Letters to the World: Woman’s Group, El Jícaro

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Today we finish our series, “Letters to the World,” in which the communities of Berlín have an opportunity to share their own stories, histories, and worldviews in their own words. This time, we hear from a women’s group in the community of El Jícaro. 

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El Jícaro, Mercedes Umaña, Usulután

History of the community of El Jícaro and women of the cooperative.

To tell you that we live in a poor community but [are] women willing to work for our families. We are a women’s group and we organized in the year 2002 to help our families and defend our rights and in the community we have 134 families but not all are part of the organization. We work in agriculture and vegetable farming and with birds. The community counts on a very beautiful river. There is a school and a medical clinic, two soccer fields, one Catholic church and two Evangelical churches. There are some families that count on their own parcel of land to farm, others do not. There is potable water, electricity. To explain a little of the situation of the organization, we have obtained some small projects such as home gardens, food, some credit to work in agriculture, vegetable farming. These credits were approved by the Emmanuel Church. This was in the year 2004. Then Las Dignas have supported us in the training process; that is a women’s institution that defends the rights of women. Also in an emergency they supported us with fertilizer, seed. And also with food. This was a result of the storm Stan.

With the Pastoral House we coordinate the work. Since about 8 years ago, they have supported us with food, with chairs, with bean seed to plant, clothing, tanks to collect water, 3 sewing machines, fertilizer, a medicine cabinet, trainings. And we meet with the committees once a month and we are always coordinating. Also the Secretary for Social Inclusion supported us with a distribution for the whole community. This was a result of the losses of crops that we had in the 2011 year.

Then in the 2013 year we became legal as a women’s agricultural cooperative organization and we are a group of 40 women. The legalization we have from the Ministry of Agriculture through an organization of the Ministry. They have supported us with a project together with another organization, a project of wood-conserving stoves, birds, vegetables, separating filters. And we continue working in the community making wines to sell and we are thinking about doing an exhibition to raise funds to sustain the cooperative, which is apolitical and not party affiliated.

The local government does not support us as women. Our rights are violated they discriminate against us because of the fact that we are a women’s organization. We also see the situation in other countries that also affects us as women of the community. We see the health situation. We have a health clinic but without medicines. They do blood tests for the women of the community (cytology) and do not give them results because they lose them and they give us prescriptions and we purchase them because they do not have some [of the medicine] in the health clinics.

We are women that do domestic work and it is not paid like other work. The work is devalued. For the women we do not have a security force that benefits us, there is no police post in the community. The community is a bit deforested as well because of the same economic situation that we live. Also they say that the water is polluted by a company that called La Geo. 12 people have died from chronic kidney disease that have allergic reactions on their skin for the same reason because they sometimes dump their dirty water into the creeks and then this comes to the river and the springs where the water comes to us that we consume in the community. There are others that throw garbage and dead animals into the creeks and river and all of this affects us.

Last year the crops were lost and all of this happened as a result of the lack of rain. Because as the large corporations cut down so many trees and they do not think about the harm that they are doing to the population and it is for this reason that we are now lacking food and there is malnutrition in the children. We have a case of a malnourished child and he has not grown because he has a [medical] problem. And as the families are poor they do not have enough to purchase the treatment he needs for him. Because it is a shot that costs $225 and you have to inject it every two weeks. And the family does not have enough and there is no institution helping that is buying it. We ask that you might help us to find someone to support this family so that this family can buy this injection because that will help his growth because they have given it to him once and he grew three centimeters and because of a lack of money they cannot buy this injection.

To tell you that as a community that work with the Pastoral House and together with the Pastoral House we made a request as a result of the [crop] losses that we had last year, that is to say in 2015. In agriculture we lost all the work that we did, the corn, the beans, and other grains. We did not obtain a harvest and this [request] was made to the World Food Program and they did not respond to us or that is to say that they did not help us with the food that we are requesting for the families affected by the drought. There is no hope that they may help us in these instances that are at the world level. It is not true that they are helping in emergencies.

So we are a community that lacks this aid and we need you to be able to support us with food someday and to ask for projects that favor the families with dignified homes. For example with a dignified house because some families live in sheet metal shacks. And that you help us with the legalities of our compatriots that are in the USA so that they may not be deported because they are the ones that maintain the economy in our country and municipalities.

