The Community Volunteer Experience

Author Portrait_Rosa Marroquín & Carolina Marroquín, Community Volunteers in Cuyagualo, Sonsonate
Rosa Marroquín & Carolina Marroquín

Community Volunteers

Save the Children in El Salvador

March 2, 2018

 

A dedicated nurse helping to improve the health of people in need, and a devoted teacher shaping the minds of future leaders. Those were the dreams of Rosa and Carolina, two sisters who have been community volunteers with Save the Children’s programs for nearly 8 years now. Unfortunately, when they were just teenagers a tragedy struck their family – their father passed away and their mother found herself overwhelmed with 6 children. Rosa and Carolina’s mother took the difficult decision of taking them out of school so they could work and help with the family income. Rosa and Carolina desire for their own children, and for all children in their community, the educational and development opportunities they couldn’t have for themselves. With their work, they are making Save the Children’s vision come to life: a world in which every child attains the right to survival, protection, development and participation.

Before Save the Children came to our community, our leaders used to think only about projects to improve the infrastructure, mainly paving dirt roads. So when Victor, Save the Children in El Salvador’s Community Mobilization Coordinator, presented sponsorship programs to us, people were at first not very interested because it was about education, health and protection for children and adolescents, more than direct and more tangible improvements like new roads. Some people even told us that Save the Children was evil and they would steal the children in our community. Ignorance and indifference dominated people’s minds. It wasn’t easy, but after attending the community mobilization sessions, the leaders came to understand that Save the Children had to involve the entire community in these programs in order to implement them, and that no decisions would be made without their input. In these sessions we also discussed the importance that having a strong educational foundation, and skills in personal hygiene and health, would have for our children. Little by little, the minds of community members began to change.

Little Idania, who at 18 months already can say 55 words!
Little Idania, who at 18 months already can say 55 words!

We’ve been community volunteers for almost 8 years now. Back when we started, we had just one group of 5 – 10 children in our Early Learners programs. Today, we have seven active groups with nearly 30 children each. We’ve reached the hearts of so many mothers over those years, and now they know the importance of starting learning very early, before children enter primary school. Even the teachers are happier and satisfied, because children already know things such as how to hold a pencil, colors and vowels when they start kindergarten.

Another success has been changing people’s minds about the future of adolescents. In the past, adolescents would only study until 9th grade, then opt for the traditional, and considered easier, path of becoming a farmer, security guard, getting married or even joining a gang. Now, adolescents don’t want that anymore. They want to finish high school and go to college. With sponsorship support, our community management group has learned how to create projects and opportunities for adolescents. So far, we’ve managed to get 18 scholarships for students to continue higher education in high school or college this year. Our community now has adolescents with technical studies in computer engineering, who have become role models for the younger ones. Adolescents are also part of the community management committees.

Rosa with her niece, Idania.
Rosa with her niece, Idania.

The only regrets we have? All the wasted years without the knowledge we have now, the early childhood education we couldn’t give to our own children because we didn’t know anything about it. Our own children are grown-up now, but with our younger nieces and nephews we have put into practice all the strategies we teach to the other women in the community. We know for sure the Early Learning programs work, because we’ve seen the success in our niece Idania. She is just 18 months and can already say 55 words! Even the doctor is surprised with that!

We could share so many stories about the work we are able to accomplish in our community thanks to Save the Children, but in the end all of these success stories make us proud because we consider them our little triumphs!

Without dedicated community volunteers like Rosa and Carolina, Save the Children’s programs would not be possible. Children and families in their community are sure proud and thankful for having them, and being a part of their community’s growth themselves!

Interested in joining our community of sponsors? Click here to learn more.

 

Five Years of Sponsorship Success for Five-Year-Old Ricardo

author-portrait_by-carla-urrutia-sponsorship-quality-communications-coordinatorCarla Urrutia

Sponsorship Quality Communications Coordinator

Save the Children El Salvador

September 9, 2016

Two hours away from the capital city of El Salvador, surrounded by hills of withered lawns, rural dusty roads covered in bumps and friendly people full of hope, you’ll find the quiet community of Cuyagualo, in our sponsorship impact area of Sonsonate.

It’s in this setting that I meet with Yeni, age 28, a mother of one of our sponsored children, Ricardo. She shared with me that in 2011, she received an invitation from one of our community volunteers to attend an Early Childhood Development Parenting Circle withricardo-and-his-kindergarten-teacher-miss-yaneth her then baby son Ricardo. She told me that this invitation changed her life and the life of her son forever.

Even since he was a baby, Ricardo was very shy and not interactive. Once they started attending the Parenting Circle regularly however, Yeni noticed that Ricardo’s social skills greatly improved, as he learned to relate with the other children by playing, singing and dancing.

The community volunteer who works with Yeni’s parenting group tells me she admires Yeni, as she has never failed to miss any session! After having such a positive experience with Sponsorship’s Parenting Circles, she took Ricardo to our Book Rotation sessions, where over the next two years he developed a deep love for reading and learning.

