Global Connections is a partnership between the Washington Ethical Society (WES) and thepeople of El Rodeo, El Salvador using the Community Capacity Building model to empower mutual understanding and support. Through that relationship, Global Connections inspires WES, the people of El Rodeo and the broader community to engage in cross-cultural experiences and social justice and advocacy work with the Salvadoran people. Our goal is personal and societal transformation and a lived experience of Ethical Culture values for youth and adults.
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El Rodeo in the News:
El Rodeo is in the “department” of Cabanas, ground zero for gold mining. The leader of the anti-mining movement is our friend, Vidalina Morales, mother of five who lives in El Rodeo and has been to WES!
OUR SISTER COMMUNITY
Perched on the side of a mountain in the highlands northeast of San Salvador, El Rodeo is a tiny farming community that is home to approximately 30 families. They raise primarily corn and beans but also sorghum and some fruits and vegetables. The total land area is approximately 56 ”manzanas” or about 90 acres. It is in the “Canton” of Santa Marta and only a few kilometers from the center of town of that name. At one time, Santa Marta was the “Sister City” of Takoma Park, Md.
Global Connection’s decision to work with El Rodeo emerged from a careful process. First our friends in El Salvador who work with many communities recommended five that were thought to be both in need of support and open to working with us. Following a fact-finding trip to El Salvador where each of the communities was visited by WES Global Connections members Ross Wells, John Taylor, and Sean Taft-Morales, the Global Connections committee reviewed the profiles of each community. We unanimously voted for El Rodeo due to the combination of people, history, need, location, and interest.
The setting is beautiful: rugged, incredibly green hills interlaced with foot-trails, winding through the woods and fields, connecting one small house to the other. Residents of this area were forced to leave their homes during the civil war that raged from 1980–1992, fleeing to nearby Honduras. Many of the farmers in the area were supporters of the guerilla forces who were fighting against the U.S. backed, right-wing government in San Salvador. As a result the army persecuted them relentlessly. The refugee camps in Honduras were barren and dangerous but provided some protection and support during the war. A series of “returns” began in 1987. The last one was in 1992, when a truce was signed and the U.N. sponsored peace accords were negotiated.
Despite its tiny size, El Rodeo has an elementary school for grades pre-K-5. After that, the children go to Santa Marta, a 20-minute walk, for school. There are no other public buildings. Most but not all residents have electricity. Water is hauled from a few unprotected springs: shallow holes in the rocks, big enough to dip a bucket into. These are not protected sources and have caused major health problems, especially for the children. There is no plumbing and each home has an outhouse or sometimes only “hole in the ground” latrines.
Following the peace accords in 1992, many NGO’s traveled to Santa Marta to work on development and infrastructure projects. The people in El Rodeo have a good relationship with Santa Marta and have benefited from some of these projects, such as the clinic. However, most of the benefits never seemed to have reached down the road to El Rodeo. The residents formed their community elected council or “Adesco” in 1996. There are currently fourteen members. Most are in their 20’s and 30’s and are intelligent, hard-working, and articulate, with a deep commitment to improving life in their community.
WES/Global Connections began sending delegations of youth and adults to El Rodeo in 2010. A team of WES delegates and community representatives created and signed a Partnership Agreement. During the first two years, much time and effort went into a series of community-wide meetings or “assembleas”, where people engaged in activities designed to allow maximum participation and input into shaping the priorities for our Sister Community relationship. Through an exercise in “pair-wise rankings”, the people created a prioritized list of things the community badly needed, such as scholarships, housing, and employment. At the top of the list was clean water, brought to every house through a community owned water system. This is what WES and the ADESCO set our sights on.
In 2011, WES members purchased water filters for every house in El Rodeo and the health outcomes of the community began to improve. We partnered with two Salvadoran organizations that knew the community and had experience in funding and building water systems. WES members purchased the Aguas Caliente spring and registered it in the name of El Rodeo. WES also provided the first seed money, over $10,000 to begin funding the water system.
The process has been slow and filled with twists and turns. In October 2017, funding from Rotary International meant that work could finally begin. Within weeks, the people of El Rodeo broke ground on the Phase 1 of the water system. In November of this year, Global Connections sent a 3-person team to visit the community and see the progress first-hand. They found eight work-teams, representing every family in El Rodeo hard at work, clearing woods, digging and chipping away rock with hand-tools. Soon the first pipes will be installed and an earthquake-resistant holding tank constructed. In Phase 2, solar panels will power a pump to move water to an upper distribution tank, clean it and pipe it down to every house in the community.
We look forward to continue building our Sister Community relationship in the years to come. It is the most important part of our work. If you are a WES member, (especially a teen member) and you would like to participate in the cross-cultural journey we are on with our friends in El Rodeo, please contact Global Connections members Peggy Goetz email@example.com or Ross Wells firstname.lastname@example.org for information. This year’s delegation is from June 20–July 1.