An outpouring of solidarity in doubly harsh times - Maryknoll Lay Missioners
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Our soccer coach Esaú Alemán walking in the flood area to give supplies to families in need.

Here in El Salvador, this has been an especially difficult time for the people in marginalized communities. We have been in a strict quarantine from March 21 until June 15, with many families not being able to make enough money to provide food for their children. White flags can be seen in many houses, indicating that the family inside is in desperate need of food and supplies.

Esaú, on the right, giving food to families in the flood.

This situation only got worse at the end May, when El Salvador was hit by Tropical Storm Amanda. It rained for eight days straight, causing massive flash floods and landslides. Thousands of homes were destroyed and dozens lost their lives, including an entire family of seven who were washed away by the flooding. Now, El Salvador is dealing with two humanitarian crises at the same time, with many people in the poor communities having to rebuild their lives during a lockdown where they have not been able to work for three months.

During these extremely harsh times, I have been so impressed by the amount of solidarity and love shown by the Salvadoran people. Communities have come together to give food to those in need and set up shelters for those who have lost their housing. Community organizations, churches, non-governmental oranizations and individuals have been delivering thousands of bags of food to the poor.

FUDESCA, the local group that I work with, has given over 150 bags of groceries to families in the community. There are many people donating their time to help to help those in need in the crises. I can see the face of God in all those who are living out the message of Jesus to love your neighbor like yourself. This outpouring of solidarity has shown me that the message of hope is alive in the Salvadoran communities and that by working together we help create a better world in the middle of crises.

Our 15-year-old scholarship student Ruth Salazar giving supplies to a neighbor affected by the flooding.

This new reality has also had a great impact on the lives of the children and young people in our educational programs. All in-person classes have been suspended since the middle of March. This has been especially difficult for children who live in marginalized communities and have very little access to computers and the internet. Young people can be found climbing trees so that they can get a signal on their phones just to be able to study. The suspension of classes is especially hard on an already beleaguered Salvadoran education system, where only 40 percent of kids finish high school. Teachers are doing all they can to teach from home, and classes are being given on television every day. Many children are still not able to get the support that they need to be able to continue to study from home, and this global crisis has put their education in doubt.

However, most young people have shown that they are very determined to reach their dreams, and continue their education. Our college students have been volunteering time to tutor high school kids by phone, so that they can understand their classes. I have been on call 24 hours for the kids to ask me questions as well.

One of our college scholarship students, César, has been staying with me so that he can take his classes online. He has not been able to go back to visit his family since the middle of March. He is very concerned about his parents and siblings not having very much food to live on, but his family wants him to continue studying and reach his dream of being an engineer. These kids are making big sacrifices to continue their education and also take time to help people in need in their community.

Even though I am stuck in my house and cannot visit them, I feel extremely honored to accompany them on this journey for a better future. I am so proud of all the young people, and know that despite the crises, the future of El Salvador is very bright.


Larry Parr
Larry Parr joined Maryknoll Lay Missioners in 2007 and for 15 and a half years worked in youth, educational, sports, and leadership and community development programs in Las Delicias, a community northwest of San Salvador.