Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Year-end Presentation

So obviously things have been quite crazy since returning Stateside after our amazing summer in El Salvador.

While much of what we accomplished hasn't been adequately addressed or reported in the blog (sorry!), we've tried to keep people in the loop as much as we can. At this point even this final 5 minute ridiculously short summary of what happened this summer doesn't do our experience justice in the least, but it will give an inspiring and fairly decent idea of what we were able to accomplish. We love El Sal and El Sal loved us!

Thanks America for putting this together!

Monday, August 16, 2010

More Business with CIPI

I know what you're thinking, how much time are we spending at CIPI? Okay, so a lot alright, do you have a problem with that?

CIPI is a place with so many needs, that our volunteers have found many ways to utilize their interests and talents to give the residents at CIPI opportunities for a better future. We've painted murals, taught workshops, had mini olympics/field days, coordinated year-round volunteers, and more! Associated slightly with our weekly workshops, we had a month-long Girl's Empowerment Workshop focusing on preparing girls to become young women and professionals.

Topics covered in the workshop were understanding one's identity, goal setting, interviewing and other job skills, etc...

Rules: 1. Have Fun! 2. Participate! 3. Celebrate!

The workshop worked with a small group of girls that were consistently present in all four of the series. Juliann and Kristen were the main coordinators of these workshops. The girls loved the program and HELP sees this portion of the CIPI project as a huge success for sure.

Kristen's great example of what NOT to do in an interview.

Each of the girls received a certificate for successfully completed all four of the workshops in the series.

Included as a portion of this empowerment workshop was a two-sided "Sales" project. Once a month CIPI organizes a sale of any donated clothes that can't be used for the kids there, as well as anything that the girls have made in their sewing workshops throughout the month. The team this year decided to work on this project a little more putting together an organized receipt system for the items being sold, as well as an inventory system. The girls were trained on using these basic business tools to make a more effective and efficient running sales program. This way the girls are learning great skills for the future, are being empowered through a well running program that they can confidently manage, and at the same time CIPI is getting more money through the sales! It was a fun project and something we feel will make a huge difference at the orphanage.

Juliann found something that she...liked?

Marielos, the director of CIPI has been a great support and one of our favorite partners to work with this summer. She's been so generous in helping make our projects a priority, thereby increasing their effectiveness. We will miss her!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Hard proof of our Hard work

HELP Volunteers work all day, all night, and sometimes even more! While the extreme efforts that our volunteers put forth to make real lasting and effective changes in the lives of those we serve, sometimes it's fun to prove just how hard we really work. Note all the many places we find suitable to pass-out from exhaustion.

First location, and by far the favorite... on the bus:

Next, any other means of travel by land:

When wheels aren't available, we'll take travel by water:

Not that this comes as a shock, but hammocks are also a popular spot:

In reality, volunteers can easily fall asleep during a variety of activities:

Renewing your tourist visa.

Talking on the phone.

In the middle of a meeting (tsk tsk).

Or feeding your young (okay, so this one we just wanted to put in and so we found an excuse to, sue us).

Oftentimes the bus doesn't show up soon enough, so some Country Directors, who are extra tired, might doze off before it shows up...on the side of the road while waiting for the bus...

When it comes down to it, our lovely cots seem to do the trick as well I guess...

Sometimes not even the whole cot is necessary apparently. Don't knock it until you try it.

That much more of a Habit

Habitat for Humanity is such an incredible partner here in San Salvador, and has been for years now. While many might think that Habitat is in the business of building homes, that's really only a part of what they do, and in some places less of their focus than some of their other "products".

Three times a year Habitat sponsors a "Blitz Build" or what they've titled for this month; Construyendo Sobre la Fe. The first full week of August is time for national Festivales Agostinas or August Festivals. During this time (yes that's right, the entire week!) most businesses close, and everyone has vacation from work (even doctors, teachers, etc!!!). It was interesting to learn how the country dealt with fewer people at work than at any other time throughout the year.

Anyhow, this year Habitat chose the Villas de Jiboa project to be the site for the Blitz, which just so happens to be the site in San Vicente where we've been working the whole summer! Hundreds and hundreds of international and national volunteer teams are formed and team up to build as many houses as possible in a single week. Scattered throughout the week are cultural and community activities. Two of our volunteers even spent the entire week "camping" (in a volunteer house nicer than the HELP house, rough life I know) in San Vicente and worked their butts off all day every day. The rest of the team made the trip out to San Vicente on Wednesday of the holiday week to contribute in the build.

