Paint! Straws! Let’s have fun!

On Saturday April 14, 10 children from our CAFRED supported schools received their first scholarship to attend art classes at MARTE Museum from April through July of the present year. This effort will help us to continue to develop education alternatives in the rural areas that CAFRED serves. We … Continue reading

Is the First Impression the One That Really Counts?

On Wednesday 14th, 50 students from the Centro Escolar Terry Allan Fedorchuk,  a CAFRED sponsored school in San Vicente, El Salvador, had their first field trip of the year. They visited the Art Museum MARTE in San Salvador. The children arrived at 10:00 … Continue reading

NGO ISO Long Term Relationship

CAFRED is on the road in El Salvador, searching for its next project. We have received leads from friends and colleagues, and from the Ministry of Education, to find just the right conditions and the right community. Some might ask, why is CAFRED so picky?

Over time, we have learned that the right community is always waiting for us somewhere – and it is our job to find it.

The Will to Fight

This mythical community is willing to toil and sweat, and be patient. It knows how to advocate for itself and it is actively searching for us just as we are in search of it. When we meet, it will be love at first sight.

What are we looking for in such a community?

Usually, the director and the teachers take money out of their own pockets to help decorate the school and make it a colorful environment – no matter how meager the conditions of the infrastructure itself.

The director of this sought after school          is a born leader – passionate and creative, he or she works every day to overcome the odds. He or she she is a social worker, an child advocate, a community organizer, a fundraiser and an educator, and most of all, he or she is an optimist.

This community has done its homework. It has already fought to get ministry status as an official school, affording it a government stipend for school lunches, maintenance and teachers’ salaries. With limited resources, it has found land – rented, borrowed, bought or donated – to locate its present school. The community built it themselves from whatever materials they could find – be it bamboo, metal sheeting, mud
or plastic. This school is humble, but somehow
dignified.

This school is usually on a dirt road,
far from any form of public transportation.
It has dirt floors, no electricity or running water.
When it rains, the sound on its tin roof is as loud
as a firing squad and in the afternoon the same
roof transfers enough heat to cause the classroom
to resemble a hot oven.

It usually lacks windows and/or electricity
and therefore, the lighting conditions are
minimal at best.

The school grounds flood during the rainy
season, leaving no space for recreation.

CAFRED works with this community, with
international donors and local and national
governments to build a brand new school.
CAFRED then stays on for two years, helping the community to build sustainability
for the school by sourcing undiscovered
wellsprings of local, national and world-wide
support. It implements extra-curricular
programs for children to offer alternatives
to involvement with gangs, and conducts
ongoing teacher training.

Providing Educational Alternatives to El Salvador’s Youth

Here are two NPR articles on Salvadoran gangs (Mara Salvatrucha 13 and Mara 18) and the growing threats of links between these gangs and the Mexican cartels.

The average age of gang recruitment in El Salvador is twelve years of age. Some children are recruited at the age of nine. Many of these children come from impoverished rural areas of the country. CAFRED builds schools and follows up for a minimum of two years, providing the programs needed to help at risk rural children to be engaged and productive, while offering them positive alternatives to violence. To learn how to support this important mission, please contact us at info@cafred.org. ____________________________________________________________________

Report by Jason Beaubien, NPR Correspondent (Mexico City)

The drug war in Mexico is having ramifications throughout the hemisphere, as
Mexican cartels seek new markets and smuggling routes for their products.

As the Mexican government has attacked the cartels, several of them have been
moving into Central America, where security forces are ill-equipped to confront
them. The migration of the cartels into Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador has
given the region the highest homicide rate in the hemisphere.

In El Salvador, there’s fear that the Mexican cartels are aligning themselves
with the country’s ubiquitous street gangs.

El Salvador has had a gang problem for quite some time. The two main gangs —
the 18th Street and the Mara Salvatrucha, or MS — are so powerful and so
volatile that their members get sent to separate prisons. Impoverished
neighborhoods in the capital, San Salvador, are clearly divided as belonging
either to the MS or to the 18th Street.

The gang members control street-level drug sales, charge local residents for
security and battle to keep their rivals out.

A Risky Business

Luis Alberto Espinoza Aranda is a 23-year-old gang member in San Salvador.
Tattoos on his shoulders reading “18” make his allegiance clear. “It’s a tough
life,” he says. “You suffer a lot of discrimination from the authorities and
ordinary people.”

Espinoza joined the 18th Street gang five years ago, along with his two
brothers. Just as Espinoza was completing a one-year prison term for murder, his
younger brother was sent away for drug trafficking.

“It’s a world where, like in prison, the authorities and everyone treats you
like you don’t have a right to anything just for the fact that you’re a gang
member,” Espinoza says.

He says the Mexican cartels have been moving aggressively into El Salvador
over the past couple of years, and that they mainly try to hire gang members to
transport drugs.

