Thursday, February 18, 2010

Working to Alleviate AND Prevent Natural Disasters

Published on our SHARE e-newsletter, February 18, 2010. To subscribe to our e-newsletter, email Laura at

A phrase that can be heard here in El Salvador is that there are "no natural disasters," rather there are natural phenomenon, but that disasters are a result of human error. An example of this is when in
places like El Salvador, heavy rains hit, and it is the poorest who lose everything due their poorly constructed homes that are built in the riskiest places. We saw this in Haiti when a 7.0 earthquake killed over 200,000 people, while the 6.9 earthquake in San Francisco in 1989 killed 63 people. Planning for disasters and prevention can make high-risk areas less vulnerable. However, like Haiti, El Salvador is incredible vulnerable to natural disasters. People live in constant fear of another hurricane like Mitch, Stan or Ida, or another earthquake, like the ones that hit in 2001.

On November 7th, 2009, disaster struck again when torrential rains from Hurricane Ida swept over El Salvador, destroying homes and crops in some of the most marginalized communities. SHARE responded as quickly as we could and with the support of individuals and groups in the United States, we were able to provide relief to communities in the departments of San Salvador, La Paz, San Vicente and La Libertad.

Yet we know that the most holistic and sustainable way to support these communities is not through disaster relief alone, but in combination with "gestion de riesgo" or "risk management." Risk management is a concept that is well known in El Salvador, and is taught in popular education workshops across the country. One way of managing risk is through prevention such as building sturdier homes out of cement and not aluminum sheets or adobe. Or organizing the communities to demand that their government fixes the roads, builds the damns and works to do everything necessary to prevent that these natural disasters will have less horrific consequences. That is one of the reasons that we at SHARE feel that it is so important to focus on organizing communities year round, so that when things like the heavy rains occur, communities can quickly start working with their local governments and NGO's to start to rebuild. We were amazed as we saw the differences between communities with active Directive Boards and those with no or little organization. It was so much easier to coordinate donations and work plans with communities who were organized. Another important aspect of risk management is quick and effective response to disasters, so that people don't start dying of dehydration and injury after the disaster has occurred. For that reason SHARE is part of the SPHERE Project, which is an international network of organizations that are trained to provide the quickest and most effect response in situations of humanitarian aid.

(volunteers clean up after flooding in Aguilares)

Through emergency relief, long term rebuilding efforts and risk management, SHARE hopes to support the rural communities as they work towards stability and sustainability. Thanks to all of our generous donors, we have been able to provide the following provisions to communities in El Salvador:

  • 150 gas stoves in Aguilares and El Paisnal, San Salvador

  • 50 Christmas baskets containing basic necesities such as beans, rice and oil in Aguilares and El Paisnal, San Salvador

  • 300 food packages in Verapaz, San Vicente

  • 86 food packages in Santiago Texacuangos, San Salvador

  • Basic food relief to 270 families in Aguilares and Southern La Libertad through the World Food Program

We hope to continue to support those communities in the long term rebuilding process such as replacing destroyed crops, rebuilding damaged wells and latrines, mental health initiatives and relocating homes to a safer location. We also want to support the process of risk management through supporting community organizing initiatives and stronger citizen participation. To support these efforts, you can make a donation to SHARE on this link here.

(A family receives their new stove)

We would like to extend a special thanks to those who have donated to disaster relief: the Salvadoran Community in Houston, Texas, the Salvadoran Community in San Francisco, Good Shepherd Parish in Wisconsin, Good Shepherd Parish in Kansas City, the Detroit Sister Community, St. Sebastian's in Wisconsin, Friends of El Salvador, Liz and Mike Hanna and all the other individuals and groups who donated to the relief effort. We are grateful for your generous support and solidarity with the people of El Salvador.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Join the Romero Vive Campaign

From our friends at the Salvadoran American National Network (SANN)


The Salvadoran American National Network (SANN), in collaboration with other organizations to commemorate the 30th Anniversary of Martyrdom Monsignor Romero, wants to request you to unite for the “Romero Vive” campaign. To participate, you will need to sign a letter requesting the President of El Salvador, Mauricio Funes, to name our airport, International Airport of Mons. Oscar Arnulfo Romero. (sign the letter at )

The name assigned to the airport will become a tribute to his legacy. Not only will it be significant for the current and future generations of our country, but also a symbol of peace, love and compromise of a different nation; a nation committed to truth, to justice and to a deep vocation to democracy. In spite of having many challenges in our country, if united, we can create and achieve social peace, defeat violence, grow economically and socially, respecting and saving our environment that we need so much.

