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Last week, the youth group of El Triunfo, La Libertad celebrated holy week by reflecting, having fun together, and serving their community. El Triunfo is in a sister community relationship with the congregation of First United Church in Canada. The youth group is co-facilitated by Dolores, a community leader in El Triunfo, and Andreas, a member of the FUNDAHMER team. The group generates opportunities for community-building about the young people, celebrating the faith in the spirit of Monseñor Romero and the martyrs, preserving historical memory, and promoting youth leadership in El Triunfo’s community activities.
The week began on Monday with a three-day campout. During this time, the youth group organized themselves for the religious celebrations of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter vigil. They also painted a mural, and made cascarones for the community’s children. Cascarones are emptied-out eggs filled with confetti, sealed with tissue paper, then broken over people’s heads!
The group also took a day trip to nearby Rio Chilama to go for a swim.
On Thursday, the 3-day celebration of the Triduum began, and the youth actively participated in the leadership of the liturgies. For example, on Good Friday they acted out a drama of the Stations of the Cross, and for the Easter Vigil they wrote and sang a song recounting the creation story.
Eva, a long-term volunteer in the Solidarity department, spent holy week in El Triunfo. She was very moved by her experience and shared, “The holy week celebrations in El Triunfo were some of the most beautiful I have experienced because of the role the youth had in putting them together. For me it was really inspiring to see them take such a huge role in organizing community events!”
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On Wednesday, members of the FUNDAHMER team visited the community Tablón in Cacaopera, Morazán and witnessed a Mayan-Christian ritual of gratitude. The community gathered to ceremonially give thanks for the return of their primary water source. Their well had been dry, but came back to life after Nana Irma, an indigenous leader, celebrated a traditional Mayan ceremony there.
For the thanksgiving ceremony, Irma prepared a central circular altar with jocote wood, incense, tobacco, beeswax, rosemary, and candles representing each of the four elements (fire, earth, water, and air). This main altar was surrounded by four smaller altars corresponding to the four cardinal directions, each adorned with candles in the color of that direction–white, black, yellow, or red. The community placed offerings, such as tamales, on each of the altars to express their gratitude for the blessing of water. Irma lit a fire in the central altar, and said prayers in her indigenous language as well as Spanish. As these prayers were offered, Irma cast cocoa beans (which used to serve as Mayan currency) into the fire as thanksgiving offerings.
It was beautiful to celebrate the community’s spirituality and connection to the land that sustains them through this ancient and sacred ceremony.
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The goal of FUNDAHMER’s scholarship program, in addition to providing economic support for dedicated students seeking to advance in their studies, is to create spaces for formation, self-reflection, and community-building. One way this is accomplished is through monthly meetings held in Morazán, La Libertad, and San Salvador facilitated by FUNDAHMER staff.
Last Sunday, around 80 scholarship students from Morazán gathered with FUNDAHMER staff members Anita, Angela, and Eva for a workshop on interpersonal relationships. They opened the space with an icebreaker called “Step In-Step Out.” Various statements where read, and if the statements were true for the students, they stepped into the circle.
Then, the students broke into 6 reflection groups based on their grade levels. Each grade level group (middle school, high school, and university) reflected with specific questions about their dreams for the scholarship student community and what role each grade level group should have. For example, the younger students expressed how they hope to learn from and be mentored by the university students.
The workshop created space for the students to listen to and learn from each other and feel more united as a community!
Students play an icebreaker!
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At the end of 2016, San Pedro community members blessed three new houses that had been constructed with the help of their sister community in Cayuga, New York. However, these buildings weren’t the only fruits of the nearly seven month long project. Based on a collective learning-building methodology, the effort to plan and build these houses facilitated an educational exchange between participating families and the rest of the community.
The San Pedro community collectively chose three families based on need and availability of land. These families committed to prepare local materials and assist with the construction of all three homes.
Further meetings offered community members an opportunity to learn more about the Modern Bahareque construction method which was used to build the homes. Modern Bahareque makes use of local materials such as clay, sand, grasses, wood, rock, and lime. It is a sustainable method to provide dignified housing to people who have not had access to permanent homes.
Upon completion of the project, local catechist Don Carmen blessed the new homes. It our hope that with the support of sister communities, this new knowledge will empower the community to continue construction.
To help us continue the Dignified Housing Project, please consider making a contribution through FACES, a nonprofit in the U.S. that supports our work in El Salvador. For more information about this project, see the report on our Facebook page.
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“It is, for me, the greatest triumph of my life to have been with Bellarmine for 14 years.”
With these words, Arsenia said goodbye to the community of Agua Escondida and completed her fourteen-year career as the teacher at the “Monseñor Romero” Early Education Center/Kindergarten. The program is a collaboration between Agua Escondida and their sister community, Bellarmine College Preparatory in San Jose, California. Since the early days of the Kinder, Arsenia has been a mentor and teacher to many classes of kids who have graduated from the program.
A few weeks ago, Arsenia met with the students and their parents to welcome the new teacher, Ana Maritza. Maritza spoke of her desire to continue with the work that Arsenia has begun in the Center: “I hope that this new year, 2017, is a great one.”
Through the project of the Kinder, the community of Agua Escondida has not only grown to love Arsenia, but they have also formed close frienships with members of hte Bellarmine community. In the video below, we share some of their greetings for Bellarmine. We are hoping for another happy 15 years!