmingly negative. Despite that none of the political parties in the recent election will state their position on this topic despite the efforts of ADES to force them to do so.

We will be forming a group to work with supporters in Canada, the United States and Australia to raise awareness of this issue in our countries in the coming months. This effort coincides with the recent passage of a motion by the Synod of New Westminster dealing with the behaviour of Canadian mining companies abroad and a Joint Declaration at General Synod which also addressed this issue. Below is a poster which gives you a flavour of the concerns Salvadorans have about the impacts of gold mining on their lives.

ADES Poster

Post 2: 2014-02-03

Today has been a slower pace to recover from the past few days and yesterday’s election. We had a sleep in this morning! Then at 10, we met with the Canadian Ambassador for El Salvador. It was a very interesting discussion about the election results, funding overseas work experiences, foreign investment and mining issues in El Salvador.

After lunch at “Nelly’s”, we went to the University of Central America (UCA) to see the site where Jesuit priests were gunned down in the middle of the night by the army in 1989.

Climbing the stairs to the Rose Garden at the UCA Romero Centre. There, the priests were murdered in the middle of the night.

Climbing the stairs to the Rose Garden at the UCA Romero Centre. There, the priests were murdered in the middle of the night.

After touring the museum and other exhibits, we spent some time reflecting and praying in the UCA Chapel.

Here in the Capilla - chapel - the Jesuit priests are entombed.

Here in the Capilla – chapel – the Jesuit priests are entombed.

One of the thoughtful things we are considering this week is the origins of violence. This statement has been guiding our reflections.

Ignacio

For example, the energy it takes to fuel our northern standard of living based on our wants has an impact somewhere in the world. We have little concept of how so many live in poverty whilst we get upset if our morning coffee isn’t “just so”. What does it take in the way of sacrifices from all those who make “just so” possible? We need to step up to the mirror and realize what our behaviour causes to happen in many parts of the world.

Later in the day we met for dinner with the staff of Foundation Cristosal to hear about the three programs that it operates: Human Rights, Community Development and Global School.

Three happy campers, Sharon, Saul and Jacob enjoy the sunshine outside the hotel lobby today. They are some of the lucky ones who have not been sick this trip. All are happily mending, thanks be to God!

Three happy campers, Sharon, Saul and Jacob enjoy the sunshine outside the hotel lobby today. They are some of the lucky ones who have not been sick this trip. All are happily mending, thanks be to God!

Post 1: 2014-02-03

At last! Accessing the internet and finding time in our busy schedule have been two problems that plague us!

The election took place yesterday and it was from most reports and our personal observations, well run. There were no incidents worth reporting at the voting centre that Jan Rups Levett and I (Glen) monitored.

Unfortunately for the voters, they will have to return to the polls on March 9th because no candidate last night received 50+1 per cent of the vote. The FMLN party was tantilizingly close at 49% while ARENA has 39%. These two parties will now have a run off election to decide the winner.

This first report will largely be photographs to give you a flavour of our visit so far.

It's 4:45 a.m. and Saul Geller and Andrew Davis are ready to head to the polls.

It’s 4:45 a.m. and Saul Geller and Andrew Davis are ready to head to the polls.

There are 1591 Voting Centres, more than 400 more than 2012 as the government works to push neighbourhood voting. Democracy is moving closer to the people in this way.

Jan Rups Levett, Lisa Avery, Susan Burgess and Tom Nesbitt all ready to go observing.

Jan Rups Levett, Lisa Avery, Susan Burgess and Tom Nesbitt all ready to go observing.

The day was long, leaving the hotel at 5:oo a.m. and returing about 8:00 p.m. We had a break during the day and all joined together at San Andres Parish (Anglican) in Soyapango.

San Andres Soyapango

It was family day at the polls as many brought their children in what felt very festive.

Here a women confined to a wheel chair was helped to vote. Many older people marked the register with a thumb print.

Here a women confined to a wheel chair was helped to vote. Many older people marked the register with a thumb print.

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