In preparation for the trip the team sat through a Habitat training. For many of the volunteers this was the first formal orientation from Habitat and they were able to learn about these other "products" that Habitat offers. We were very excited and impressed to hear the lengths Habitat goes to in providing affordable housing for Salvadoran families. Homes are available from full credit options with monthly payments, to fully subsidized projects where sweat equity is required instead of any economic contribution.

Habitat also provides home improvement/renovation projects, land loans, help on paying current land debts at a lower interest, used home contracts, as well as property deed support (helping legalize ownership over family land when no paperwork exists). These are all services that are severely needed in many developing countries.

Our contribution to the building is only a small help for the families that are already moving into completed homes in Villas de Jiboa, but helping these families is the least we can do.

This is how we improvise when so many volunteers are on one site that ladders become a commodity.

Cultural music (and dancing) was provided by the future recipients of the homes (and sponsored by Habitat of course), as well as typical food and great conversation. We're not lying when we say that HELP ended up being the life of the party, especially the kids loved having us there.

The whole team together on a single project is a rare site, and always a nice break from the norm. Locals always seem to pop into our pictures, I think they must just like us a lot.

The bibliobus has landed

The National Library was a great partner that the 2009 El Sal team worked with for the first time. They worked on helping them out with a Mobile Children's Library (aka the bibliobus), with some marketing posters for increased publicity of the library, among other projects. Funding has changed dramatically, and the beloved bus (pronounced "boos") overheats too much to take it out of the city.

As this summer progressed it looked like due to the changes in the Library's support (aka removal of it) we worried that potential projects had diminished. Interest continue to increase in working in literacy projects as the second wave arrived, so we pushed to at the very least support the few local bus outings that the library is still able to sponsor a year.

Apparently some books are just not for everybody.

Volunteers were able to participate in reading stories to kids at local elementary schools and help while they watched a puppet skit about reading.

All in all, the campaigns were short and few, but very sweet.

As if art could make a difference...

Wall murals have always been a way to use art to empower people. Does that sound ridiculous? Hard to believe? Check it out...

While the Hogar Murals were a great experience, they actually came along AFTER we had already started another mural project at CIPI. This project has been around for a while, even at CIPI. In 2007 the HELP team here painted some great murals in the rooms for the special needs kids.

The CIPI director Marielos Bonilla, was excited from the beginning of the summer for us to help out with more a more encouraging environment for the kids here. CIPI is a place for many kids from pretty heartbreaking backgrounds, all victims of some form of abuse, and when victims are brought to a place that resembles a prison, get thrown into a uniform, and have little to no personal attention, it becomes really easy to begin to feel like you're being punished for what other people have done to you. The purpose of the wall murals this year was to demonstrate the huge capacity and potential that these kids have.

We chose a giant wall in the girls comedor or dining hall. Marielos expected (pardon my paraphrasing) to see after a few weeks of work some images of fruit and vegetables, with maybe some cake and pizza sprawled across this huge surface. What she didn't expect was what we came up with.

Meet Jeanette Langston:

Residents work-of-arter and mastermind behind the CIPI Paint projects. Jeanette took the time to interview all the girls, and create a collage of ideas of what the girls envisioned as their desired careers and lives. Topics ranged from nursing, teaching, art, acting, dancing, motherhood, etc...

The girls took a liking to the design before it was even on the wall.

As the girls helped create this masterpiece, they felt empowered to be part of something bigger than themselves, and to be helping create something that would last forever to help future generations of girls at CIPI struggling with the same types of trials that they have suffered through.

STUMBLING BLOCK! The paint that was already on the wall wasn't happy with what we were putting over it, so it all had to come off, that was lots of fun.

Jeanette and other team members spent hours with the select girls that were responsible enough to help with the wall. This group of girls was really special and exemplar for the rest of the kids at CIPI, as well as for us.

It wasn't long before the wall was scraped, sealed, and primed and the painting could begin.

The mural took a little longer than we had anticipated, but looked incredible. As soon as it was finished Marielos organized an inauguration for the wall. The director of ISNA was invited as well as many others in charge of other homes around the city. It was a great day, and a huge boost for the HELP team to see a project reach completion.

It was great to see the ownership the girls took in the mural, and they all saw themselves as one of the successful women depicted there as well.