Preface to the Camp Salvador Application
Camp Salvador is designed to enrich the lives of the youth of both Huisisilapa (Huisi), El Salvador and the Pacific Northwest of the United States. It is connected to the non-profit organization called Hermanas Spokane. The 6 month training and leadership program in Spokane, as well as the summer camp in El Salvador, provide an opportunity to gain important perspectives and to form connections between these two countries. Located in the village of Huisisilapa the summer camp is operated by selected high school camp-counselors of both countries that work together to plan and lead a week-long day camp for the middle-school-aged children of the Huisi community. In addition, the U.S. youth live with a Salvadoran family, which provides a rich cultural exchange as they experience village life. Hermanas Spokane has a 14 year relationship with the village of Huisisilapa and 2016 will be the third year for Camp Salvador.
Before the trip, selected U.S. counselors will meet once a month on Sunday afternoon to organize activities for the camp and engage in cultural, historical and socioeconomic training. Prior to their arrival in Huisi, the U.S. counselors spend a brief time as tourists in the capital San Salvador. In Huisisilapa, the U.S. counselors are teamed with their Salvadoran peers to lead activities including arts and crafts, games, dances, songs, and hikes. In addition, the counselors will go on joint excursions in El Salvador such as visiting a volcanic park, a water park, the beach, or Mayan ruins.
The residents of what is now Huisisilapa are survivors of the 12-year civil Salvadoran war that began in 1980. They were displaced from their homes and eventually found refuge in Honduras. The residents of Huisisilapa repatriated to El Salvador from Mesa Grande, the largest of the refugee camps in Honduras, in April of 1992. The land, purchased for them by the international community, was pasture land and did not contain a single building. The community now has 60 houses, a school, a community building, a central plaza, a church, a women’s co-op building and a new soccer field. In April 2015, the community celebrated its 23rd anniversary and has about 850 residents.
Once the community began to develop, the residents made education a priority. The Ministry of Education of El Salvador provided elementary education through grade 9, but they went no further. The community of Huisi initiated the high school program with volunteer teachers. Subsequently, Solidarity Spokane (both the Hermanas Spokane organization and parents and students that have visited Huisisilapa) helped support the community’s education goals by raising over $40,000 to develop the high school program. This high school is now, finally, accredited and partially supported by the Salvadoran Ministry of Education.
The current focus of the community is to further support education through the building of a library that will house curricular materials, Internet access, and books to encourage literacy. Hermanas Spokane along with Camp Salvador counselors and their parents will give back to the community of Huisisilapa by raising funds for a library for the opportunity to learn and grow through lived experiences in Huisi.
The community has a school board and a town council that will oversee the construction and the purchasing of library materials. It is estimated that they will need $35,000 for the construction and another $15,000 for furniture and books. Currently there is almost 30,000 in the library account. Our hope is to raise sufficient funds to equip the library with solar panels to provide electricity to the school. In addition, and of immediate need, is the funding of internet connections for the high school students.
Even though the vast majority of residents of Huisisilapa are subsistent agricultural workers, they were proud to be able to feed themselves but the economy in recent years has changed, and that is no longer the case. With the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) there is an excess of corn, the staple of the Salvadoran diet, and the price of corn is now so low that it costs more to grow corn than to buy it. However, the people in Huisi have no means to buy corn, so they borrow money for seeds, fertilizer, and insecticide to grow their own corn. They sometimes do not have a yield large enough to sell it at such low market value while still paying back their loans and having enough corn to eat for the year. The farmers try to grow beans in addition to corn, but the weather conditions for the past several years have not produced good crops. The families try to raise chickens and other small animals for additional protein but their diets are severely lacking many essential nutrients. Several families have members living and working in the U.S. who send money home to feed their families and allow the families to build more dignified housing.
We know that the benefits of travel in education are immense. Because the people in Huisisilapa are poor, they are unable to obtain visas to visit the United States. The most feasible opportunity for an exchange is for students from the United States to travel to El Salvador. Thus the idea of Camp Salvador was born. This is a unique opportunity. We in the United States can build lasting friendships that change many lives both here and in El Salvador. In addition, many children in Huisisilapa will have a week of camp fun with arts and crafts, games, songs, dances, and other common camp activities. The counselors from both countries will also learn about cultural differences and leadership styles while overcoming the challenges of using a second language.
The payoffs of a program like Camp Salvador can hardly be understated. The young adults who travel to El Salvador come home with a new appreciation of the world and its diversity, and of the gifts they have to offer that world. The young adults in Huisi are happy to share their lives and be a part of the leadership opportunity while forming international friendships.
Camp Salvador 2016 Cost per Counselor
We ask that chosen Camp Salvador counselors raise a total of $3200 for their direct expenses, the cost of the camp plus a personal contribution to building a library. Hermanas Spokane will hold fundraisers for the library in which the counselors and their families help. Some counselors send out personal letters to friends and families to raise money. Each US counselor can either pay for their trip or plan and conduct fundraising to pay for this opportunity. In addition to travel, living and camp expenses, student counselors should expect to set aside a small additional amount for spending money ($100-$200). Limited partial scholarships are available on request.
The Camp Salvador Counselor Team for 2016 will be announced by email to each applicant by Dec. 10, 2015. The first gathering of the team will be January 2016.
Payments are due on the following schedule:
Jan 10, 2016 – $500 deposit (non-refundable)
Feb 28, 2016 – $1000
April 15, 2016 – $1000
June 30, 201 – $700