Receiving the school at Rio Frio

There was a lot of excitement in the air yesterday with the arrival in El Salvador of President Barack Obama and his family. Just so happens that our last advisory board member returned to Washington at the same moment – and shortly after the President arrived, there was a small earthquake.

As the taxi driver drove Nybia to the airport, Mauricio and I headed off to San Vicente Department to receive the school at Rio Frio from the contractor and then hand the keys over to the president of the ACE (local school community board). Everything checked out as the contractor showed us some add-ons as well, such as a cement table and stools, and a rock studded pathway to the school from the front gate and from the school to the bathrooms.  The school is now ready for painting! (more on that later)

My favorite moment for me was the handing over of the keys to Lorena as she beamed with pride the of ownership.

Lorena receives keys to the new school at Rio Frio

Meeting with Vice President Salvador Sanchez Ceren

Today, CAFRED had a very important meeting with the Vice President of El Salvador, Salvador Sánchez Ceren, who also serves as Minister of Education (ad honorem). He was extremely cordial to us and generous with his time.  The meeting was very productive and should help pave the way for CAFRED’s future activities in the country.

First CAFRED teacher training session for 2011

Alberto Barillas led our first teacher training session in San Salvador yesterday. Alberto is nationally recognized as one of the best professional trainers in El Salvador and has designed a program for CAFRED on a volunteer basis. This was the first time that CAFRED has offered training to all  schools simultaneously in a group setting. Previously, CAFRED traveled to in each school to conduct training. This previous method has become cost-prohibitive as we now have 9 teachers and 5 facilitators in 3 schools serving 400 students spread out over a wide area in three Departments.

The trainings will take place once per month on Saturdays for all teachers and facilitators for all three CAFRED schools. CAFRED trainers will also arrange and lead twice-monthly Skype training sessions for teachers and facilitators. The program will include bi-monthly visits to each  school during which trainers will observe and videotape classes in session for group analysis during workshops. CAFRED trainers will also conduct interviews with students, teachers and parents.

The subject of yesterday’s 5-hour session was “Redesigning the school and the classroom”. Currently, CAFRED is also researching the implementation of student “learning-in-service” programs (learning by doing) in an entrepreneurship context.

El Olimpo School Program Kick-Off for 2011

While the CAFRED board visited the site of one of our schools,  the El Olimpo girls’ softball team and the boys’ soccer team played local school, Guadalupe.

Wind Up


To transport our facilitators to El Olimpo, we make a formal request to Mayor Luz Estrella Rodriguez of Apopa (nearest city to the school) and she graciously offered us the use of her 4X4 vehicle and driver to transport the facilitators to the site to support our programs.  CAFRED meets the transportation challenge on a case by case basis. CAFRED schools are located in extreme rural areas and most require the use of 4X4’s.

Meeting with National Education Director

During my afternoon meeting with Sandra Alas and Candido Campos in the national director’s office, it became immediately clear that there was a productive vibe in the room and a willingness on all parts to listen.

In short, Sandra Alas has invited CAFRED to work with MinEd to conduct a diagnostic of the communities surrounding Caserio Rio Frio to decide a way to move forward to redesign the “school system” for the immediate area. In conjunction with the National Social Plan, a nucleus of schools would be designed for the area, making better use of the existing school buildings to help meet the needs of all the students in the area.  Students would be assigned to specific schools based on age. This idea (although common in the States and Canada), would be a radical departure for El Salvador’s rural schools.

In terms of CAFRED’s relationship with the Ministry of Education, we will work out a formal agreement together to find a way to collaborate. This is good news for CAFRED, MinEd and the communities CAFRED serves.

I am very thankful to San Vicente Education Director, Candido Campos, for setting up this meeting between all of us.

Licenciada Sandra Alas

During a meeting earlier this week with th e Director of Education for San Vicente (State) Lic. Candido Campos, we touched on many themes. At the end of the conversation, I asked if we could transform Rio Frio into a “Tiempo Plena” school (full-time). It has historically only held half-day classes in the morning. The new administration wants to follow a plan that will keep children in school longer to, among other things, keep them occupied and out of gang activity, which is rampant in El Salvador.

He asked if I wanted to ask that same question and make the same case to Lic. Sandra Alas, who is the Director of Education for El Salvador. I said that of course I would. He has now secured the appointment with her for 3 PM today. Looking forward to this meeting and for a chance to promote CAFRED and its rural education plans.