Peacebuilding en Las Américas supports AVP El Salvador, in its thirteenth year, to run workshops in 12 municipalities with over 17 communities, schools, organizations, and churches of differing faiths.The team of Facilitators focus their work with at-risk children and teenagers from gang-dominated communities or other groups, students and teachers from schools, war survivors, and people living with disabilities.
During El Salvador’s twelve year civil war, approximately 80,000 people were murdered, an estimated 5,000 to 10,000 disappeared and thousands were separated from their families. The scars left from unhealed traumas of war plague Salvadoran society, and the government provides few resources to help communities heal. El Salvador is currently part of the “triangle of death” and the main agents generating violence are organized crime, drug trafficking, gangs and, to a lesser extent, crimes related to domestic violence.
In early 2014, AVP El Salvador began working with survivors of the civil war, forming a service alliance with Co-Madres. Co-Madres is an organization of more than 400 mothers and relatives of those disappeared or assassinated from the last civil war. Co-Madres members are spread throughout the country and have maintained a consistent voice of nonviolent resistance and truth seeking in El Salvador since 1980. Most Co-Madres members are part of a larger population that lacks access to basic public health, education, housing, and other human rights that have been denied to them.
“They have shown a tremendous maturity and capacity to reinvent themselves, to be resilient…We contribute to their ability to talk, to rediscover their ability to raise their voices against individual and structural violence and the injustices and problems that occur each day,” said Salomón Medina, AVP El Salvador Coordinator.
The Apanteos Prison is a mid-security jail for men in Santa Ana, 86 km west of San Salvador, that is home to approximately 5,000 incarcerated men with a listed capacity of 1,800 men. Apanteos began the “Yo Cambio” (I change) project, which allows opportunities for incarcerated persons to see a psychologist and learn certain trades. Despite the project, opportunities for rehabilitation are minimal and don’t reach all sectors within the prison. Sector 11, where we have don AVP workshops, holds 500 men who have been isolated from the rest of the population because of their emotional instability.
The prison population in El Salvador increased by 362% between 2000 and 2016 from 7,754 to 35,879 incarcerated persons. This increase reflects two trends: the mass deportation of former prisoners int he U.S. back to El Salvador (81,000 formerly incarcerated persons were deported to El Salvador between 1998 and 2014) and the adoption of governmental policies (Mano Dura and Super Mano Dura) that allowed increased police power to arrest suspected gang members. The powerful MS13 and Barrio 18 gangs control the penitentiary system in El Salvador.
Workshops with people with disabilities began in 2016 with the aim of creating a core group of facilitators to work with others with similar conditions. AVP offered participants tools to face widespread discrimination and patterns of abuse and exclusion both within the family and by a system that has marginalized them and considered them expendable. Many persons living with disabilities have complex personal, familial and community problems. They now challenge themselves to see life with greater happiness and optimism despite their difficulties. The idea is to see them and treat them as people with rights and not as objects of pity. The AVP workshops with this interesting group we have coordinated with the Municipal Office of Integral Attention to the Person with Disability (OMADIS) in the municipality of Quezaltepeque, department of La Libertad.
In 2017, Salvadoran Facilitators trained nine community church leaders from different faith backgrounds, who are committed to prevention in high risk communities. The majority work with children and youth, 75% of whom are women. Zacamil, is one of the largest centers of urban concentration in the municipality of Mejicanos of the department of San Salvador. This area is infamous for its gang activity and children, adolescents and youth are at risk to being recruited into criminal organizations this area. AVP El Salvador allied with the committed leadership of the Community of Faith and Adoration Church, so that we can see the opportunity to positively impact the lives of the emerging generations served in this area.