Algonquin College SalvAide Project
At the Perth Campus our students are taught that we must look at things from a local and global perspective. Our Social Service Worker students do field placements in our local rural communities around Perth and in Ottawa and Kingston. We raise money for the United Way and Big Brothers Big Sisters each year. Our global commitment has been to rural people in El Salvador through our Algonquin College SalvAide Project done in partnership with the Ottawa based non- governmental organization SalvAide. Part of this project involves a student delegation to El Salvador during break week and the following week. The delegation works with youth, seniors, women, and war injured/war amputees.
We have poverty in Canada but we have a social safety net. In El Salvador, that does not exist. The seniors that we work with have no Canada Pension, no access to money for medicine, and when one of them dies, volunteers from the Senior’s Organization called ARTE go door to door to collect the $30 required to bury the deceased.
The students on the delegation ride an emotional roller coaster because they are hearing stories that are powerful and they are viewing the results of poverty and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder that is very difficult to see. They also see creativity, resilience and tremendous community organization. They report that this study tour is a life changing opportunity.
We return to the same communities each time. We start in San Salvador, the capital city. We visit the University and meet with students in the five year Social Work Program. The students discuss their field placements with each other through our translator and ask questions of each other about social services. Many of the students there work with teen gang members.
Then we travel to three distinct rural areas. The first is in the province of St. Vicente where we meet with our partners in villages along the Lempa River. We stay at an Eco Hotel at La Pita which is close to the Pacific Ocean. We will meet with the seniors, paint a mural with the youth, visit community projects that we have supported financially including a cashew processing co-operative, and have an important meeting with war injured/amputees to discuss our microcredit project that we started with them three years ago.
We travel to Suchitoto, a beautiful colonial town and from there visit four tiny villages where the people are very poor. We stay at a hostel that was built by an American nun from New Jersey. In that town, most of the houses have a bird painted on the outside of the house and a phrase in Spanish that says the inhabitants in this house oppose violence against women.
After that we travel up near the Honduran border to the province of Chalatenango to a village in the mountains called San Jose las Flores. This is a remarkable community that was severely affected during the war. 75 community members, mostly women, children and the elderly were murdered at the Sempal River as they tried to cross into refugee camps in Honduras. We meet with youth, women, the pastoral committee representative and we have a strong relationship with the combatants/war amputees.
The students will have Spanish lessons from Leo, an 82 year old organic farmer who lived in the U.S. and therefore learned English. We will travel in a boat through mangroves and walk on an island where huge cashew trees grow. We will see a sea turtle project, visit the Pacific ocean, tour schools and present school supplies and money for scholarships and hear the kids tell us their stories and what is going on in the communities. We will visit a printing co-operative, fair trade craft co-operatives, see sugar cane fields and learn how the juice is processed for Coke products. Most importantly the students will learn about how people in these communities work to support each other and we see their innovative projects. We are looking at a lot of best practices around sustainable development related to food security. Each year I return I see more things put into practice.
This year we are in need of the following donations:
- Solar calculators
- Geometry sets
- Recorders (the instrument)
- Single bed sheets for the Eco Hostel
- Money for high school scholarships (Each one is $400), micro credit for war injured, and medicine for seniors.
We are also looking for full sets of soccer uniforms and donations of items for our fundraising auction held in Perth each November.
How to Donate
Donations can be dropped off at the Center for Students with Disabilities at Woodroffe to Alison West-Armstrong. Tax receipts are available. If you have any questions or suggestions, please contact Lisa Shaw-Verhoek at firstname.lastname@example.org
We are thankful to the Algonquin College community members that have supported us in the past! Your efforts have made a difference in the lives of our students and in the communities in El Salvador.