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As we close yet another year of hard work, challenges, successes, advances and solidarity, we want to share our year end report with you. See below the letter from Executive Director Leslie Schuld, and to see the full report which breaks down successes and challenges of each area, you may download it here.

“Along the way of life, someone must have sense enough and morality enough to cut off the chain of hate and evil. The greatest way to do that is through love. I believe firmly that love is a transforming power that can lift a whole community to new horizons of fair play, good-will, and justice.” - Martin Luther King Jr.

”I am not public security; I am a soldier of war. I do not bring piñatas, candy or kisses; I can only offer you bullets.”-Colonel of the Salvadoran Armed Forces.


Celebrating 10 year Anniversary Our Lady of Presentation CIS San Rafael Cedros Sister Relationship and scholarships

San Salvador, December 2017 

Dear Friends.

We want to express our gratitude for your continued support. CIS solidarity work continues to have an indelible and invaluable impact in forming Salvadorans especially women and youth to be protagonists for positive change.   CIS communities put into practice what they learn about human rights, a culture of peace, gender equality and respect for the environment side by side as they develop tools to survive and weave social fabric in their communities through organizing educational, economic and cultural opportunities.

We have much to celebrate from our collective accomplishments this year:

Our solidarity work is not only forming individuals and friendships, it is weaving the social fabric of communities.  This is critical on its own; but takes an even new importance given the U.S. administrations threats to deport and cancel legal status for over 200,000 Salvadorans who have been protected under TPS (Temporary Protected Status) since 2001 and DACA for young people who came as minors and are studying and working. 

We want to express our grave concern for the deportation of Salvadorans who have built their families in the U.S., own businesses, make up an important part of the working class, pay taxes and social security, have bought homes and have made their life.   They will come back to a country that is over populated, has 47% rate of unemployment, where violence has taken over some of their communities and they will return to conditions worse than when they left putting lives at risk.  Deportation will also have a negative impact on the U.S. economy where over 80% pay taxes and contribute to social security as well as take jobs that most U.S. nationals do not want – heavy construction, picking crops, janitorial work, and restaurant work.  Two members of the CIS family have lost their sons in dangerous construction jobs in the U.S.  And history has shown that breaking up families creates violence and instability in the U.S. and in El Salvador. 

CIS programs have been affected by the violence in El Salvador – we mourn the assassination of one of our scholarship students, Jose Ignacio Arias Arias and five members of his family from Estanzuelas in what appears to be the work of officials and death squads.  The Azules of Titihuapa also had to suspend their cultivation and production of indigo because of gang violence in San Isidro.  But compared to the prevention of violence through community organizing, formation and creation of economic, educational and cultural opportunities the positive impact far outweighs these setbacks. 

We want to ask for your support and solidarity action to build solidarity and accompany the building of community as alternatives to migration and violence:

1.  Make a contribution to our General Scholarship Fund so we can pay CIS promoters to do organizational and formation work, carry out our annual retreat, and guarantee that all the students currently on scholarship continue to study and open up more opportunities to go to university. 

2.   Join the CIS Election Observer and Human Rights Delegation February 26 – March 6, 2018.  In addition to being trained to playing a pivotal role in election observation, the delegation will learn about the roots of migration and violence and  women’s rights including visiting women who have been condemned to harsh prison terms for having a miscarriage.   The cost of the delegation is between $700 - $900, depending if you want a shared or single room.   Please write us at:   This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information.   If you can’t join the Mission, please consider giving a donation to cover press conferences, candidate’s forum, publishing the final report, and organizational support.  No gift is too large or too small.

We look forward to hearing from you.   Blessings and Solidarity,

Leslie Schuld, Leslie Schuld, CIS Director and Los Olivos CIS Representative in El Salvador

CIS Board of Directors: Mario Arévalo, Delmy Valencia, Eugenio Chicas, Wilfredo Medrano, Ana Aviles, Lisandra Soriano,  Carmen Acevedo, Verónica Arévalo, Manuel Batres.
Los Olivos CIS Board of Directors:  Mimi Jordan, Robyn Smith, Gary Ellis, Mary Frances Ross, Sara Mulrooney, Rosemary Biggins, Mike Tork, Steve Boyer, Susan Mull, Ed Osowski. 
CIS and Los Olivos CIS staff: Bellini Castro,  Oscar García, Joel Palacios, Vicenta Martínez,  Wilmer Erroa, Arturo Severo, Maira Romero, Delmy Linarez, Noemí Torres, Yessenia Flores, Luis Aguillón, Yeny Giron, Josue Duran,  Iris Hernandez,  Leonor del Carmen Huezo, Esmeralda Reyes, and Evelyn Portillo.



