Los Olivos CIS, PO Box 76, Westmont, IL 60559-0076. Tel: 1-866-887-2665
[above: Berta's home Dec 2018 and July 2019!]
Some very recent developments since the election of President Nayib Bukele are extremely positive and exciting—and also pose a challenge!
We are writing you because we need your support to build dignified homes with the community of Paso Puente, Tonacatepeque, across the street from Romero Community. The Paso Puente Community squatted on government lands in 2002, after being displaced by the 2001 earthquakes and having nowhere to go. Finally, in 2014, the Salvadoran Government granted them title to their land. The 153 families live in extreme poverty and squalid conditions—with homes made out of old tin and plastic, no potable water, and no sewage. The zone is an area of high risk for youth because of the insecure conditions.
The CIS and the Romero Community began to work with Paso Puente three years ago, to develop their organization; with St. Elizabeth Parish, to organize a CIS Scholarships and Leadership Development Program for Paso Puente’s students; and with Agua Viva, to dig one well with a hand pump for the community to share and have water to drink. We also began to organize, together with the local clinic, art-therapy courses to promote creativity, to keep youth off the streets, and to follow up with kids dealing with the trauma of being witnesses or victims of violence.
We knew Paso Puente desperately needed dignified housing, but realized it would not be possible to undertake a project without the full participation and trust of the community. We accompanied the community on numerous occasions to request potable water from the government, but each time they were turned down. Last year, CIS counseled families to apply for a government-housing subsidy. The Salvadoran Government asked CIS to identify the 15 families most in need and applied the subsidy in March of this year. Still, it was not enough to complete the houses. (The identified families were mostly single mothers living on about $3 per day from washing other people’s clothes, and some had up to seven children.) The CIS received a donation from the Inti-Raymi Fund to complement and finish what the families had built with the government subsidy. This pilot project enabled CIS to identify more children who were not going to school, to build trust, and to identify skilled laborers in the community.
To our surprise and delight, the new government of Nayib Bukele has prioritized development in the most excluded areas of El Salvador, and this includes Paso Puente Community. This is an effort to stem the flow of migration and include families in the social fabric who have been excluded, so they do not join the gangs. The Local Development Minister, Maria Chichilco, the Housing, Public Works, and Social Fabric Ministers, and the President of the Water Utility all visited the community—as well as Romero Community and surrounding areas. The officials offered to build homes for the families, but the families would have to pay $40-$60 per month for twenty years. Based on our experience and knowing the families, I told the ministers it would be impossible for most. Then I went out on a limb and asked if they would be willing to provide the same subsidy to build the base of the home; the CIS would ask for donations to complete the homes, and the community would put in the unskilled labor and coordinate all the paper work. The Minister of Housing, Michelle Sol, immediately said Yes! Within a few days, a team arrived to verify the applications and approved the construction of 54 homes! The government has also agreed to put in potable water, roads, and drainage in both Paso Puente and Romero! ¡Gracias a Dios!
So you can readily appreciate both the excitement—rather breath-taking, to be honest—and the challenge we are feeling at the CIS!
Here’s how it will work:
Each family will be disbursed a government grant of $3,500—50% as early as next week, and 50% when they have completed the walls of their home, allowing installation of windows and doors. The government has also committed to installing potable water, streets, and drainage (both in Romero and Paso Puente), and eventually sewage.
The CIS will oversee the installation of electricity, tile floor, roof, bathroom, and a big sink that is used for washing dishes, clothes, and bathing—until potable water is installed. The Minister of Housing also asked CIS to oversee the construction of the part of the home they are financing. The CIS budget is $4,000 per home.
We are asking everyone to dig deep into their pockets and donate for social and economic justice, security, and the health of one family for a life-time:
- $4,000 will complete a government-subsidized home.
- $1,360 will build a bathroom, sink, shower, and toilet;
- $1,200 will pay for the roof;
- $620 will pay for a tile floor;
- $420 will pay for electric installation;
- $300 will install a cement sink; or
- $100 will pay for supervision and unforeseen expenses.
Debit/credit card donations can be made online:
PLEASE NOTE DIGNIFIED HOUSING OR PASO PUENTE ON YOUR CHECK OR ON-LINE DONATION
For more information:
Toll free number in U.S.: 1-866-887-2665: El Salvador: ++ 503-2226-5362
I’ll close with a note from one of our most faithful partners:
I am so excited and thrilled with the opportunity to partner once again with the community in El Salvador and CIS. We have been blessed with many generous donors to realize our dreams of dignified living for the people in our communities. With God's help, we were able to build homes for the Romero Community and to partner with the people to provide homes and shelter. It is truly the work of God, and God has called us all to be co-creators in building the kingdom of God.
The cry of the poor has reached the ears of God and ours as well; with joy and enthusiasm we will pledge our support to the construction of homes in the community of Paso Puente. You have our support and pledge; I invite all who read this note to join us in this effort, for it is of God. Together let us make the kingdom of God a reality on earth.
Fr. Gerald Waris and communities in Kansas City
Thank you and Blessings,
Leslie Schuld, for the CIS, LOS OLIVOS CIS