Ilobasco, El Salvador was the first site of a Co-partners project. Dating back to 1994, classes initially targeted local women and girls and taught crafts such as embroidery and cross-stitch. The group chose its name, La Nueva Esperanza (LNE), to reflect the members' hope for a better future now that the civil war had ended. Three years later, they obtained legal status as a non-profit organization and began expanding skills training and leadership development.
Co-partners volunteers in the United States donated sewing machines and computers and changed LNE's focus to dressmaking and computer literacy. To facilitate these classes Co-partners worked with LNE to relocate to a larger space and raised funds to help construct a meeting and training center in 2013.
Currently, dressmaking and computer skills are held annually and a large variety of other classes are offered on a rotating basis. Cosmetology, commercial food preparation, bread making, electricity and several levels of English are popular classes enrolling between 35 and 70 students each semester. In addition to classes, LNE administers a scholarship program providing transportation for rural students to advance their education.
The program in Chichicastenango, Guatemala began in 2000 and currently partners with the Red de Mujeres (Women’s Network), a local non-governmental organization dedicated to advancing the well-being of women and families living in high poverty rural communities around the market town of Chichicastenango.
Their primary focus is to identify out-of-school children and work with their parents to encourage them to enroll their children. One of the strategies to accomplish this is to provide scholarships of school supplies to children whose families do not have money to pay even minimal school costs. Without this financial support, children may be required to work, for example, selling trinkets in the market instead of attending school. The Red also provides training for women on such topics as advocacy, women’s rights, nutrition, mental health and sexuality. Currently, they are distributing food and seeds to families in need during the pandemic.
The Red de Mujeres has also implemented two Rotary USA funded projects to sustainably raise pigs and chickens. These projects contribute to improving nutrition and generating income.
In Apastepeque, El Salvador the program has grown from a small satellite to a successful endeavor, providing twice-weekly dressmaking classes to a group of about 40 women. Last year, this organization achieved legal status and with the help of Co-partners purchased a building to establish a training center. The center had been open for only a couple of months when the pandemic hit. With center classes prohibited by the quarantine, the board was able to house, itinerant health care professionals assigned to care for Covid-19 patients. Recently, the program in Apastepeque has started to offer classes again, with a reduced capacity while honoring public health recommendations.