Celebrating 24 Years of Solidarity!




Spanish and English teachers visiting site of 1932 massacre, Izalco

The CIS taught 47 Spanish students in El Salvador and 60 students on-line.  The students continue to evaluate their classes as excellent and value learning about the social, economic and political reality of El Salvador.  We would like to thank St. Francis Community Services in Kansas, York University and New Brunswick University, both in Canada, Cristosal, Maryknoll, and Share Foundation for sending their volunteers to learn Spanish at the CIS and on-line. 

The CIS continues to have a low enrollment in classes in El Salvador due to the continued U.S. State Department travel advisory as well as international students fearful of traveling out of the U.S. may not be allowed back in due to the current administration policies. Thanks to on-line classes we are able to keep the Spanish School open and for the first time in years the school generated income instead of ending the year in a deficit.

Special thanks to our teaching staff:  Vicenta Martinez, the Language School Coordinator, has been able to manage in house and on-line courses and train teachers to use technology and popular education methodology.  In addition to permanent staff:   Oscar Garcia and Wilmer Erroa, the school trained and employed teachers throughout the year:   Maribel Guzman, Manuel Torres, Telma Martinez, Carlos Rivas, Wilfredo Miranda, Kathy Ruiz, Morena Barraza and Ulises Amaya. 

The Spanish School and the afternoon-social cultural program facilitated a variety of exchanges:  commemoration of the Peace Accords; Social Justice Day; International Women’s Day; Day of Water; Cultural Diversity Day; Day of the Cross; Earth Day; Teacher’s Day; Sexual Diversity Day; Commemoration of July 30, 1975 student massacre; Native People’s Day; Independence Day; All Soul’s Day; International Day against Violence against Women.  Visits included tours of the Historic Center of San Salvador (market; Romero’s tomb, Rosario Church, Cathedral, National Palace and Theater, Coffee Museum), memorial to civilian victims of the war at Cuscatlán Park, Migration Museum, the Jesuit University, Botanical Gardens, El Espino Eco-Park, San Salvador Volcano, Panchimalco, the Devil’s Gate, Word and Image Museum, the Anthropology Museum,  Maryknoll Soy Project in San Ramon, Mayan Ruins,  CIS organized communities, historical, environmental and recreational sites.


CIS English School trained 28 volunteer teachers in teaching English as a Second Language using popular education methodology and teaching techniques within the context of Salvadoran history– 9 from El Salvador; 13 from the United States; 5 from Canada and 1 from Bangladesh.  The teachers taught classes to a total of 189 students in four 9-week cycles during the year.  Additionally, CIS volunteers taught four sessions for 14 adults and 13 youth in the Municipality of San Miguel Tepezonteson Saturday’s.  .

We are grateful to the team of 28 long term volunteers who made this possible as well as the English School Coordinator, Joel Palacios:  Transito Diaz, Jill Stiemsa, Ann Legg,  Evelia Sierra, Elisabeth Miller (Tibby), Cathy Howell, Mary Yan, Laura Padalino, Abhijit Gopal, Rachel Kutler, Justin Weidman, David Chaparro, Carol Ayres, Maria Cornejo, Ali Kader, Brian Powell, Marie Olson,  Russell Sharif, Brittney Washington, Sara Hammaker, Zoe Blake, Carlos Iraheta, Rebecca O’Neil, Joel Palacios, Francisco Marroquín, Sandra Castillo, Alonso Barahona, Carlos Jüle

The English School participated in the popular referendum against Metallic Mining in Cinquera.  They participated in the International Women’s Day celebration, Earth Day celebrations, the Pineapple festival in Santa Maria Ostuma, the commemoration of the Massacre in San Francisco Echeverria, Gay Pride March, the July 30, 1975 anniversary of the student massacre, and the Calabiuza Celebration on All Souls Day in Tonacatepeque.   Volunteers also visited historic, cultural and recreational sites in San Miguel Tepezontes, Perquin, El Mozote, Cinquera, Tazumal, and Nejapa. On Wednesdays the volunteers organized a conversation club and pronunciation classes

The CIS provides 12 partial scholarships each English cycle to persons with scarce economic resources and 3 full scholarships to CIS employees and volunteers.



