On Wednesday the 19th of October, the July 2011 departure and the January 2012 El Salvador volunteers were invited to the Embassy of El Salvador in London, to meet the Ambassador, Mr Werner Romeo. For those volunteers who had returned from El Salvador it was a chance to share our experiences, for those yet to depart it was an opportunity to find out more about the country in which they will spend 10 week volunteering. The ambassador shared with us the impact he thought we had had, discussing the importance of international volunteers to El Salvador, a country often written off as too dangerous to travel to by many. This was not the experience we had living, working and volunteering with the people of El Salvador, we found that they were extremely welcoming and this is a fact we will share on our return. Like any country, El Salvador has areas you would avoid travel to, especially at night, but this is the case in London and it serves us well to remember this before casting judgement on other countries.
After 10 living across El Salvador and working with the national NGO IMU (Instituto de investigacion, capacitacion y desarrollo de la mujer) I developed an understanding of the issues facing El Salvador. Those we encountered were poverty, women’s place in society and a lack of opportunity for young people and this was something I shared with the Ambassador. I was very much aware that I could not escape from viewing these issues from a UK perspective, but what struck me was the global accountability for the issues El Salvador faces. In 2009 a progressive left wing government was elected in El Salvador and they are pushing hard against international and national constraints to make things better in their country. This was evidenced by the way they have embraced international volunteers from the UK, we were welcomed to meet the Minister for Development while in San Salvador. This was something the Ambassador was aware of and spoke to us about, suggesting they were taking our presence seriously.
My time in El Salvador has certainly changed my outlook and perspective on the world. I have a better understanding of the global nature of issues of poverty and women’s rights; both the causes as well as the solutions. It has instilled in me a belief that for a better world, we need to work together; to lift people out of poverty; to give young people a future; and to give 50% of the population a fair representation and place in society. El Salvador is pushing for change at all levels, from the rural women to the NGO worker to the Government official and we should be working with them to ensure it happens.