This March, soon to be beatified Archbishop Romero became the #1 topic of the Salvadoran press, TV and radio in his home country for the first time in 35 years. During Romero’s 3 years as Archbishop, El Salvador was a place where the poor were violently oppressed by the powerful. He was killed for standing with the poor.
Homilist Bishop Raul Vega of Mexico pointed out that the legacy of martyrs isn’t their deaths but rather their lives. Sister Nohemy Ortiz of the Pequeña Comunidad referred to Archbishop Romero as a faithful disciple of Jesus who brought us to God- present in the unfolding history of the times. Fr. José Togeira SJ of the Catholic University spoke of Romero as a model for humanity noting his outreach to a society in crisis, opting for the weak; a man marked by intellectual honesty, courage and an (unremitting) search for and testimony to the truth. Tojeira went on to say that while there are an abundance of saints, few have risen to universal embrace as examples for humanity. Romero is among these few.
In 2015 Archbishop Romero continues to challenge us: What does God call us to do in the unfolding events of today, to make God’s presence visible in the world? Are we willing to immerse in today’s challenges standing courageously and honestly with suffering peoples, opposing violence, recognizing the humanity of all?
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
This quote attributed to Margaret Mead, cultural anthropologist, has always fascinated me. The power and truth of this statement was brought home to me at the Tenth Anniversary celebration of SEW in 2013. Two business promoters from the SEW project in El Salvador, Delmy and Deysi, attended the celebration. Each shared her individual story of a dream to be empowered, to be educated and to work outside the home in order to earn a living which would contribute to the support of their families. Their dreams became a reality for them. Their dreaming has inspired other women to dream such dreams and become part of the SEW organization. Step-by-step, little-by-little the world of El Salvador is changing. And I believe, in turn, Central America is changing and eventually the world.
We have a new runner! You may remember last summer, I (Hannah Shultz) raised money for SEW as I trained for the Marine Corps Marathon. This year, Claudia Rodriguez is raising money as she trains for the Takoma Park 5K Challenge. Read Claudia's note below and please, consider making a donation to encourage Claudia to achieve her goal.
For the last 8 years I have been involved with Salvadoran Enterprises for Women (SEW), a wonderful organization that helps Salvadoran women to start small cooperative businesses. SEW helps women in rural areas organize and come up with a business idea, it provides them with seed money to get them started and accompanies them in the process for several years with training and technical assistance until their businesses become self-sustainable. The empowering process these women go through is amazing: many women start shy, still struggling with gender-related barriers and stereotypes that keep them marginalized and impoverished. At the end of this process they are running their own businesses, providing for their families and contributing to their communities. They become entrepreneurs, leaders, and role models. These women’s stories keep inspiring me and motivating me to support their efforts. They really make a DIFFERENCE!
January 13, 2015. I picked up the newspaper only to read that Robert White had died. Gasp!... He was one of my heroes. He was an American in a foreign land-a career diplomat whose courage and integrity led him to confront his own government’s policies only to be rewarded with dismissal from the Foreign Service.
My mind floated back to El Salvador 1986 as I flew in to that tortured country for the first time. I was shaking in my sneakers but armed with the spirit of Bob White and Jean Donovan. Jean was one of the four American churchwomen murdered in El Salvador in 1980 where Bob was serving as US ambassador. I had first met these indomitable spirits in a chance reading of Jean’s story in “Salvador Witness” by Ana Corrigan. That reading led me to the story of Bob White’s courage to speak truth to power. As I landed, I had two quotes running through my head; Bob White’s, ”This time the bastards won’t get away with it” said as the 4 church women were disinterred, and Jean Donovan’s “If it weren’t for the children…”, explaining why she couldn’t leave El Salvador at the height of the violent revolutionary war.
El Salvador has a way of grabbing you. There are so many contradictions: raw survival, deep-rooted faith, and inextinguishable hope midst unrelenting violence.
El Salvador held elections for Mayors, Deputies and representatives to the Central American Parliament on Marh 1st. I served on the observer mission with the Centro de Intercambio y Solidaridad (CIS). This is CIS’s 11th International observer mission in El Salvador and my 8th time serving as an observer. International observers are mandated by the Peace Accords. The two main political parties are, FMLN (former guerrillas) and ARENA (right wing party). There were several minor parties also participating some for the first time who received little support.
The process this time was greatly disrupted by a late decision of the Constitutional Court. Three months prior to the election the court ordered that cross over votes be allowed (ability to split a voters choice among more than one candidate in different parties). This change caused much confusion and complexity to counting the vote. The process went smoothly during the voting but when it came time to count the vote at each table it was much different. The first vote to be counted was the Central American Parliament. Most voting tables needed 5 or 6 hours to complete this count and two more ballots still needed to be counted. The complexity of county cross party votes and preferential votes within the party was more than labor intensive, it was painful to watch. After manning the tables all day (beginning at 5:00 AM) the same people had to continue with the count until the wee hours of the morning – 24 hours after beginning work.
SEW is looking for a summer intern!
Are you passionate about women's empowerment? Have an interest in international development? Do have you want to help with fundraising? Then apply to intern with us! We're looking for a passionate person to work approximately 20 hours a week with us from May - August. Dates are flexible.
Here's what you'll be doing:
- Writing, writing, writing. We work with amazing women with great stories to tell. You will help us tell them. Draft email blasts. Write blog posts. Contribute to newsletter.
- Research potential funders.
- Communications outreach. Look for media outlets and/or journalists who may be interested in writing about us.
- Social media. Create memes, plan Facebook posts, connect with other organizations.
I’m delighted to let you know SEW is starting a blog. We will cover many topics related to our SEW business women and their work. We will also be posting information about El Salvador’s economy, social issues, and legislation, as well as immigration, remittances, and US policies in relation to El Salvador.
I hope you will visit us regularly www.sewinc.org to read our blog. You’ll be up to date on critical issues affecting our SEW women as well as Salvadorans and citizens here in the U.S.
If you have topics you’d like to hear about, please let me know. Your faithfulness to SEW has been the foundation of empowering Salvadoran women in social and economic ways. We value that and want to stay in touch.