Well, not having more to say we finish. We say goodbye to all of you sincerely, The Women’s Cooperative in El Jícaro.

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Letters to the World: Talpetates Women’s Group

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Some of the women from the AMATFUM women’s organization of Higueral, Talpetates.

We continue with our series, “Letters to the World,” in which the communities of Berlín have an opportunity to share their own stories, histories, and worldviews in their own words. This time, we hear from a women’s group in the community of Talpetates.

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Ladies and Gentlemen of the Pastoral House and people that accompany them.

We meet as a Directiva of the AMATFUM association. Giving you all a friendly greeting from all of us. And we hope that your daily work labors may be successful.

How the group arose.
Ms. Norma Elizabeth Zepoda went as an ADESCO member to the Pastoral House. Susana of Jícaro [another community] proposed a meeting that in Santa Tecla at the Rural Women’s Roundtable. They were supporting women and delegating Ms. Norma Zepeda to go to meetings. Then as a result of little participation from the communities, it was said that the Women’s Group in the Cantón of Talpetates, Higueral should be made. On Thursday September 13th 2012 the group started to form with 33 people from different areas participating and the Pastoral House as a support. Blanca, Cecilia, and Kathy came to organize us with these people ending up elected:

President: Norma Elizabeth Zepeda
Vice President: Rosa Argentina Guevara
Secretary: Eligia Marina Ortez
Pro-Secretary: Ruth Elizabeth Garcia
Treasurer: Vilma de la Paz Zelaya
Pro-Treasurer: Cecilia del Carmen Velasquez
Sindicate: Maria Idalia Amaya
First Member At Large: Reina Lorena Mejia
Second Member At Large: Zulma Dolores Molina
Third Member at Large: Cruz Alicia Cruz
Fourth Member at Large: Evelin Patricia Alfaro

In this way the organization AMATFUM was organizing, always continuing month to month that she [the President] was going to go to the Rural Women’s Roundtable and every two months to the Pastoral House. And we started to mobilize to sort out the paperwork agreeing to 2 quarters of collaboration for Directiva members’ trips and to legalize or publicize the statutes. The Pastoral House collaborated with $50 and the municipal government $20 the rest all the members collaborated for the publication of our statutes leaving us legally constituted.

On Thursday the 4th of October of 2012 it was the swearing in with the Directiva, the mayor’s office, and the community of the members of the group.

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Picking bananas with some of the women of Talpetates.

In that process of the meetings where they went to the ministry the first project was obtained with Prodemoro that benefitted 150 families. That came to us on the 20th of October of 2013. PAF-SAM is nearby communities like Carballo, Chaparo, Higueral, Talpetates, etc. In the passage of a year chairs were requested from the Pastoral House and they donated 20 chairs to us. Then Tuesday the 7th of October of 2014 the Diretiva was re-elected to be once again…

Some of the same companions remained, some in the same positions. The President, Secretary, Treasurer and Sindicate were not able to be changed. The project of Prodemoro conceived of it this way as a result of the paperwork that had to be signed. In the passing of this year the Pastoral House benefited 35 families with fertilizer. A sack per family; but [as a result of] the drought we lost the first harvest we were left with only the second.

CENTA has supported us with technical assistance in the project that we had last year from Paf-Sam. And in this Rural Women’s Roundtable we have a project that two years ago was executed of pumps to irrigate when there is a drought but it has not been approved by the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock; it is in process.

The AMERICARE clinic has been supporting us for three years with talks and a small donation to all the families of the group. In this 2016 year ISTA is supporting some members with land and home gardens. And we are members of the Empowered Women’s Roundtable, leaders at the national level through the union of generous participant Carmen Medina the coordinator and our president of ISTA, Carla Albanez.

In the month of May in the Rural Women’s Roundtable the aid to all the associations that the ministry was going to help with 10 grain silos per association; it is in process.

In the month of June 2016 the 17th the Pastoral House supported 38 families with a little sack of fertilizer for the corn harvests from this year. This winter is rather good, may God grant that this continues.

