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  • Writer's pictureJoe Danis

Freddy… the preacher, the poet, the hustler.

Alfredo Ramos was born in 1969 in San Salvador, the capital city of El Salvador. After living in the US for 10 years, he returned to his birthplace in 2002, a city that is unfortunately characterized by gang violence and corruption. “Freddy” as most call him, is an interesting character to say the least. One part poet, one part OG, one part hustler, and one part preacher… but 100% love. This is what carries him through some tough times. Adaptable would be an understatement. I think of Freddy as more of a survivor than anything. Sometimes surviving his own choices while living in an environment that can swallow you up for making a bad decision. With little room for error, Freddy navigates life on a tightrope at times. Sometimes he falls, but he always gets back up. It’s that tension in a city like San Salvador that can break you but at times. But it can also give you hope and wrap you in an embrace and whisper in your ear, “it’s going to be OK.”

This is how I see my friend of over a decade. Freddy is no saint. But who is? And, who am I to judge someone who has survived a bloody civil war, dealt with deportation from the U.S., and continues to carve out a meager living in a place that has been deemed one of the world’s most dangerous countries outside of active war zones. He’s been down some dark alleyways but always seems to find a ray of light that guides him to his next destination, or at least to his next meal. As an ambassador and founding member of the Unum Society, it’s Freddy’s experiences (good and bad), determination, and of course his big heart that make him such an important part of our community.

He always says he’ll never live in the cage of a call centre. Call centres in El Salvador provide a significant source of employment opportunities for those who can speak English. While Freddy is fluent in both Spanish and English, he says it simply isn’t his vibe… and knowing Freddy as well as I do, I would unequivocally agree. Instead, he now works with an organization called the Hungry Church as part of their “Hungry G.A.N.G. (God and Not Gangs)”. A fully registered and recognized non-denominational church in one of the toughest neighbourhoods in the capital, they spread the word of God and His gospel to those living on the fringes. While the church is open to anyone, they strive to connect with former gang members and those recently deported from the United States. Those souls who society says are untouchable due to their past gang affiliations. Their motto is “loving those whom others are afraid to love.” Through weekly worship, gatherings around food, and the unity of sport, they are building community and spreading messages of love and peace in the face of hostility and violence. They are illustrating that there is another way. That self-love is possible and necessary for the healing process to begin. That loving one’s self first, must come before we can love and heal others. That empathy is the gateway towards true compassion. Freddy is a big part of this message as he looks inward, healing his own wounds while helping others do the same.

Over the course of the past year, Freddy connected with an organization called Alternatives to Violence El Salvador. An international organization that provides training in areas related to conflict resolution, peace building, and reconciliation. As part of their Alternatives to Violence program, Freddy has participated in four courses and recently became a certified facilitator himself. This has given him the tools to not only practice these skills in his own life, but to teach others the value of non-violence, peace, and love, and how transformational and impactful these approaches can be as alternatives to violence. With some support from Unum to attend the classes, Freddy keeps hustling, step by step, towards a life of peace, love, and dignity, but also one of opportunity and contribution. And, aren’t those things we all want and deserve… peace, love, dignity, opportunity, and contribution. Keep hustling Freddy, the future is bright!

The Unum Q & A

1. Date and place of birth

July, 29th, 1969. San Salvador, El Salvador.

2. Where do you live now?

San Salvador, El Salvador

3. Highest level of education completed?

BA on Theology and Bible Studies. Guatemalan Bible Seminary, 1989

4. What did you use the Unum funding for? What course did you study?

Alternatives to Violence Program (*)

• AVP Basic Level 10-11 November, 2018

• AVP Emotional Trauma Recuperation 16-18 November, 2018

• AVP Advanced Level 1-3 March, 2019

• AVP Training Workshop for New Facilitators 3-5 May, 5th 2019

(*)The Alternatives to Violence Program (AVP) is a training program that enables participants to deal with conflict and violence in new and creative ways.

The program draws from the shared experience of participants, using interactive exercises and activities, discussions, games and role-plays to examine the ways we respond to situations where injustice, prejudice, frustration and anger can lead to aggressive behavior and violence.

An AVP workshop can help you to:

• manage strong feelings like anger and fear

• deal more effectively with risk and threatening situations

• build good relationships with other people

• communicate constructively in difficult situations

• recognise the conflict management skills you already have

• be true to yourself while respecting other people

• understand why conflict happens

• approach conflict in a more creative and less reactive way

• consider you own relationship to systems of violence

5. What do you hope to do with this new knowledge and skills you’ve gained?

First of all, apply it to my own life, I understand that Transformation is a sweet and beautiful process, it’s a journey of a lifetime. At the same time, I want to share the Non-violence transformational power with others.

6. What do you hope for in your future?

I hope to stay true to myself. I hope that I can be light, love, and guide for many. I hope for my hands to bring healing and life, instead of hurt and death. I hope my mouth will pour out blessings and not curse. I hope for a healthy body soul and spirit. A balanced and blessed life. I want to cross the finish line running in Victory and Happiness. Transformation is possible, it’s happening to me!

Finally I hope to let all people know that to live a life of dignity and self-respect and the opportunity to succeed is a right for all human beings… Only when we recognize this right, for all, we will be able to have a peaceful and just world. (The cursives is something I’ve learned recently in the ATP workshops)

7. Do you have any hobbies or interests?

Yes I do, I like good music, especially jazz; so, one of my hobbies is listening to Jazz Music and music in general, I love riding my bike, the outdoors, the beach, playing the guitar and the bass guitar is one of my favorites. I am interested on helping people in their times of trouble, I like empowering woman and children and the outcasts.

Something else is, that just recently, my friend “ordinary Joe” introduced me to the universe of Meditation and Yoga …I am enjoying this new experience a great deal.

8. What do you see for the future of your community? Your country?

HAHAHAHA Man, I love this question, I gotta say, I have a dream… I see my community growing in love, tolerance, respect, non-violence, peace and justice for all, as I flip the tortilla, in the other side I see, the abolition of poverty and modern day slavery and human trafficking, I see women, children and the outcasts empowered to grow, in freedom and peace.

9. What is the biggest challenge you face in your life?

The following five aspects are probably the biggest challenges in my life:

· To respect and love myself.

· To love and care for other people

· Self-esteem.

· To stay non-violent.

· Forgiving myself and others.

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