Tuesday, March 14, 2017
Casa de Zinc, Usulutan, El Salvador
Ten years ago Trinity United Presbyterian Church entered into a partnership with Casa de Zinc, a very small farming community outside Berlin, El Salvador. This caserio consisted of 13 families. Today, there are 23 families, totaling 83 people.
The community is made entirely of subsistance farmers trying to raise enough white corn and red beans to feed their family for a year. They hope to sell any excess to be able to generate a modest income. The average income is $1 to $2 per day.
These people are poor and they know they are poor. Living in abject poverty, they have no voice. No one listens to the poor. Government ignores their pleas for basic services like electricity and water. OoJust now electricity is making its way into the countryside. As it reaches out many find they cannot afford to connect. Water lines are also being run out into the countryside. However, the water may only run for a day or two in a month's time for 2-3 hours a day. People are forced to locate alternative sources for their water.
I tell you this simply to introduce some of the myriads of challenges facing the people in Casa de Zinc. Remember, these are people with no voice. One of the goals of Our Sister Parish (OSP) is to helpassist the communities they work with to find a voice.
After 10 years Casa de Zinc is finding its voice.. Communities are encouraged to organize by creating a Directiva, a city council form of government. Casa de Zinc has yet to form a Directiva lol but they have a committee. This committee has been working with the members of the community to fidentify areas of concern and examine methods to address those concerns.
Our delegation this year has witnessed a sort of transformation. In years past the people of Casa de Zinc have been rather introverted, slow to be organized for our delgation's visit. It was pleasantly different this year.
We were received by most of the community. Not only were we introduced to members of the organizing committee, we were introduced to every adult in attendance. In spite of two extremely difficult years of drought and worm infestations, they spoke of various bright spots in the time since our last visit.
We received warm welcomes as we visited every home distributing packets of various household staples ranging from rice to cooking oil to toothbrushes and toothpaste to school supplies for the younger members of the home. The value of these packets totaled $35. We then received heartfelt thanks. In fact, Rene, 61, a caretaker on a farm in Casa de Zinc thanked us saying with moist eyes that he had never received a nicer gift in his life even for his birthdays.
This positive response was an indication of the good work the committee had conducted since our last visit in June of 2015. It was an indication of the results of long term relationships between church and community and pastoral team based on trust, commitment and dedication.
Working together presents an opportunity for a community to speak with one voice whether it is nworking with a partner church, the pastoral team, a NGO (non governmental organization) or the local government. Working together in a relationship with Casa de Zinc has been a journey with many twists and turns similar to the roads we take to reach the community.The road is becoming straight as Casa de Zinc finds its voice.