The majority of the members dedicate ourselves to agriculture, others to business, sale of cheeses, domestic chores, sales, etc. The good thing about the group is the organization. The organization helps a lot with the governmental institutions, NGOs, mayor’s office, etc. One is listened to by whatever civil servant or whomever it is. Being organized is very valuable, the Cantón Talpetates has an irrigation district by means of the San Simón River there are springs in Borbonon, la Pipisina, Cacao de Nance, and so on.

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We got some help picking bananas from the children of the women in the group!

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Letters to the World: Colonia Villa Rosa

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We continue with our series, “Letters to the World,” in which the communities of Berlín have an opportunity to share their own stories, histories, and worldviews in their own words. I sadly do not have any photos from the Villa Rosa Neighborhood, but please take the time to read their important story regardless!

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History of the Villa Rosa Neighborhood, Cantón Concepción, Berlín, Usulután

Our history begins in this way. The neighborhood is formed by 14 homes, which on the 24th of December of 2004 in our parish of Berlín, when the Holy Mass was being celebrated at the end they said that they were going to give away 14 homes. Then they chose the favored families and they raffled off the homes, hence we, the 14 families who now inhabit these beautiful homes, won, which were a donation of a family of the brothers of a priest and [with] the help of Father Silvio. In honor of the mother of said family the they named the neighborhood with the name of Villa Rosa. All the residents are profoundly grateful with this family because due to their great heart and their help we now have a dignified house. In addition after a few years they donated another plot of land to two more families for which we are now 16 families in the neighborhood, but these last homes are built with wood and sheet metal.

It was a beautiful place surrounded by nature, an agreeable climate, we had exits and entrances that [were] beautiful and accessible, until one day the workers of the geothermal corporation arrived (La Geo). First to perforate a well TR18 and then to take away the accessible exits that we had, cutting down the coffee farms, felling the trees, excavating to put down pipes of chemical water that are all around our neighborhood, from there the pure air that we were breathing ran out, now we breathe air contaminated by these wells and this harms our health and nature a great deal.

But in spite of all this we have been through after that we started to work in our neighborhood, forming our Directiva [community board] to be able to request aid.

1) First we requested a footbridge from La Geo because they cut off our exit towards the road to Alegría, we insisted a great deal and as their obligation they built it.

2) Then we obtained an electricity project because we did not count on this service.

3) Then we worked for the potable water project because we had to go a long distance to get it but we achieved that they approved a water jug stand for our community.

4) Then we obtained the construction of 90 steps to the exit toward the road to Alegría because it was in bad shape because they refused to build us a road.

5) As a last project we have obtained the construction of a part of the road in concrete within our neighborhood because it is the main road but we still are missing half of this project.

The only thing that we have not been able to achieve in our neighborhood is food aid or food packets, because we are families of scarce economic resources, there are a few families that work on the coffee farm and when there is no work they leave to see in what way they can sustain their families.

We make our history and our needs known. If these stories were sent to foreign places may they extend their help to us to continue forward in a better way of living.

We as Berlín-area Salvadorans ask our brothers and sisters in the United States that they have a good government election, so that our brothers and sisters, friends, and relatives may have freedom in that country. So that they do not have to hide, so that they are not abused, because if they are in that place it is because of so much poverty, need, and violence in El Salvador and that has been the motive for which they have risked their lives on that very dangerous journey to arrive in the USA. And it is not possible that because of a bad election that you make them return to risk their lives and withstand hunger together with their families in this place.

To those people who may read this history, may God touch your hearts to so that you may reach out to help us.

Here we have many young people that have only obtained their high school degree because there is no economy to be able to give them higher education.

We ask the governments that they think about the health of people and the well-being of human beings, that they do not approve polluting projects like the geothermal wells. May they become conscious that they harm the environment and humanity.

In advance to thank you the people that give your time to read this beautiful history and may you make it known. God bless you.

Sincerely,

Residents of Colonia Villa Rosa

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Letters to the World: Tablón Cerna

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The community of Tablón Cerna, meeting in their school before their fertilizer delivery.

We continue with our series, “Letters to the World,” in which the communities of Berlín have an opportunity to share their own stories, histories, and worldviews in their own words. 

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History of the Community of Tablón Cerna

Ladies and Gentlemen, Pastoral Team, brothers and sisters of the Heartland Presbyterian Church.

