Pride and Progress in El Salvador

August 10, 2015

Michelle Stormzand, Creative Communications Manager, Convy of Hope

Kids play at a Convoy of Hope feeding location. (Courtesy: Convoy of Hope)

Kids play at a Convoy of Hope feeding location. (Courtesy: Convoy of Hope)

A 90-minute drive away from El Salvador’s bustling capital city, the paved serpentine highway gives way to a bumpy dirt road. The salt sea air wafts on the wind like a mild perfume. Women stand knee deep in a creek and scrub laundry with bars of soap that leave a milky trail snaking downstream. Tied to trees on the riverbank, cows lazily slurp the murky water.

Wood and metal shacks dot the surrounding rural landscape. Disintegrating wire fences line the properties, and offer no protest to animals’ attempts to escape. Here in Jicalapa, pronounced poverty is evident but it seems to have no bearing on the countenance of its people. Welcoming smiles, waves and friendly chatter are found nearly everywhere one looks.

On the steep slope of a mountain, 10 minutes from the fertile black sands and rocky beaches, papaya trees stretch toward the sun. The heat beats its steady, scorching melee on the trees, which grow in the backyard of Iglesia Nueva Jerusalén (Church of New Jerusalem).

On the exterior, the church looks like any other building: brightly painted cinder blocks pop against lush green surroundings. Wrought iron bars carefully guard the windows from intruders. But the papaya trees make this church different: This is where Convoy of Hope has been working on an innovative pilot project to feed more children. We do this by growing and selling papayas at market, as well as using the fruit to supplement the food distributed at children’s feeding locations. The initiative is helping farmers — mostly women — like Daysi generate a steady income.

Days stands proudly among the papaya trees on her farm. (Courtesy: Convoy of Hope)

Daysi stands proudly among the papaya trees on her farm. (Courtesy: Convoy of Hope)

Daysi feeds 35 neighborhood children at the church in the evening, and nurtures the papaya farm every day. She says the combined agriculture and children’s feeding project began here three years ago. To prepare for the exciting new opportunity, Daysi and her neighbors cleared land behind the church, dug a holding pond for water, and planted 125 papaya trees supplied by Convoy of Hope.

According to Daysi, the income from selling the fruit has been instrumental in feeding more children in the community, but she needs a larger farm to grow more papayas: She has big aspirations. “I will buy a bus to bring more children here for dinner,” she proclaims. Her small frame straightens as the pride within her swells. “I want none of these precious children to go hungry.”

What she lacks in stature, she makes up for in selfless determination. No doubt her goal to feed all the children in her neighborhood will be achieved: When Daysi wants something done, she does it.

Children’s feeding locations like the one at Iglesia Nueva Jerusalén are becoming more common as Convoy is able to supply more food to more children. More than 12,000 children are currently enrolled in Convoy of Hope’s Children’s Feeding Initiative in El Salvador. To learn more, please visit convoyofhope.org.