Gemma Salter is on our schools team and produces resources for primary schools.
When I read the papers or the news online, I often find myself looking out for stories from places I’ve visited, or countries that CAFOD partners work in. This happened to me recently, when I came across an article from El Salvador. This one was a striking one – it spoke of the high rates of murder and gang conflict in the country, describing it as the ‘homicide capital of the world’.
Whilst I know gangs and violence are a significant challenge in the country, and I saw this for myself when I visited El Salvador, the article still shocked me. It made me think back to my own trip to El Salvador, where I met eight-year-old Diego and spent time getting to know him and his family.
Diego lives on the outskirts of El Salvador, in an area where there is very high unemployment, severe poverty and insecurity. The situation is worsened by drugs and gang violence. Diego’s mum described to me what life is like:
“My biggest challenge is keeping my children on the right path because there are lots of children here who join gangs and they’re clever because they know which children are the most vulnerable, which children will fall most easily. That’s why we try to keep Diego occupied, doing his homework and if he’s finished his homework we give him cartoons to watch so he’s not out on the street.”
Whilst I was there, I also met CAFOD partner, the Sisters of St Clare, who run an inspirational project which provides a safe space where Diego and other children and young people can go. Here they are safe, away from the violence. They are free to be with their friends, learn new skills and make their own contribution towards building a more peaceful community. Determined to change things, the community are working hard to improve their situation, and build a brighter future. Isabel, one of the young leaders at the project says: “we all want to get out of this situation and change our lives”.
Inspired by the Sisters of St Clare, we are focusing on Diego and Isabel’s community in El Salvador this Harvest, asking schools and youth groups to join them to help build a brighter world. The money raised will make a real difference to the poorest communities around the world, helping them to build a life free from fear.