Receive a cordial and warm greeting and wishing you much success in your daily labors and those that are in favor of the communities.

After this short greeting we move on to tell you a bit about the history of our community. To tell you that when we started with the organization we only counted on 27 families and now we are with 57 families and 56 members.

Meeting on Thursday June 3rd. The assembly found out from the members how the people were living here in the community and the year 1970 until how we are now was spoken about.

At this time it was said that the farmers worked the land with just a cuma [a long, curved knife used for field work] and these chemicals were not being used and there was also no transportation to be able to travel to Berlín. The people went on foot or on horseback or in a cart. They worked for just one landlord and this man gave them what they needed and for that reason the people worked very little when they had time left.

Then in the 80s the war showed up which some members did say that they lived through this time which they said that when this started some families abandoned their homes and others faced this situation head-on in which they ran the risk that they would kill them—the Armed Forces [government] as much as the guerillas. And the families that faced this had to sleep on the mountainsides withstanding mosquito bites, cold, hunger, but they managed to survive, and after the peace accords they came back to populate the community and start once again a new era in which the NGOs came supporting us and a few families came back to rebuild their homes. And the NGOs that support us now we have transportation, we have potable water, electricity, and some homes of concrete block even though the majority are covered with plastic wrap but now are made with sheet metal.

Problems that we have. Now the problems that are affecting [us] at a national level are the gangs, insecurity, lack of jobs, lack of medicine in the rural clinics, and climate change. The felling of trees also affects us, which is drying up our rivers, the pollution from large corporations, also the lack of food due to the lack of rain. We no longer count on the basic grains such as beans, corn, rice in the community. This generates hunger for the families of the community, as much for children as the elderly. We think that the governments should implement reforestation laws at the national level and also here in this area. What affects us most are the geothermal wells that La Geo has. These aforementioned wells pollute the area and the environment.

With this historical summary we say goodbye to all of you. Sincerely, the Directiva.

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Mi amiga, Evelyn, and her younger brother.

 

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Letters to the World: San Felipe Pajuilar

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The community of San Felipe Pajuilar (also known as San Felipe Abajo) with some visitors from a delegation.

We continue with our series, “Letters to the World,” in which the communities of Berlín have an opportunity to share their own stories, histories, and worldviews in their own words. 

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History of the San Felipe Pajuilar Community

The repopulation was in 1990 in the home of the Hacienda of Cantón San Felipe El Pajuilar, Municipality of Berlin of the department of Usulután.

Starting just with four families. It was by means of an NGO called Six C RR, 6CRR. This NGO helped the four families giving them some sheet metal, #35 sheets and repair of the subterranean tanks. For in this time our community there was an enormous forest where there was a diversity of animal species.

In the year 1992 when they already had the peace accords 8 more families were incorporated.

In the year 1993 we arrived at a number of 18. With these families we covered the quantity of land that they had an extension of 72 manzanas [units of ~1.75 acres] that was part of the hacienda. Through a negotiation with the Land Bank in coordination with COPAC. Said organizations formed after the peace accords.

In the year 1994-1995 the deforestation started. To be able to farm corn, beans, millet, because we are some poor families of scarce resources. Because through these harvests we earned money to buy clothing, shoes, medicine, because we did not count on other economic income.

In the 1998 year the first Directiva was formed. In the 2000 year we already 32 families. Through the legalization of the Directiva, a project was obtained in the year 2001—2 tanks of metallic structure with the organization of AID.

In the 2004-2005 year we achieved a stone paving and setting project making a quantity of 800 meters in the most critical parts [of the road]. This project was financed by USAID.

Phenomena That Have Been Important to Us

In 2001 we were impacted by an earthquake. In 2004 Hurricane Mitch affecting us in the infrastructure of the tanks and in agriculture.

Between 2005 and 2006 there were 54 families and based on this number a request was made for solar panels to the Intervida foundation and it was obtained benefitting the 54 families.

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Rainwater collection tanks in San Felipe Pajuilar (“abajo”). This is the community’s main source of water.

