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August 2023 Newsletter

Four Participants on 2023 Volunteer Trip

The group included perennial volunteers Jim and Archer Heinzen, plus Teddi Ahrens who can no longer remember how many times she has been on a volunteer trip and new volunteer, Eileen Joyner who was visiting both El Salvador and Guatemala for the first time. We visited and consulted with all three Co-partners’ projects, one in Guatemala and two in El Salvador. In Guatemala, Teddi and Eileen ran a fabulous kids’ program, while Jim and Archer consulted with the adults. In El Salvador Archer, Jim and Eileen worked with the organizations in Ilobasco and Apatepeque, while Teddi marketed her book, Painting Joy about Salvadoran artist, Fernando Llort.

Left to Right: Teddi, Jim, Eileen and Archer with members of the board of the Asociacion Comunitaria para el Desarrollo Red de Mujeres Chichicastecas

Guatemala Kids’ Program by Teddi Ahrens

Thirteen boys and girls from ages six to twelve came to the center in Chichi every morning to do arts and crafts with Eileen and me. Their decorated self-portraits greeted them from the wall each day, but they hardly looked up from their projects, once they got started. Over our few days together, they designed a wall hanging of woven ribbons, a pendant decorated with stickers and beads, and a collage. Scattered on the tables in front of them were scraps of colorful ribbon, paper, fabric, glue, pencils and scissors. Again, they were very focused on their tasks. Some outlined a picture of a butterfly or fish or rainbow, and they all squished tissue paper into balls to make three-dimensional art.


They were shy and quiet until Eileen got them giggling with her music and games, especially musical chairs. That's when their shyness gave way to laughter and screaming.

Musical chairs with Eileen on guitar and harmonica


And of course, the Hokey Pokey always provokes giggles.

On the last day, it became clear that no-sew fleece pillows would be their favorite project.

They chose whatever colorful pattern appealed to them and then tied the top and bottom pre-cut tabs together. After the pillows were stuffed, no one could resist squeezing and cuddling them.

Bursting at the Seams by Archer Heinzen                   

The La Nueva Esperanza Training Center in Ilobasco is bursting at the seams. There are 26 students in cosmetology; 18 in Electricity; 8 in basic dressmaking; 8 in advanced dressmaking; 8 in the desserts class and eight in an English class for a total of 76 students every Saturday morning. The cosmetology students occupy the main room downstairs; the electricity students are in the roofed, open-air garage area; the basic dressmaking class occupies the room designed for dressmaking, while the advanced dressmaking class is in the computer lab and the English class works on the balcony. Seeing 76 students crammed into every nook and cranny made it clear that we need to increase the number of classrooms.

     There are two possible solutions to the problem: expanding the existing building on the existing footprint or purchasing a lot next to the building, if it can be bought for an affordable price. Unfortunately, the owner of the lot next door was out of town while we were in Ilobasco. A new capital campaign may be needed.  If anyone aspires to having a building named after them, a significant contribution to the building fund could get your name on the addition.


Cosmetology Class


Lilian, A mainstay of the Apastepeque Program

By Eileen Joyner

Nine years ago Lilian Gonzales could be seen tagging along with her aunt, who taught sewing and tailoring at the Centro ADESCOMUJESA in Apastepeque, El Salvador. Since that time, Lilian attended the University of Don Bosco and acquired her teaching credentials in Natural Sciences and Adult Education. She works as a roving class instructor to young people and adults throughout the Department of San Vicente.

Lilian taught herself how to use a computer, beginning when she had a part time job at a stationery store. There she learned how to pull up documents and send them to print. But she didn’t stop there. She used her time at the store learning by doing. Later She needed a computer for her studies at the University. Copartners and ADESCOMUJESA arranged for her to have her own computer in trade for teaching computer skills in the Center.


She has been teaching at the Center since 2019, enduring the pandemic’s negative effects on student enrollment. At times, she wanted to give up. Today she is still not satisfied with the number of students in her class. Her goal is to increase enrollment to 25, but she needs the help of other members of the board to publicize and recruit new students.


Lilian has a homelife, living with her husband, her four-year-old son and her in-laws on the outskirts of Apastepeque. She would love to have a fulltime, salaried teaching position in the school system.


Following in her aunt’s footsteps, Lilian now serves on the board as secretary. She uses her position to advocate expanding the center’s outreach as well as solidifying the board with active, committed members. Lilian writes: “We are just beginning the fight to bring in students and build up the program. It’s taken us years of learning, shared by me, the association and its supporters. This sharing has allowed me to grow personally and professionally. We learn from each other. Knowing that I am of service to the community fills me with satisfaction.”

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