“This is the riskiest thing — to move the drugs,” he says. “Selling it
doesn’t pose that much risk. You’re just in one place. But when you’re moving it
around in the streets, this is when you’re going to clash with the police or the soldiers.”

Espinoza, like many gang members, also has a regular job — he and his mother
sell tostadas from a stand in the street. He’d like to get out of the gang life,
he says, but that’s a difficult thing to do. The 18th Street gang doesn’t allow
its members to leave.

CAFRED Provides Educational Alternatives

Connecting Street Gangs With Cartels

The Mexican drug cartels control roughly 90 percent of the cocaine flowing
from South America into the U.S., according to a 2010 State
Department report
. Much of that cocaine comes through Central America. As
the Mexicans move south, it’s led to huge
cartel massacres in Guatemala
, a skyrocketing murder rate in Honduras and more drugs on the street in El Salvador.

Howard Augusto Cotto, the deputy director for investigation with the
Salvadoran National Civilian Police, says there have been some large-scale
seizures of drugs recently in El Salvador. But, he says, there have been no
firefights between the security forces and Mexican narcos like those that have
unfolded, for instance, in neighboring Guatemala.

“The Mexican cartels are not paying with money; no, they’re paying with
drugs,” Cotto says. “A lot of people are talking about if the maras,
the gangs here, are involved with criminal organizations in Mexico. I don’t
think that in this moment that relationship is high or is strong, but we are
very concerned about that.”

The police commissioner points out that the Salvadoran gangs and the Mexican
cartels are very different organizations. The Mexican cartels have relatively
vertical structures focused on criminally lucrative activities. The
maras have horizontal structures, and offer security to their members
and a way to make some money. The Mexican cartels expanding into the country are a “very powerful enemy,”

The maras could offer — and according to some security analysts,
already are offering — the Mexican cartels access to a vast criminal network.
The maras have stashes of weapons, established communications networks
and ruthless foot soldiers who have no qualms about smuggling drugs or
assassinating rivals — for a price.

Both the 18th Street gang and the Mara Salvatrucha originated on the streets
of Los Angeles several decades ago. Their presence grew in El Salvador as
members were deported from California. U.S. officials warn that an alliance
between the Salvadoran gangs and the Mexicans could pose a great danger because
the Salvadorans already control street-level drug distribution in some American
cities.

‘Selling Drugs Is For The Benefit Of Everyone’

Usiel Pena, a sociologist in San Salvador, is standing on a dirt path amid
shacks made of cinder blocks and metal sheeting in the barrio La Victoria, which
is controlled by the Mara Salvatrucha, or MS.

Pena was a soldier with the leftist FMLN rebels during El Salvador’s civil
war. As a guerrilla, he was based in this crowded neighborhood. He says the MS
now controls this area the same way the FMLN did in the 1980s.

“It’s the same web, the same structure as when the guerrillas were here. It’s
the same neighborhood, the same little old grandmother who prays for them,” he
says with a laugh.

The smoke from cooking fires wafts through the air, as does the pungent smell
of marijuana. Outhouses serve as toilets.

The second in command of the MS in La Victoria is a 33-year-old who only
wants to give his nickname, “Blue.”

The head of the MS here, “Triste,” is laying low after a couple of people
were gunned down in the barrio the night before. Blue says the MS only sells
drugs to outsiders, except marijuana, which is permitted by the gang.

“Selling drugs is for the benefit of everyone,” he says. “If someone sells
drugs it’s because of all the needs of everyone in the community. There are
colleagues who don’t have a mother or anything, and only the gang helps them —
no one else.”

Protecting The ‘Civilians’

With his shirt covering his tattoos, Blue looks more like an evangelical
preacher than a leader in one of the most feared gangs in the hemisphere. He’s
wearing a short-sleeved beige button-down shirt and black slacks. His hair is
neatly parted and swept across his brow. Only his missing right arm, which got
blown off by a hand grenade, hints at his violent career.

Blue talks of the MS as a social organization that protects the “civilians”
in the neighborhood. They help get water lines connected. They’re refurbishing
the community hall. To him, it’s normal that residents have to pay rent to the
gang for these services.

His clique of the MS doesn’t yet work with the Mexican cartels, but he says
it would if the conditions were right. Roughly half the members of the MS in El
Salvador are in prison, and Blue says it’s nearly impossible for them to find
work when they get out.

“There are a lot of my colleagues who want to learn something, have
something, function in a different way without bothering people constantly with
extortion,” he says.

But for gang members in El Salvador, Blue says, there are few good options
available. And that’s why they’re quite open to the arrival of the Mexican
narcotics cartels.

Pictures From an Inauguration

Centro Escolar Terry Allen Fedorchuk (School) in Rio Frio, San Vicente, El Salvador was inaugurated on April 11, 2011.