In the 2004 year the Pastoral House supported us with a retention wall in the area of the tanks and supporting us with an infrastructure of 80 square meters of roofing. And supporting us with a solar panel for the church. They supported us with foodstuffs when we were impacted by hurricanes and annually support us with agricultural packets with 200# of fertilizer, because we do not count on a church that partners with us and it is for this reason that we are very grateful for the support that the team of the Pastoral House has always given us.

Between 2007 and 2012 we obtained 26 homes through the Directiva’s request to the municipal government and it was obtained through the REDES institution.

In 2009 we obtained 14 homes financed by Caritas of El Salvador. Making a total of 40 families benefitted with dignified homes.

In 2010 the seed bank that is in the community was constructed to be able to save native seeds. Financed by the Intervida foundation.

Between the years 2010 to 2016 we have come to form: a Women’s Committee, an Agricultural Committee. Said committees and the Directiva we have participated in training workshops to form new leaders; institutions that have supported us in these workshops are: CODECO, Procomes, Intervida, Redes, Caritas. In different themes that are focused on community development. Adding to that Pronuda, ADECCILENPA.

In 2016 we are now 60 families where we are in population 260 people between children and adults.

Qualities of the community

San Felipe El Pajuilar is free from violence, free of gangs, free of alcohol sales. We have electricity. 

Needs we have in the community

We do not have a communal house, bad access to the road during the 6 months of winter, we do not have potable water service. In deforestation we are at 80% deforested given the growth of the population because we do not count on other income.

This is the history of our community.

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Letters to the World: Casa de Zinc

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The view from the road that runs through Casa de Zinc.

We continue with our series, “Letters to the World,” in which the communities of Berlín have an opportunity to share their own stories, histories, and worldviews in their own words. 

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Sisters and brothers of the Trinity Church receive a friendly and affectionate greeting from the community Casa de Zinc. Number of families in the community: 24 families.

History of the community. After the land transfers it began with two families after that 6 more families were incorporated. After that some of the beneficiaries sold the rights to their property. Then the people who bought [them] arrived to form part of this village [which] started to organize in a committee to ask for support from different institutions. We had the proposal with Salva Natura with regards to soil conservation work. After that we had the presence of Caritas of Santiago de María with the support to the farmers with regards to sustainable agriculture. Then we also had the support of the Community Pastoral Team. We had the support of Procomes as well [they] managed to build a communal reservoir. We also had the support of Fundesa we received the support of the construction of 10 concrete block homes. And also had the support of Provida in water and sanitation, construction of latrines and basic hygiene.

Continuing with the history we had to suffer several natural phenomena like [Hurricane] Mitch that left the access roads inaccessible and the loss of some crops. The earthquakes of 2001 and 2002 affected the homes that had been constructed by the Fundesa institution. Then the phenomena of Stan and 12e that there were crop losses and landslides and we have continued with the climate change phenomena, which affects us in some periods with lots of rain and lots of drought and it has affected us with the crops because they have been lost. Then we have the phenomenon of El Niño that has affected us greatly with the total loss of crops.

Regarding education: We see ourselves affected as a result of being far away from schools. Some have to cross creeks where it creates a danger for the children in the winter [rainy season]. With regards to the schools, they are only teaching up to 9th grade so in order to study high school grades one has to travel to the towns where high school is, which our children feel affected by the delinquency situation. About education, we are very thankful to the Pastoral House and our church for the support that they have given us with the scholarships.

Regarding health: We have been affected by the distance one has to walk to arrive at the community health ECO [rural clinic] that gives assistance just three days per week.

Regarding nutrition: We see ourselves affected by the crop losses that we had in 2015 which there are days that we do not eat three meals because of the lack of food and economic funds.

Regarding crime: With regards to the community level we are not being affected because we have community watch groups to prevent the entrance of unknown persons that come with the intention of organizing young people into gang groups. To visit other municipalities we have the fear of being affected by gangs.

Regarding social issues: There are no sales of liquor or drugs.

Regarding politics: We are affected by not having direct help in the community from the local government. At the level of the central government there we are beneficiaries with the school packets: shoes, uniforms, and agricultural packets.

Now the benefits in the community: electricity, water, and we count on the support of the Pastoral Team and church that support us every year with agricultural fertilizer to be able to farm and also in education and healthcare.

