TROPICAL STORM AMANDA plunged into Central America without warning Saturday night. It hit El Salvador especially hard with its torrential rains and mudslides taking everything in its path. Our scholarship coordinator sent 20 photos yesterday of people in water up to their shoulders searching for the missing swept away. The storm is expected to remain stalled for the entire week. We have been busy sending notes of concern to all our friends, pastors, scholarship students for their safety. News of El Salvador gets little attention in U.S. press. We wanted you to know how dire the situation is there at this time.
NOTE: In addition to this story project we provide scholarships to Salvadorans in need. Currently we are proudly supporting over 25 students. Recently we got a surprise note of thanks from a former student we helped several years ago, a professor. He just completed his Master’s degree in Latin American Theology from the University of Central America. He thanked us for our support saying without our help this success would never have been possible. Your generosity of financial support for this program is always appreciated. GRACIAS!
COVID-19 has shattered countless happy graduation traditions in what would have been the month for high school and college events here in the U.S. Salvadoran school systems run a different calendar, but the events are no less special to those families. When walking into the most humble thatched dwelling of a campesino community with barely a tarp for a roof, what is it that greets you on the wall of the one room? When meeting virtually any Salvadoran for the first time, what do they show you on their cell phone as they swell with pride? It is always graduation photos of their children or grandchildren. And I don’t mean necessarily the high school or college graduation photos, but sometimes even preschool ones. And these appear to be professional, posed, air-brushed photos at that. They are SO proud of these photos. The Salvadoran kids are just the cutest kids anyway. (If our candid photos taken out the window of a moving vehicle at 50 mph are acceptable, it stands to reason that a professional’s touched-up portraits will be of exceptional quality.)
Salvadorans seem to thrive on these rite of passage events such as the graduation from one school setting into the next level, which are highly celebrated in the Latin culture. At some schools kindergarteners wear caps and full-length white cloth gowns at their formal ceremony when they graduate to first grade. The “upperclassmen” sing songs to welcome these younger children joining their midst in the new school.
I can’t help but compare the formality of the Salvadoran preschool graduation to the informality of an upscale American preschool graduation in my own recent experience. There were no formal photos, no formal caps and gowns. We literally tripped over the young graduates in the hallway as we entered their classroom minutes prior to the ceremony because the kids themselves were still on the floor of the hall gluing and taping the poster board circles to the squares for their (self-made) mortarboard “caps” and hanging the yarn “tassels” onto them. Parents sent in snacks and the children worked together to make the punch. Entertainment consisted of the children singing songs with a CD accompaniment and showing pictures of what they want to be when they grow up. All adults were laughing and crying at the same time with lots of separate cameras snapping candid pictures for posterity. Different cultures celebrate in different ways.
Similar experiences between American and Salvadoran graduations come at the higher levels, high school/college graduations. Names of graduates appear in the local papers. And in both countries, there are those unanticipated, last minute, add-on graduation expenses such as diploma, cap and gown, and formal photos.
One of our Salvadoran scholarship students was soon ready to graduate and wrote us in a panic when she suddenly discovered the costs required to graduate were over and above the tuition fees we had provided and well beyond her family’s resources. We helped her.
She followed up with a warm and gracious thank you note and invitation to attend her graduation. Wish we could have attended when she earned her law degree.
It is a distinguished achievement to attain a college degree in El Salvador where this level of academic performance remains the exception rather than the norm.
We are proud of each of our graduating scholarship students! It is bittersweet that due to Covid-19, schools and universities have been suspended around the world wreaking havoc with graduations.