Tania works as Communications Officer in our Latin America Team. Her role involves lots of opportunities to meet inspiring people like Edelmira, whose story of flourishing and achievement we are celebrating this Harvest Fast Day.
My first impressions of Edelmira when I met her in 2016, were of a friendly, welcoming woman, constantly busy. She was a little nervous of meeting me, a visitor from far away. I was also nervous about visiting Edelmira. CAFOD had sent me to interview her for our Connect2 El Salvador parish programme, and I was feeling the weight of responsibility!
The hair-raising ride in the 4×4 down winding rough tracks with mighty rocks in them, and the tropical heat, were not helping me to feel at ease. However, Edelmira’s smile, and the glass of fresh coconut juice she gave me broke the ice, and I started to follow her lead. She was keen to tell me about all she had been doing with CAFOD’s partner organisation Solidarity CVX, on her land and with her neighbours.
The glass of coconut juice was an example – our partner encouraged Edelmira to start using fruits that grew around her home to make juices. Instead of buying fizzy drinks, juices vary her family’s diet and save money. She showed me fruit tree saplings that CAFOD had helped our partner to give her.
Edelmira was excited about the passion fruits. She said she would be able to sell those. She has a special love for raising animals. She had chickens and ducks. She collected eggs from them. She also used the meat to make a salvadorean typical food “tamales” which she would sell. She told me about how she was saving money with her local group of women. Together they were trying to find different ways to earn some money.
Learning to speak out
Edelmira was so animated that I was struggling to get a photo of her when she wasn’t talking! So I was surprised to hear her say that a few years before she didn’t feel able to speak to people. “I didn’t used to meet up with people. I was used to being at home working, fetching water and looking after the family field. I used to feel shy and afraid that I would speak rubbish. I used to tremble and feel hot in the face and worried I would offend someone.”
Our partner gently encouraged Edelmira to meet with other women. She heard that they too had faced similar challenges. “We used to say it was because we didn’t go out.” She started to learn that everyone has value, including her, and something to contribute to her community.
A new stage of life
I was lucky to meet Edelmira again this year when I travelled to El Salvador in advance of the 2017 Harvest Fast Day Appeal. Now she is married and living with her husband, Martir, and his parents. She met Martir through the agriculture work that CAFOD is supporting. They are both active in a cooperative that the farmers are setting up so they can get better prices for their produce. It was wonderful to see her again, in a new stage of life. She and Martir are looking ahead. “With God’s help, your support and our efforts, we will be able to work more with our chickens and improve our crops.”
If I have an over-riding impression of Edelmira, it is her ability to value herself. Whenever she talked about CAFOD’s support, in the same breath she referred to the work she put in.
Edelmira’s contribution to CAFOD Harvest Fast Day is her story. Whilst we and our partner have provided Edelmira with an opportunity, she made the decision to pick up her courage, step outside her home, and find her voice.