This year, now five-year-old Ricardo started kindergarten. His mom thought it would be difficult for him because he loves sleeping in, but so far he has had no problem waking up early to go to school. Miss Yaneth, his kindergarten teacher, tells me she notices remarkable development skills among children that have attended Save the Children community strategies like Early Childhood Development Parenting Circles. She says when these children start school, “They already know their colors, can identify letters and numbers, know how to properly hold a pencil, and are more organized, responsible and outgoing.” Ricardo is doing great so far in school, and more importantly, he’s enjoying and lova-happy-ricardo-and-his-classmates-enjoy-some-healthy-snacksing it!

This meeting with Yeni made me think about how positively someone’s life can change in the course of just five years, and how time and experience prove that our programs make a huge difference in children’s development. In 2015, just like Ricardo, more than 1,000 children participated in our Early Childhood Care and Development strategies in El Salvador, and with the support of generous sponsors, we’ll reach many more children and families every year – providing them the necessary tools and knowledge to succeed in life. Thank you, sponsors, for making this possible!

 

Interested in joining our community of sponsors? Click here to learn more.

#Sponsorship: The Family Experience

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Ana & Adriana

A Mother and Daughter in the Sponsorship Program

Tecuma, El Salvador

May 11, 2015

 

Mother’s perspective:

My name is Ana, I’m the mother of Adriana. We live in the community of Tecuma and my daughter has been sponsored with Save the Children for two years now. Since she received her first letter I knew she would have a nice friendship with the family who sponsors her, because the ones who write to her the most are the daughters of her sponsor. They are two girls almost the same age as Adriana, and maybe this is why they get along so well.

One day, as I was picking up Adriana from school, a parent approached me and asked me what it’s like to have your children sponsored. I told him that when you enroll your kids and they get sponsored, the entire community benefits from it and all the boys and girls can have a better education. I also explained to him how my daughter has learned so many things from her sponsored family, and how excited she gets when she receives a new letter from her two little friends.

Of all this experience, what I like most is that my daughter has gotten used to writing letters, something that nowadays is not done too often because everything is done through computers. Adriana dedicates time and care to write the letters, I only check her spelling!!

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Adriana happy at school

Child’s perspective:

My name is Adriana and I like being sponsored because my two friends write to me about so many things. They tell me what they do in school and about their ballet classes, although they dance other rhythms too. I also like dancing. At my school I danced “Adentro Cojutepeque” (Salvadoran folkloric music).

I also like that they remember my birthday and last year they sent me some books. I like reading. I have books that are short and I read them all at once, but there are others that are longer, those I read them by bits. My favorite book is called “Llama, llama, red pajama”. It’s about this baby llama that cries when her mom leaves her alone in her room, but then her mom comes back and tells her not to be scared, even when it’s dark. From that book I learned I have to keep calm even when I don’t have my mom around.

In another book I have, I learned to make pink lemonade. I read the recipe and asked my mom to buy me the ingredients and it was so yummy that everyone liked it! In my next letter I will tell them that, and also I will send them a small blanket I learned to sow in school which my grandma helped me finish.

Interested in joining our community of sponsors? Click here to learn more.

Volunteering Has Changed Me

Blog El Salvador March 2014 Miguel Portrait

Miguel Rubio, Community Focal Point

San Jose El Naranjo, El Salvador

August 13, 2014

 

My name is Miguel Rubio. I am 19 years old, and I am a Community Focal Point in my home village in San Jose El Naranjo. My life has changed since Save the Children came to my community. I first decided to become a volunteer to work with Save the Children, because I wanted to help the people in my community. Save the Children trained me on topics such as early childhood care and development, the book rotation strategy, and sponsorship operations.

I currently lead the early development parenting circle in my community. A group of mothers come to the parenting circle to learn how to work with young children so when they get older and start going to school, they can do well. Most of the mothers who come to the circle are my neighbors, friends, and extended family. Most of them have known me since I was a young boy.  Blog El Salvador March 2014 Miguel Supporting Image 1 SHN child brigadiers with children

When I was a School Health and Nutrition child brigadier, I taught classmates how to wash hands properly, and I am very happy to see changes in the lives of children in my school and community because of that. Only 5 of 10 children used to wash their hands after using the latrine. After being in trainings led by the child brigadiers, 9 of 10 children wash their hands now. You can see the good changes! I have been a child brigadier for three years.

When I first started being community volunteer, I did not have the courage to speak in front of a group of people. I was scared to do that. But after receiving training from Save the Children, I feel more and more comfortable talking to people about the topics I have been trained on.

By the time I started high school, I was no longer fearful of presenting before a group of people, because I had done it already with Save the Children. I did so well that all my classmates wanted me to be on their teams! It is very nice to know I can be a role model to other children. My brother, for example, wants to do everything I do. This year he will become a child brigadier with Save the Children as well.

Blog El Salvador March 2014 Miguel in action at ECCD Parent CircleAll of this is possible because of people who care and want to help, and become sponsors. I would like to tell them that they have made a good decision, and that thanks to them, Save the Children runs good programs in remote communities in El Salvador.