CIS Community Network meets every two months to organize workshops and analyze social realities – this year’s themes included social construction of gender with a facilitator from ASPIDH – Solidarity Association to Promote Human Rights; Mental Health facilitated by CIS promoter and psychology graduates Noemy and Wilmer from Estanzuelas; Environment facilitated by Global Platform, Human Rights and Migration with COMIGRANTE, Solidarity facilitated by CIS Director and promoters; Electoral Reforms and analysis of the reality. 

The CIS Community Network is made up of 25 grassroots organizations from 14 municipalities are participating in one or more CIS programs:   Scholarship and Youth Formation, Salvadoran Enterprises for Women, Clean Water, and the School for Solidarity and Social Transformation.  Participating grassroots come from:  

  1. Department of Cabañas:  San Isidro, Jutiapa, Cinquera, Ilobasco
  2. Department of Usulután:  Estanzuelas, Puerto El Triunfo
  3. Department of La Libertad:  Tamanique, San Pablo Tacachico, Comasagua
  4. Department of Cuscatlán:   Suchitoto, San Pedro Perulapán, San Rafael Cedros
  5. Department of San Salvador:   Tonacatepeque, Mejicanos
  6. Department of La Paz:  San Luis La Herradura, San Juan Nonualco


The CIS continues to integrate human rights focusing on non-violence, gender equality and the environment in all of its programs.   We do not have a separate area for human rights, still we have areas that complement our programs or demand special follow up.

AFSC – CIS has an agreement of cooperation with American Friends Service Committee to form 10 young people as human rights activists in Romero and Paso Puente Communities in Tonacatepeque. The work has included developing a micro-platform for peace, a risk map for youth, workshops in Self –Esteem, Human Rights and a life project

ROMERO COMMUNITY – After follow up on several grave human rights violations last year, the military base was removed from the zone and the Colonel responsible for the human rights violations including the assassination of two CIS builders and the harassment and threats of CIS scholarship recipients, students and CIS scholarship coordinator, was removed from the area.  There have not been human rights abuses reported to CIS this year since those steps were taken.

CIS, with support from Wainwright and District 5370 Rotary Club in Canada, is building a playground for youth to promote recreation for youth in a high risk zone where youth are susceptible to joining gangs.  CIS is completing the construction of the Library and Development Center for CIS/St. Elizabeth Scholarship students to have a safe place to do their studies, human rights workshops and access to computers and hopefully internet in the future.  All of these efforts have the objective of changing the reality for the young people in Romero and neighboring communities.

Foto2    foto1

Art Therapy classes in Distrito Italia accompany youth in high risk area.Gracias Chiuchiarella Family for School supplies for.  Romero Community                     

The Chiuchiarella family has donated school supplies to all the youth in Romero Community since 2008, giving kids an incentive and hope to look for alternatives to violence and migration, and help families with scarce economic resources to send their kids to school.

The Salvadoran Land Reform Institute, ISTA has agreed to provide title to the land across the street from Romero Community to have legal security for the water well and pump that provides potable water to the community and women’s indigo project.   When we have legal security, the CIS plans to promote a project for soccer and softball field and a community laundry center.

SAN MARTIN – a CIS Scholarship students supported by Revy Fair Trade was beaten up by the police and gangs this year.  The CIS accompanied the family to make a formal denunciation with the Human Rights Procurator and take safety measures.  

SAN ISIDRO – The Women’s Cooperative, Azules de Titihuapa, abandoned their indigo cultivation and dye processing due to an outbreak of violence in their community.  The violence stemmed from internal dispute in the gang over a love triangle that has resulted in 16 deaths this year, including 2 police.   Despite the fact the government has sent additional police and military patrols, the situation is not under control.  Entire families have moved out and no-one has cultivated their crops due to fear and insecurity.