Please visit our website and mark the action(s) that you and/or your organization can support

For more information write us to

Ways your organization can support:
  • Your organization, church, club, association can support the petition
  • Send a letter from your organization, church, club or association to President Funes
  • Hold an educating and commemorative event at your organization for the 30th Anniversary of Monsignor Oscar Romero (to use the SHARE Romero week packet, contact Tedde at
  • Initiate a campaign with your contacts to individually unite
  • Pray and invite that others unite in prayer on March 24, 2010

Letter to our base from SHARE Director Jose Artiga

February 11, 2010

Queridas amigas y amigos de SHARE,

Warm greetings from Washington DC where we are under several feet of snow.

I am writing to you today to elaborate and update on a few challenges we as a SHARE community encountered in the final months of 2009. First, Hurricane Ida left many victims and much destruction. However, thanks to the international community, reconstruction is underway. We want to say “Gracias” to each of our sister parishes, communities, schools, universities, foundations, religious orders and individual supporters for your generous response to this crisis.

SHARE was also blessed by the support of the Salvadoran community in the US, in particular the coalitions that raised and channeled their support through SHARE from Houston, TX and San Francisco, CA.

SHARE has been presente with the communities affected by Hurricane Ida since day one. Through your kind support, we have delivered over $42,000 in emergency aid, and are committed to assisting in any ways that we can throughout all phases of reconstruction. I want to thank the entire SHARE staff for the tremendous effort and dedication on this emergency.

The second challenge in the struggle for social justice and solidarity has been the assassinations of community leaders organizing against the mining of gold in El Salvador.

We have also had a number of very positive events happen this year. At the celebration of the 18th anniversary of the Peace Accords this January 16th, President Funes apologized on behalf of the state to the people of El Salvador for human rights violations committed by the government of El Salvador during the war. In the context of the commemoration of the 30th anniversary of Monseñor Romero, SHARE has taken the lead in a coalition to pressure the government to accept the recommendations of the Inter American Human Rights Commission of the OAS. We will continue supporting our partner organizations as they demand implementation of the recommendations, including the repeal of the amnesty law.

We are happy that 60 plus delegates will be going to El Salvador this March. We are planning to convene all of the delegations attending the 30th anniversary commemoration of Monseñor Romero in Cabañas this March 21st to express our solidarity. We will also pressure for a full investigation of the murders of the mining activists, for an end to the repression, and to stop the mining.

We want to express our gratitude to each of the sister parishes, communities, schools, and universities, to each promoter and individual for your faithful and ongoing support. You make our mission to walk with the organized poor of El Salvador possible. We count on your support to continue our mission.

Additionally, as you may know, due to a decrease in funding, we had to close our office in San Francisco in August of 2009, and consolidate our work in our office in Washington, D.C. Also, this January due to lack of funding, we had to let go of our Local Development Program Officer, Carmelina. We thank Angela, Teresa, Sara, Claudia, Guadalupe, Luis and Carmelina for their many years of leadership, commitment, wisdom and love to SHARE. They helped make SHARE a wonderful organization and SHARE will not be the same without them. Les damos mil GRACIAS.

We hope to fill some of these positions again as the economy recuperates.

Here is the list of our current staff:

Washington DC:

Jose Artiga, Executive Director

Jillian Leslie, Administrative Assistant

Elizabeth McMekeen, part-time development

El Salvador:

Marina Peña, El Salvador Office Director

Theodora Simon, Grassroots Coordinator

Cristian Menjivar, Administrative Assistant

Danielle Mackey, Grassroots Delegation Coordinator

Laura Hershberger, Grassroots Solidarity Education Coordinator

We are currently holding meetings in our Washington DC and El Salvador offices to determine the work plan for 2010 which we will share with you when it is complete. With fewer resources we will be more strategic and realistic on what we can do and do it well.

Once again, we thank you for your past support which has been invaluable, and we ask you to continue walking with us. You are the lifeline that allows us to continue our work with projects that positively impact the lives of our Salvadoran brothers and sisters, as well as to offer delegations, tours, education and updates.

We recognize that some of you may have experienced delays in communications from SHARE. We sincerely apologize for this inconvenience as we continue to adjust to less resources and a smaller staff. Thank you for your understanding and support.

Please do not hesistate to write or call if you have any questions. Looking forward to continued partnerships and solidarity.

With great appreciation and un fuerte abrazo,

Jose Artiga

Director Ejecutivo