CAFRED builds schools in remote areas of Central America. CAFRED unites people from many walks of life – international donors with local communities, teachers with volunteers and government officials with collaborating NGO’s – to fulfill its partner-centric mission to improve the lives of children and communities in forgotten rural areas through school building, ongoing teacher training, extra-curricular programming and active community development. Centro Escolar Terry Allen Fedorchuk is our latest success. CAFRED continues innovative programming in its schools while we look for new people to unite with to achieve the next success!

June Fedorchuk

June Fedorchuk

June Fedorchuk was born in Alberta, Canada in 1936 and became a psychiatric nurse at the age of 18. She later married Mervin Fedorchuk in Edmonton, Alberta. June and Mervin’s first-born of 5 children, Terry Fedorchuk was a healthy, happy baby and a compassionate child. Terry often defended and protected his classmates when others would bully them, many times taking them to his own home on difficult days until their parents could come to pick them up.

At 10 years of age, Terry began to experience an inexplicable pain in the right side of his face. At the age of 11, the doctors diagnosed him with cancer. The next 2 years were filled with a series of radiation treatments, chemo therapy and very little hope of a cure. When he was deathly ill, his father sat beside his bed, started to cry and said to Terry, “If I could change places with you, Son, I would do it.” Terry then reached for a Kleenex and gave it his father and calmly said, “Dad, if you or Mom or one of the other kids had to be sick, I am glad it was me because I CAN TAKE IT.”

With June at his side, in the summer of his “Grade 7” year, Terry passed away at St. Mary’s Hospital in New Westminster, B.C., Canada.

Terry’s life here on earth, although too short, has left an incredible impact on his family and friends for generations to come. His courage, his faith and his unbridled optimism made it possible for his family to cope with his suffering and eventual passing on August 18, 1970.

Over the years, Terry’s courage had inspired June to be courageous in her work and in her life. She felt committed to continue his legacy of helping the less fortunate and the downtrodden, and worked on the streets with the homeless, helped heal families affected by alcoholism and founded and ran a home for adults with special needs.  She did all this with the same faith and optimism that Terry had.

Soon after her retirement, her daughter gave her a birthday present – a small sum of cash to be used by June in any way she wanted – in the cause of helping others.  June took the money, and went off to Guatemala to work at an orphanage, sanding down and painting desks a bright yellow and red, cleaning, and doing whatever they needed. Eventually, she headed off on a small boat and met a Mr. Kamal Jahanbein. His NGO, Kamal Foundation was the school building organization that CAFRED founders, Mauricio, Eduardo and I had volunteered with. She told him of a community she had heard of that needed a school in a far away village and they both went to see the site.

June fundraised and worked with Kamal Jahanbein and CAFRED founders on the school building project in 2008 in Rio Dulce, Livingston, Guatemala.

On her way back to Vancouver from a trip to the finished school in Guatemala in January of 2010, she visited us in Washington, DC. It was at that time that she told me the story about her son, Terry. On that same visit, I showed her the photographs that Mauricio and I had taken of our proposed project in Rio Frio, San Vicente, El Salvador. When she saw the pictures, she exclaimed, “that’s my school! I can do this project!” After that, she committed to be the principal donor.

I could not resist naming the school after Terry as I never forgot his story. I thought his story would be an inspiration to the children – and an example of the power and dignity of children. I told the community school board about June and Terry and asked if they would consider renaming the school, and they immediately agreed. (They joked only at the prospect of having to learn to pronounce his name:  “Terry Allen Fedorchuk”!)

I wanted June to be surprised by the name change when she came to the Inauguration so I asked her daughter in Canada if we could go forward with the idea. With Tracey’s and her siblings’ permission, we then approached the Salvadoran Ministry of Education.

To their credit, the Salvadoran Ministry required that we make a formal case for the proposal. After receiving the required paperwork from both CAFRED and the community of Rio Frio, they said that the decision would have to be approved by June, and that the approval would have to be in writing, with her signature attached. I told Tracey right away, as time was getting short, and she drove to her Mom’s to get her approval. After seeing the proposed school emblem with Terry’s name and the flag of Canada emblazoned in the crest, and a good cry, June wrote the letter to MinEd.

With June’s letter in hand, the Salvadoran government approved the name change.

-Gary Urra, CAFRED President

Rio Frio, San Vicente, El Salvador – Getting Ready

Today,  Mauricio, Olga and I drove to San Vicente (2hrs. from San Salvador) to check the progress of the fence. CAFRED always requires that the Municipality build a fence to surround any new school that we build.

The Municipality has the completion of the fence at 80%. Tomorrow we will have a follow-up meeting with the contractor, Jose, to set a start date for the school construction..

Community protecting fence materials by camping out on the property