Sunday, February 22, 2009

El Salvador Trip

Two of my roommates and I will be traveling to El Salvador next month! There's a Salvadoran man who regularly takes down delegations of JVs, and he's organizing the trip. We're fundraising now, so if you feel able to donate, we would greatly appreciate it. This is a letter we mailed out to people that explains why we're going:

We are three Jesuit Volunteers currently serving in Houston, Texas. This March, we will have the privilege of traveling to El Salvador to act as international election observers, meet with community leaders, and learn about the social, political, and economic reality of this small Central American country. In the context of our experiences as JVs working with immigrant and refugee populations, this trip is an opportunity to walk in solidarity with the people we serve.
From 1980 to 1992 the country of El Salvador was embroiled in a brutal civil war. More than 80,000 people were killed and more than two million people were forced to flee their homeland. A negotiated peace was declared on February 1, 1992 in a lengthy peace process mediated by the United Nations. Since that time, the reconstruction of El Salvador and the implementation of the peace accords have moved forward, though often with great difficulty. In spite of the successes in the peace process, there is still a long road ahead for El Salvador. As postwar crime, violence, and poverty plague the country, the 2009 Presidential Election offers the possibility of change and hope for the future.

By serving as election observers we will be assigned to polling places to monitor the voting process and ensure that free and fair elections take place. It is our hope that our presence will deter voter fraud and intimidation at the polls so that the voices of the people can be heard. In addition to this, we will visit local communities and organizations that are working for social justice and the human rights of the people of El Salvador. By learning more about the reality of the people living in El Salvador, we hope to better understand the struggle of the immigrants in the United States with whom we work.

The three of us were lucky enough to have each spent a semester studying abroad in El Salvador, and the experience was a spiritual wake-up call and played a huge role in shaping our understanding of social justice and of living out the Gospels. Returning to that environment as Jesuit Volunteers, with a clearer understanding of how we can turn this experience and knowledge into action, will continue to broaden our global perspectives and guide us in our individual ministries.

In order to make this trip happen, we are fundraising money for the cost of travel expenses and to contribute to programs that assist the Salvadoran people. Each of us is responsible for raising $1000. We understand that times are hard, but we are asking that you consider making a donation to our group. This trip means a lot to us, and any contributions are greatly appreciated. If you do not feel able to give money, we ask for your prayers and encouraging words. Thank you very much for your support and generosity.

Please contact me (Amber) if you are interested in donating, and I will give you our address. Our trip is from March 13-22, and we will be posting photos and reflections on the trip on our blog. Thank you once again for your generosity.

Does anyone know of a free way to accept online donations?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Casa de la Solidaridad - Study Abroad in El Salvador

As many of you know, I spent my spring semester of my junior year in El Salvador, doing a program called Casa de la Solidaridad. The application deadline for fall 2009 is coming up on March 31st, and I wanted to put the word out for anyone who might be considering studying abroad or who knows people who are thinking of studying abroad: Go to El Salvador!

It is not your traditional study abroad experience. You will not go out drinking every night and play the tourist traveling around Europe. You will have a life-changing experience and learn about the lives of people living in poverty in the beautiful country of El Salvador. You spend two days a week in a placement in or near San Salvador, accompanying the community, spending time with people, and sometimes teaching English or participating in other activities. You take amazing classes at the University of Central America, the Jesuit University in San Salvador. You live in community with other American students and Salvadoran scholarship students. It is a time to learn and explore the themes of social justice, simple living, spirituality, and community. (The Casa program was based on the Jesuit Volunteers International program, so there are a lot of similarities between it and what I am doing now with JVC.)

The Casa program had a huge influence on my understanding of the world, of social justice, of people, and of my calling in life. I've never met anyone who did it and was not transformed in some way. You can read my blog for more about my experiences, and check out the program's website for a lot of details and descriptions.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Monday, February 2, 2009

Challenging heteronormativity

This is how you know I'm from the Bay Area:

Our house (landline) phone rang, and my roommate Stephanie answered. The person was doing a survey or something and asked for my roommate Emily. Stephanie responded that she no longer lives here (a graceful lie). They then asked to speak to the man or woman of the house (apparently Stephanie sounds young over the phone), and Stephanie said they weren't home, which ended the phone call. I suggested that next time she say that she doesn't identify as either a man or a woman and would appreciate some sensitivity.

It's always good to take opportunities to challenge heteronormativity.