Interested in joining our community of sponsors? Click here to learn more.

The Real Sponsorship: Not Money but Commitment









Angie Montes

Angie Montes, Communications Officer

El Salvador

August 26, 2013


Our
daily routine: drive a truck to distant communities where we’re met by enthusiastic
children, parents and teachers eager to partner with us to achieve a better
quality of life. But some days are particularly rewarding, and I want to tell
you about one.

 

 

 

March
21st was not just another regular visit to Caserío San Antonio Arriba
in Ahuachapán department, especially for 5-year-old Brenda and her sponsoring
family from the United States, Ana Flores and her daughter Camila.

 

Brenda
and her curious peers were waiting for the “foreign lady” to come through the door.
Surrounded by kindergarteners, they finally met! Although I frequently hear about
sponsor/sponsored child relations built through letters, it was a different
feeling when an excited Ana hugged Brenda and said, “I´m Ana, your sponsor.”

Ana showing Brenda and peers a picture of them

Ana showing Brenda and peers a picture of them

The
visit only lasted a few hours, but quality time was spent talking and learning
about how Brenda and her community live and about limited health/education opportunities
and other barriers in rural areas. They also talked about and how poor families
manage to move forward. It was surprising the way they understood each other, mothers
and daughters, same ages and dreams, but different potential to fulfill them.

I´m
sure that, despite her age, Brenda understood that behind that unknown face was
a tangible opportunity to better her life.

Mothers and daughters having quality time at school

Mothers and daughters having quality time at school

 

To
be honest, even after a year with Save the Children, I never realized how committed
a sponsor can be to their sponsored child. Ana Flores taught me that sponsoring
a child is about much more than a monthly donation. It’s about creating a way
for vulnerable children to attain better opportunities to succeed in life,
which is exactly what Brenda has now.

As
Ana wrote on her blog after her visit, “Getting
to meet Brenda has made our bond to her, her mom and community that much
stronger, but I truly believe that the process of sending and receiving letters
and correspondence can create a connection that's very real. As a sponsor, you
can really become part of this child's emotional life and her of yours. It's
priceless
.”

Interested in joining Ana and the rest of our community of
sponsors? Become a sponsor today!

Hopes Written Down



José Tobar

José Tobar, Sponsorship Officer

El Salvador

May 13, 2013


Having the
chance to work on translating letters between children and sponsors is kind of
like witnessing a journey between two worlds. On one hand, we have a person
who’s usually writing from a developed country.

“Hello
Emerson, it is great to be your sponsor. My name is Michelle, and I hope we get
to know each other and that you reply to this letter soon. I live in California
with my two children and my little cat. We live near the San Diego beach. How
is it where you live? What are your hobbies? What do you want to be when you
grow up? ”

El_Salvador_RICA_Anita_answering_1On the other
side there is child who lives miles away from them. What bonds these two? Some
may say it is the will to lend a hand from one person to another whose needs
are greater, but I think it’s more than that. It’s a set of hopes shared by them
both; one hoping to see a change in this world and willing to do something to make
that happen and another who is just starting to live and might still not fully
understand his or her reality, just a heart full of wishes, aspirations and
goals. The basic mind of a child who knows what he or she wants to become
without considering all the obstacles that may arise.

“Hello
Michelle, This is Emerson and we are very happy to meet you. I also live near
the beach! I am going to first grade and I love riding bicycle with my friends.
I want to become a doctor when I grow up and I live with my mother and grandmother.
I thank God for letting me meet you and I hope that I can meet you personally
some day. Take care, Emerson.”

Interested in joining our community of sponsors? Click here to learn more.

The meaning of “satisfaction”

Raul PinedaRaúl, Sponsorship Manager

Las Mesas, El Salvador 

 June 29, 2012

Not many tourists come to El Salvador.

This is not a surprise: our crime numbers are a potent deterrent for any foreigner who would like to know more about this country.

But there are some visitors who are not looking for “tourism” or to just have another check on their list. These are the committed child sponsors who wish to have more contact with the children who send them letters and pictures through Save the Children.

Not too long ago we had the pleasure of bringing Ms. Elizabeth to the field to visit the community of Las Mesas in the western part of El Salvador. While there, she was able to interact with community members and families living there.

First and second graders at school

It is extremely difficult to explain what we do in the field through reports, brochures, or simple statistics, and the positive change that is being achieved. BUT, when real contact happens and all those reports turn into living faces and extraordinary stories, then the real development journey begins.

It is then that Ms. Elizabeth’s nodding signal has a meaning; she has come to understand the effect of
sponsorship and how her contribution is changing the lives of children and their families in this part of the world. And for us, it is the signal we need so we can continue our work. This kind of satisfaction does not fit in a report. I share with you this experience as I see it in hopes that you will also feel this
satisfaction because your contribution really DOES make a difference…

 Interested in joining our community of sponsors? Click here to find out more.