Summer 2022 newsletter
Ann Greig, El Salvador
Greetings from the Soy Program. I hope this finds you and your loved ones safe and healthy.
I regret to share that here in El Salvador the national reality has turned once again bleak. The country continues to struggle with gang violence, among other issues. On March 27, the legislative assembly of El Salvador approved a state of emergency. The government of President Nayib Bukele, citing a spike in violence related to the gangs, has suspended civil rights and imprisoned more than 35,000 suspected gang members. The situation has alarmed human rights groups and continues to increase the vulnerability of youth.
How has this affected the beneficiaries of the soy program? San Ramón is located at the foot of the San Salvador volcano. The soy program building, where our beneficiaries pick up food, is on a neutral block between two opposing gangs. Some families who live in San Ramón’s gang-controlled sectors send their teenage sons or daughters to pick up the food. Due to the current situation, these beneficiaries informed us that they would not be able to come to our building until it was safer.
Although this is the last year that the Soy Program will be functioning in San Ramón, it gives me joy that we have supported so many families and individuals with soy milk and nutritious food for the past 28 years, due to your gracious generosity. I will be eternally grateful for that support; and I can say the same for the beneficiaries, who frequently tell me how grateful they are for the program.
In August I have the unenviable task of informing the beneficiaries that this will be the last year the program will be functioning in San Ramón. Some have been in the program for 15 to 20 years. I have watched their children grow up. Others arrived for some time and then moved on. The door has always been open for anyone who asked to sign up.
I have been reflecting on the transfer of the soy program to Zaragoza; it leaves the families that previously benefited from that project without food support. Therefore, we will try to reach an agreement with the pastor of Good Shepherd Parish here, Father Carlos Peraza. We will propose to support the parish food program in exchange for the families formerly benefiting from the soy program becoming beneficiaries of the parish food program. I hope that Father Peraza will agree.
Since some newer members had never attended a workshop on making soymilk in their homes, we offered one, including a recipe on how to utilize the soybean curd. I told the women that I made my soymilk during the three months we closed for COVID. The process requires time.
I am writing this right after Pentecost Sunday, and the day’s reading from 1 Cor 12:13 has stuck with me: “For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body — whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free — and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.” I have used this reading countless times for reflection in Peru and El Salvador with the women, reminding them that we are one body and have different talents to contribute to the body.
We are bonded with the same spirit, and it does not matter what gender, size or social status you are. We all offer something to the group.
An update concerning the transfer of the Soy Program to Zaragoza: Fellow lay missioners Melissa and Pete Altman, who arrived in El Salvador in 2014, have now identified a needy community, Asuchio, with good leadership. This will be the place to implement the program. They are in the process of identifying beneficiaries and searching for a place to rent. I will keep you updated as the specifics become clearer.
Best wishes for a healthy and safe summer!
Please consider making a special gift to Maryknoll Lay Missioners’ “Walk With Us” campaign, which raises money for the recruitment, training and ongoing support of all of us lay missioners. We can only “walk with” the people here because you are “walking with” us. Thanks to matching gifts, every $100 given to the campaign in effect becomes $150. To donate ONLINE, click the “Walk With Us” button below. Thank you so much for your generosity!