CIS mourns the loss of one of our scholarship students from Estanzuelas, Jose Ignacio Arias Arias.  Ignacio and 5 family members were killed in a massacre on October 13th.  Ignacio was finishing his second year of high school in Accounting.  He was second in his class with a 9.5 grade average.  Men in police and special forces uniforms came into the house at 11 p.m.  They took the 6 family members  from the home.  They were shot all facing down in a ditch about an hour later according to neighbors.   The CIS is demanding an investigation and justice as well as accompanying surviving family members with psychological support.




CIS7thAnnualScholarshipRetreatinLa PalmaChalatenango.

The CIS works with 17 local Salvadoran scholarship committees and 17 sister organizations as well as individual donors to fund 159 youth to go to the university and 228 to go to grade school and high school, participate in leadership development workshops and community volunteer projects in 2017. We want to emphasize that the formation part of the program is as important as access to formal education to empower youth, develop leadership and be active in their communities.  We encourage the youth to dream and give back to their community.  In some communities the youth see the only alternatives for their future to be migration or joining a gang.  Accompaniment of the youth, especially in high risk situations, is an invaluable part of the program.

This year nearly 100 students will graduate:  13 University and 85 from high schoolSpecial congratulations to university graduates:   Selena Marisol Joaquin and Evelin Carolina Machuca Navaro from San Pedro Perulapan both graduating in Tourism Development; Gladis Lisseth Martinez Parada and Erica Azucena Echegoyen Santos both from Mejicanos and graduating with degrees in Communications and Business Administration respectively; Jose Wilmer Mercado and Eduardo Antonio Mejia Garcia from Estanzuelas graduating with degrees in Psychology and Communications;   Elika Ideli Lopez Cornejo from Isla El Espiritu Santo with a degree in Computers; Jose Gabirel Rojas from the Isla Tasajera with a technical degree in computers; Sandra Noemi Hernandez Recinos, Maria Rubidia Calles Nunes and Carlos Alfredo Cruz Ayala from San Pablo Tacachico graduating with degrees in Mathematics, Business Administration and nursing; Juan Carlos Garcia Rodriquez and Anabel Recinos from Comunidad Ellacuria graduating with degrees in Agronomy Engineering and Judicial Sciences; Yaqueline Zuleyma Chavez Acosta from Comasagua with a degree in Language and Literature: Flor Idalia Mendoza Galdamez from Cinquera with a degree in Education Science.  

The CIS has worked to organize new programs and scholarship committees this year in three communities:

·         Ita Maura Community in San Pablo Tacachico, at the request of the community and Sister Parish, St. Regis.  This program will begin in 2018.

·         Paso Puente, the neighbor of Romero Community.   A scholarship committee was formed.  Toward the end of the year the committee merged with Romero Community for security and deal with complicated issues facing youth in high risk areas.  The program will also coordinate with young people next door in Districto Italia who have been part of CIS art and mental health program.

·         San Isidro program got off the ground this year.  

There is not enough space to mention all of the scholarship student’s annual volunteer projects to “give back” to their community, but to highlight a few:

Ellacuria Community- organized commemoration of historic massacre; tutoring kids in math and English.

Estanzuelas: English classes for 6 – 14 year olds; preparing organic fertilizer for trees planted previous year; development of workshops on family communication and healthy co-existence; and leadership programs.

Isla Tasajera; La Colorada:   literacy courses; English, computer and science classes for kids; organization of clean up campaigns with students and community members.

Palo Grande, Suchitoto:  Environment, -elaboration of signs to raise awareness about nature and not littering; setting up community trash cans and pick up; literacy courses.


 Suchitoto:  Business plan for Pajaro Flor; storytelling to children in various communities.

San Rafael Cedros:   Set up a community library; classes on the environment; Planting and harvesting corn and sharing corn products – tamales, atoll, pupusas, etc.

Tamanique:   tutoring in English and computers; and studying for college entrance exam; environmental projects; monitoring and cleaning water purifier at schools.


 San Pablo Tacachico: reforestation in two communities and follow up; workshops for children on the environment; clean up campaigns; volunteered PeaceHealth Brigade.

Mejicanos:  Participation in pastoral youth group; youth formation programs and development of gastronomical festival at the San Francisco de Asis Parish.

Comasagua: Computer courses for youth; coordinate CIS Clean Water Committee – reviewing and cleaning purification units and filters; tutoring youth with difficulties.

