From Julia: Thoughts on visiting El Salvador
From Julia, Co-Founder of Kids to Kids
Kids to Kids recently took a trip to El Salvador to meet with Peace Corps Volunteers whose projects we have supported and to film a short movie about Kids to Kids. On previous Kids to Kids trips we have only been able to see a limited number of Peace Corps Volunteers and projects, but on this trip we got to meet with a lot of them! It’s always a completely different experience reading the grant proposals and voting for projects back at home, then actually seeing them in action. There were so many unexpected and amazing outcomes resulting from the projects that I could have never anticipated. For example, we visited a community called La Palma where we supported three projects: a marimba class, a choir, and an artisan project. I found the marimba class especially exciting because we learned that the marimba is actually a major cultural instrument in El Salvador; many families have them in their homes, though none of them knew how to play until the marimba classes. The classes will allow the instrument to continue to be played in the town for years to come. The kids can now be a part of their cultural history!
Another one of the projects in La Palma is an artisan business in which the kids are taught to paint objects in the creative style unique to this community. They are first taught the technique and can then be hired and paid to do this work. This project is particularly beneficial to the kids participating because it allows them to generate an income for their family while also partaking in the arts.
Probably the most inspiring aspect of the trip was talking to the Peace Corps Volunteers, both in their communities and at the Peace Corps office in San Salvador. People in the United States often don’t see $500 as a significant amount of money, but the creativity the volunteers and community leaders utilized to come up with these projects and make them sustainable is incredible to me. One volunteer used her grant to take three girls to a conference in San Salvador. When we visited her town, one of the girls and her mother invited us to their home to thank us. The girl talked about how excited she was to go into the city and meet other girls from around the country; she spoke enthusiastically about traveling to a new place and learning new things. Equally as impressive is her mother who is one of the few in the town allowing her daughter to leave home for three whole nights. This girl, her mother, and the Peace Corps Volunteer were so extraordinary to me. They demonstrated that Kids to Kids is such an important way to get resources on the ground in the form of projects, and this girl took advantage of it in such a beautiful and inspiring way.
The more I learn about the people Kids to Kids is empowering: the Peace Corps Volunteers, the kids, their families, and their communities, the more I am inspired to expand and improve the program. El Salvador is an enchantingly beautiful country, the natural beauty of the setting and people blew me away; but it is an equally tough place with increasing gang violence and astounding poverty—the country itself is a paradox. Nevertheless it is incredibly motivating to see the impact Kids to Kids is having on the ground—the boy who didn’t know he could utilize his singing ability is now singing in the national choir, the girl who had never been outside of her town is able to attend a conference in the city, and the Peace Corps Volunteers are seeing their dreams for these communities put into action.