Joe’s Crew El Salvador
It’s been a week since my most recent visit to El Salvador to establish the Joe’s Crew Scholarship fund and I have to say, the emotions I feel when I’m there have not left me. While violence and crime still have a strong grip on this beautiful country, there is still a sense of hope and the desire for a better future among those I interact with. Especially the children. Born into this environment, they have no choice but to feel anything else. Hope. Love. Laughter. This is what I am greeted with when I visit. And, it humbles you very quickly.
After meetings with the teachers of the local school, members of the community, and a technical college called Agape located in the city of Sonsonate, I am excited to announce that we have an agreement in principle to create a fund that will cover the expenses of those seeking to further their education at the Agape school. In partnership with the school, the community, and the College, we will create the terms of reference for the fund as well as establish the criteria for acceptance to receive funding. Students can select programs such as auto mechanics, welding, electrician, tailoring/seamstress, baker/pastry chef and other trades aimed at creating employment opportunities and/or the foundation for starting a small business. Introductory programs last two months, and students can begin these programs at various times throughout the year.
Funding will be available to those 16 years of age and older. The interesting thing about the Agape school is that there is no tuition. Students need only to cover the costs of their expenses such as transportation and meals for the day while they are in class. When I inquired into these costs I was told that a mere $5 a day is required. Even though this amount might seem meager to you and I, when you are faced with the decision to work as a day labourer making $4 to $6 a day to contribute to the family, OR spending that amount on schooling, the answer becomes simple. Survival takes priority over education unfortunately.
“Joe’s Crew is all about sharing the power of love & building community. Love & community being the ultimate tonic & elixir for a life well lived.” - Joe
In our community consultation, everyone was very excited at this opportunity not just for the youth, but for adults to also have a chance at learning a new skill that might have an impact on their future. For the young men in the community, the options beyond basic schooling are pretty much limited to joining the police or the army. Noble professions but unbelievably dangerous in a country that boosts one of the highest murder rates in the world. In rural El Salvador, the options are incredibly limited. So, staying to work on the farm or as a day labourer on a coffee plantation is the answer for many. For young women, it’s even more limited, with many young girls staying home to help with the household duties, or starting a family of their own at a very young age. By gaining valuable technical skills in the courses offered by Agape, the students can seek new opportunities and feel empowered to better their future, on their terms.
In our meeting, I was struck with the level of commitment to the concept and in the intense interest of those present, both men and women. Community leader, Don Fernando, spoke of his own youth and how he never had the opportunity to learn how to read or write. At 53 years of age, his desire to learn has never left him as he expressed his interest in taking one of the courses himself. A man who selflessly contributes to community on a daily basis, I know his intention is not so much to seek gain for himself, but to continue to use these new skills for the betterment of those around him and his community.
These people are not looking for a handout. As I explained to the community, I am not the government, some large international NGO, or a funding agency with deep pockets. I am simply a member of the global community who wants to extend a hand of support. Person to person. Community to community. As our unum mantra reads…. one cause. one community.
In the coming days/week, I will be posting information as to the status of the project, fund raising opportunities, as well as an event in late May that will bring our community together to officially launch the project and celebrate.
A big thank you to Sandra Elizabeth Quinteros and AlFredo Ramos for their friendship and for taking this journey with me. And, also the teachers Gloria Canales, Marisol Sandoval, and Carlos Flores for their dedication to the children of the community. And, of course to my wife Pam for creating this concept and having the belief in me to make this a reality. Each of you are an inspiration to me everyday. Abrazos.
If you have any questions, please contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org