Tehuiste:   Clean up campaigns; accompany health promoter in fumigating for mosquitos and prevention of illnesses and vaccinating dogs.

Cinquera:  Clean water committee reviewing filters and purification unit; cleaning river and nature areas; working with city hall to pick up garbage from villages.

Romero Community:  Coordination of Clean Water Committee and cleaning purification units and follow up with family filters; collaboration with women’s indigo processing.

Distrito Italia:   coordination of art therapy classes with Roque Dalton Library, health clinic and CIS; in Distrito Italia, Paso Puente and Romero Community. 

Paso Puente:   community clean up campaigns. Handcraft courses.

Llano Largo:   Coordination of CIS Clean Water Committee; clean-up campaign; formation project.

San Pedro Perulapan:  Coordination of CIS Clean Water Committee with filter training and environment and hygiene workshops; and water festival at General Francisco Menendez Education Complex.  Tutoring younger children. 

The CIS organized its 7th Annual Scholarship Retreat with the participation of 90 students, CIS promoters and solidarity partners from St. Elizabeth, First Congregational United Church of Christ and the Foundation for Cultural Exchange in La Palma, Chalatenango.  The focus of this year’s retreat was Human Rights and Youth, based on Salvador’s General Law of Youth and an Analysis of Conflicts. Global Platform and Antonio Rodriguez facilitated the workshops.


 We are continually looking for new partnerships to grow and broaden the program.  If you know a church, solidarity or community organization or institution who would like to be a part of this program, please let us know.



CIS is committed to formation of women and young people to have the tools to work for social justice and transform Salvadoran reality.   The School uses participatory methodology; makes plan to multiply what is learned in communities, and make action plans so that knowledge can be used to empower activists to take action in their community.

At the beginning of 2017, we culminated a School focused on gender equality with 25 women leaders from SEW supported businesses.  The School has special invited facilitators including Sociology Professor Dra. Cristina Perez from Dominican University in Chicago on sexual and reproductive health; Rosi Henriquez on entrepreneurship and the development of women led business; and Wendy Castillo on respect and Sexual Diversity.

In October we initiated a 6 month course focused on the environment in coordination with RACDES – Network of Community Environmentalists of El Salvador. There are 40 young people and CIS promoters participating which will culminate in the development of local environment projects and strengthening local clean water committees.



Representatives of women´s businesses meet with SEW Board member Susan Saudek

CIS works with our strategic partner Salvadoran Enterprises for Women – SEW to develop women’s businesses, empower women, and to contribute to community development.  Additionally, CIS develops relationships and networking to strengthen the businesses.

SEW/CIS biggest achievements in 2017 include the successful organic cultivation of the Jiquilite Plant and processing indigo dye in Romero Community;  the culmination of 3 year organizational and formation of women in Tamanique to launch an artisanal ice cream business on the coast of La Libertad and ice cream training provided by Ciudad Mujer;, and SEW/CIS promoters facilitated business plans with Jiquilite Women (Romero Community), Sausage a la Vista (Los Hoyos) and Leslie’s Bakery (Zacatales), and Pajaro Flor (Suchitoto).  CIS promoters and scholarship students, Josue and Yeny, studying marketing and business administration collaborated in the business plans.  We have started working with New Hope Women’s Group and Co-Partners of Campesinas to develop a Reception and food service business in Ilobasco.  SEW provided seed money to Creative Hands in Estanzuelas to expand their market.   Coconut candies produced on the Isla El Espiritu Santo expanded their markets and employ 11 women full and part time. 

Our biggest obstacles in 2017 include losing the indigo crop in San Isidro due to insecurity and violence in the area.   We plan to reassess with the women and see what the options are for the future.   Many of the businesses lack up-to-date business plans and legal structures to be able improve their income and efficiency, consolidate and graduate to self-sufficiency so we can move on to support processes with new women’s initiatives.


  Los Hoyos Bakery                          Tropical Fruits of Pacific Ice Cream         Tibby tasting watermelon ice 

Special thanks to Tibby Miller, and Brethren Volunteer Service for accompanying the indigo dye and organic cultivation processes in San Isidro and Romero Community and Tibby and Evelia Sierra writing up and translating business evaluations and testimonies and invaluable contributions to CIS programs

 To see the full report which breaks down successes and challenges of each area, you may download it here.