Justice

Something to Celebrate – Una Razón para Celebrar

Once a month we have a birthday party at the Lighthouse Project. We celebrate everyone who is having a birthday that month. We started doing this when we realized that our clients didn’t get birthday parties. They didn’t get to be the center of attention once a year, they didn’t have anyone honoring them. Knowing our clients as our friends gives us something to celebrate because they are worthy of celebrating. They have dignity in the sight of God, they are amazing men and women making courageous decisions each and every day to keep moving forward in spite of the lies and hate that swirl around them. Such heavy burdens are being carried by our friends. They bear the weight of years of addiction, of extreme and grinding poverty. They suffer […]

Budgeting for the Future – Presupestando para el Futuro

What do survivors of trafficking need to be truly free? There are so many answers to that question, but without a doubt practical support is one of them. We talk about holistic care for survivors and that means that we address the spiritual and emotional pain that they are facing, but it also means that we are cheering them on in the everyday physical aspects of their lives. Last week, that looked like making budgets with all of the ladies in our Free The Girls program who are selling bras, and running their own small businesses. For many of them, they have money to manage for the first time in their lives. While they were being exploited, they didn’t get paid fair wages, and many of them have struggled to scrape by in […]

Being a Woman in El Salvador, Part 3 – Ser una Mujer en El Salvador, Parte 3

“Violence is an obstacle that prevents women from developing their own initiatives, and economic activities.”                       -Ana Elena Badilla, UN Women representative In El Salvador, violence is a significant risk factor for women and a very real obstacle to their personal and economic development. The gangs which control so much of the country, plus the deeply entrenched machismo, create an environment where women are not safe in their own neighborhoods. Gang control is so pervasive in neighborhoods around El Salvador, that many girls are forced into sexual slavery as girlfriends of local gang leaders. The girls have no choice in the matter…they must join the gang or be killed. The problem has become so grave that young girls are fleeing El Salvador, and […]

Being a Woman in El Salvador, Part 2 – Ser una Mujer en El Salvador, Parte 2

Being a woman in El Salvador means being strong, courageous, and inventive. It means not giving up. It means working, raising children, and moving forward in your life. Too often, it means doing all of these things alone. In 2015 185,625 women in El Salvador were registered as the head of their households according to an official survey conducted by OISS (Organización Iberoamerica de Seguridad Social). Of that number 2,689 of those women registered were between the ages of 15 and 19. These women are supporting their homes economically and emotionally and most often without the help of a husband or partner. There are many single moms involved in our programs, and I admire each and every one of them. They earn money for their families, raise their kids, and […]

Blog Series: Being a Woman in El Salvador, Part 1 – Ser una Mujer en El Salvador, Parte 1

A few months ago I read a story that has haunted me ever since. A 13 year old girl walked from her house to the local tienda to buy paper to finish her homework. On the way she was murdered for her cell phone. Sadly, her story is not an isolated incident. Too often my stomach turns as I read another story of violence against women in the news, hear of another femicide, or talk with one of our female clients about her life. El Salvador is such a beautiful country with such beautiful and strong women, but statistics show us that those women are at risk. Latin America as a region has high rates of femicide, sexual abuse, and exploitation against women. El Salvador has consistently been one of the region’s […]

Bandera

This past January 16th, El Salvador celebrated 25 years since Peace Accords were signed to end a brutal civil war. That same week a piece of art went on display in MARTE, El Salvador’s art museum, to celebrate the anniversary. The piece of art quite literally laid out the still fought for peace that so many long for. That artist’s name is Carmen Elena Trigueros and her piece is called simply Bandera, meaning “flag.” I recently chaperoned a field trip with my daughter’s class and Bandera was one of the pieces featured by the guide. When I saw Bandera I stood there small, struck by the beauty of the piece and the enormity of the task spilling out across the floor. The flag was white and long and stretched up […]

Human Trafficking Awareness / Concientización de la Trata Humana

Did you know that in the United States, January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month and today, January 11th, is Human Trafficking Awareness Day? In our world today, it is estimated that 30 million men, women, and children are victims of human trafficking…modern-day slavery. Human trafficking happens through the use of force, fraud, or coercion to make someone do some type of labor or commercial sex act. Human trafficking happens all around our world every day. In El Salvador, we are working to fight this horrible evil through support services for underage survivors of trafficking, and through transitional services for adult survivors. Women and girls living in poverty, in gang-controlled communities, or trying to get to the United States are at a high risk of being trafficked. Our hearts break for […]

Two Years

Two years. That is the amount of time that Rodrigo* has been living on the streets. As a 13 year old, he  was forced to leave everything familiar. His family, his school, his friends, and his neighborhood. He had to leave because staying meant death. The truth is, El Salvador has the highest child homicide rate in the world. Teenage boys are most at risk. Rodrigo’s life was threatened. Join us or die.  That is the message falling on too many young ears around El Salvador today. Be a criminal, or die at the hands of one. Kill, rob, extort or be a victim yourself. Rodrigo fled and found a new home. A 13 year old sleeping on a bed of gritty pavement, eating out of the garbage, looking for something […]

It’s Complicated

Está yuca. That’s a Salvadoran slang phrase that basically means that it’s complicated. It’s messed up,  and it’s tough to sort out. We use that phrase a lot around our office, and that’s because almost every one of our clients comes to us with layers of complication. Poverty, violence, systems that are practically rigged against them. Here is a glimpse… There is the boy coming to New Dawn because gangs threatened his life back in his hometown. He had to flee and he fled to the streets of San Salvador. Life on the streets is hard…abuse and addiction soon become the cycle that he can’t escape. There is the man who was traumatized as a child, and eventually turned to alcohol. Over time, he lost his wife, his job, his […]

Walking Together to Freedom

This morning was my first day back in the office after 6 months on sabbatical. As I pulled up to the center early this morning, the first thing I noticed were the children sleeping on the streets. They were there waiting for the doors to open at New Dawn. For these kids, New Dawn is the only safe place in a sea of addiction, violence, and abuse. Some of these kids have been raped, beat up, prostituted, and made to feel like nothing. They have been rejected and abused. On the streets they have found loneliness and fear. It is no easy task to introduce them to something new. New ways, new patterns, and new life are hard to come by on the streets. Our hope is that stepping into New […]

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