In Love and War

By Jana Stohler, CDF/ConDev Intern

A few days ago, I began working on ConDev/CDF’s surveys for their international research program on drivers of conflict. ConDev researchers developed a survey to gather information from Salvadoran people that live in communities affected by violence. This information will help ConDev understand what the sources of conflict in communities are, and identify if poverty causes conflict. These people have been through so much devastation and are trying to recover from the Salvadoran war.  ConDev/CDF are not only gathering this type of information, but they are also trying to identify approaches or programs that are bringing hope, restoration, and growth in communities. I continue to attempt to establish times to talk with different people and conduct more surveys. I know I will be making quite a bit of progress in this area in the upcoming weeks.

Over the last six weeks, I’ve spent time studying SHIP’s programs for women and youth. SHIP’s vision is to continue expanding these two outstanding programs.

Many of the women who participate in the successful SonRisa business program are dealing with the loss of husbands to violence, while others have lost their spouses to cancer and other illnesses. Many have struggled with the fear of not having enough food to feed their families, but their fears and struggles have slowly been replaced with hope as they’ve been given a way to provide for their families through SHIP’s business program for women. I’ve particularly watched one woman who lost her husband to violence and is now a single mother with four children. With SHIP’s love and the assistance she’s received, her tears have been replaced with joy and hope. She’s a hard worker, and she smiles because her family’s future is so much brighter. She brings me to tears. Learning how SHIP is promoting economic development in this fragile community through a business initiative for these women is one of the innovative approaches to development that ConDev was interested in identifying.  

Providing a quality education for the children is another focus for SHIP. I’ve spent time each afternoon with the neighborhood children as they come to SHIP’s facility for tutoring. My Spanish language skills are improving as I work with the children on their studies; their English language skills are also improving, which is important since it’s one of their subjects in school! Overall, the children are doing very well with their classes. I’ve become very attached to these children, and it will be extremely difficult to say goodbye to them when the time comes. They’ve recently been asking me when I will go back to the States. Their faces are filled with joy, which matches the joy in my heart, as I share the number of weeks I have remaining with them. It brings me such joy to spend a little more time with them and watch them grow. They challenge me in my own personal growth, and I continue to give them a little more of my heart.

A lot has happened during the past six weeks that I have been in El Salvador. In late May, a team of volunteers from Texas spent a week “remodeling” a home for an elderly lady in the community. Since then, we’ve continued with other projects within the walls of SHIP’s facility and also within the community. As I finish writing this blog, 20 volunteers from Texas and Oklahoma are en route; their major task over the coming week will be to demolish a home in the community and rebuild it from scratch. The family is eagerly anticipating the team’s arrival and the reconstruction of their home, which would not be possible without SHIP’s volunteers and resources.

Above everything else I’ve experienced at SHIP El Salvador, love is what stands out the most to me. It’s been a joy to learn about both of SHIP’s programs in the community, and I’ve been blessed to see the joy and hope SHIP brings to these wonderful people.