FUNDAHMER’s scholarship program is an effort that has grown out of the sister relationships over the last few years to support youth in the communities as they continue to work through middle school, high school, and university here in El Salvador.
When the FMLN was elected to the national executive branch in 2009, a governmental “Scholar Package” program was initiated, which involves crucial support for students through ninth grade in the form of school uniforms, shoes, school supplies, and a snack during the day. This has made grade school much more – though not totally – accessible for Salvadoran students. Thus, FUNDAHMER’s scholarship program focuses on supporting students in high school and university, since these students do not benefit from the national “Scholar Package” program and still encounter unmanageable costs on their educational journey. We also support some middle school students in communities where the school is far away or as encouragement in looking towards the future.
The program is funded through the generosity and creative fundraising efforts of the sister communities. Between selling community crafts, holding used-book fairs, hosting fundraising dinners, and organizing specific sponsor-student relationships, the sister communities are able to fund a small monthly scholarship for the youth in their communities. FUNDAHMER visits the students every month to pass along the scholarship, check in on their studies, and to have a small workshop or discussion about a topic or issue that is of concern to the youth.
The students use their stipend to cover the necessary costs of study: uniforms and shoes, transportation to school, a meal during the school day, and school supplies, including Internet access and computer use in town. The FUNDAHMER stipend does not cover all of the students’ needs, and the decision to study these higher levels of education requires a big commitment from the student and his or her family, both financially and emotionally. The students are also invited to get involved with some aspect of the community’s organization, be it the youth group, the pastoral commitee, or some other committee, and we are happy to say that the students are some of the most active young leaders in the communities.
We think a lot about the reason for this program, and while a scholarship program might seem like simple charity, we see it as a step towards transforming Salvadoran society. The educations of our current students’ parents were interrupted by the war, and their grandparents were denied a dignified education by the classist, oligarchical structures that gave rise to the protests and struggles of the 70s and 80s. Now, we hope to be part of the path towards a culture of education in the rural campesina communities of El Salvador. We hope that the scholarship program can not only awaken within the communities a desire and love for knowledge, but also facilitate a process of discovery and creativity around the modern campesino way of life. Our goal is not to provide students with skills only marketable outside their communities and their country. Rather, we recognize the right of all people to live with dignity in their homeplaces, and we hope to form leaders with a capacity for critical thinking and practical knowledge who can dream open new sources of life and growth for their own families and neighbors, in thier own homes, on their own land.
To learn more about the scholarship program, read the blog entries about our brilliant students here!