We are being affected by the indiscriminate felling of trees because the laws of our country exist but are not followed.

We give you thanks brothers and sisters of the churches that partner with us for taking your time for people who need it most. We ask that you pray that our crops give a good harvest and so that violence in our country ceases.

This ends the community’s part of the history. We want to thank you very much and may Almighty God bless you and accompany you always.

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Some members of the Casa de Zinc community.

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Letters to the World: Corozal

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We continue with our series, “Letters to the World,” in which the communities of Berlín have an opportunity to share their own stories, histories, and worldviews in their own words. 

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History of the Association for Communal Development (ADESCO) of Cantón Corozal

El Corozal is a community situated 16.9 kilometers from the east of the city of Berlín that was populated in the year 1906 with 4 families later in 1976 they abandoned their homes as a result of the armed conflict and in the year 1992 they returned once again to live when the peace accords arose in El Salvador.

In 1994 having the need for development they formed the first Directiva who proposed to obtain legality. It was in this way the 5th of May 1995 they achieved being published in the official Diario with which they achieved being recognized within the municipality as a legal organization. With this, they came to request projects to solve the needs that existed within the village. It was in that way that in the year 1998 the construction of the road that goes to Berlin was achieved.

In 1999, a natural phenomenon occurred and this was Hurricane Mitch that destroyed all the crops that the residents had.

In February of 2002 the Central School was inaugurated called Cantón El Corozal where three classrooms, two bathrooms, and a kitchen were constructed benefitting in this way the children that were within the community thanks to the request that was made to the Ministry of Education.

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The “pools” around the community’s spring that allow for easier access to this water. Sadly, the spring had almost dried up the last time that we visited due to the lack of rain. We hope that these pools are filling up again!

In December of the same year the construction of the pool around the spring which was achieved with requests made by the Pastoral House, who with funds donated by a member of the church of the United States they covered the need to collect water from said spring.

In the year 2003 the idea arise to ask for solar [electricity] systems. The organization Intervida with the delivery of these solar systems achieved a development (within the community) and a benefit to 39 families of the community.

In the year 2007 the 14 dignified homes were inaugurated that were built within the community. Project requested to the foundation REDES of El Salvador.

In March of 2008 the inauguration of 47 home-level rainwater catchment systems was carried out, benefitting 47 families. Project requested by the Directiva in function of the Intervida organization.

In the year 2009 the rainwater catchment systems project was complemented which consisted in 47 washing stations and 40 latrines.

In 2011 the community was benefitted with the construction of the Catholic Church the inauguration happening in the same year. Project requested to the Pastoral House together with the Presbyterian Church.

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The new classrooms in El Corozal.

In 2012, two classrooms and the multi-use room were built in the Central School benefitting in this way the children and young people in basic education achieving in this way imparting up to the 9th grade thanks to the help of the Pastoral House and the sister church that partners with the community.

In 2014 the paving of the road that is the entrance to the Church was requested. In the same year the retention wall was built in the corner of the football field of our community with the help of the Pastoral House together with the church that partners with us. The delivery of 14 water tanks and 26 sanitation latrines was made to us and two dozen sheets of metal that were split up between four families. Project given by the same funds from the Pastoral House.

For 2015 the electricity project was approved its beginning being in January of 2016. Project that is in process. Request that was made to the mayor’s office in conjunction with FISDL.

In May of 2016 the second part of the tank and latrine delivery was made to those families that had not been benefitted with this project by means of the Pastoral House, who made the delivery to us of a basic food basket due to the loss of our crops as due to the phenomenon of the drought.

In this same year we received the sheet metal requested for our communal house from the municipal government.

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2016 fertilizer delivery in El Corozal.

Amongst the small projects that we receive from the Pastoral House and that each year we receive these benefits are: fertilizers for our crops, food baskets for Christmas.

In this way the record of the projects that have opened up development in our community concludes.

But there are still needs that we need to solve, here we present a few of them to you:

-We do not have dignified homes.

-We do not have potable water services that serve us well.

-The road to our community is not accessible to transit by vehicles during the rainy season.

-The football field is in bad shape and we have no other recreational area.

We are grateful to all the organizations that have offered us their help to achieve the development that up until now we have in our community.

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