In one of the most violent places, hope persists.
El Salvador is plagued with endemic gang violence, extreme poverty, and the exploitation of families trying to create a meaningful life. Rather than independent problems requiring targeted solutions, these crippling issues make up a complicated web of knots, connected to each other, that ensnare real people.
But here’s the good news—– there’s a Sister at every one of those knots, heads down, working away.
There are over 1,000 Catholic Sisters in El Salvador, all living and working in some of the toughest and most violent neighborhoods. For many in El Salvador, Catholic Sisters represent a counter narrative to the violence and fear communities experience daily. Instead, they’re one of the most beloved and trusted people in their lives.
Our Work With the Sisters
Over the past 3 years, Alight teams have been in El Salvador, launching our partnership with Catholic Sisters—the Color Movement—and working with Sisters and the neighborhoods they envelope with their sanctuary spaces. Alight is their shock absorber, removing previously existing barriers to obtaining significant funding that have prevented substantial growth. We follow their lead, shaping our programming to help meet the most pressing issues facing the communities where they live—violence prevention, youth empowerment, and protection.
The movement is up and running in three startup communities in El Salvador: La Chacra, Apopa, and San Julian. And since COVID-19, we’ve expanded to reach even more Sister-led communities.
Trainings and Workshops
From virtual violin seminars in collaboration with the Global Shapers, to English classes, mentoring, environmental awareness, and workplace readiness training, we’re gathering young people and communities at large at our new youth hubs. We’re about to launch a civics engagement workshop ahead of this year’s elections, inviting everyone in to build a better future, together. And, we’re continuing our collaboration with MARTE, holding art workshops in communities twice a month, helping kids build their creative confidence.
During this year of unexpected challenges, the Color Movement was able to support both the emergency response for COVID-19 in seven communities and Tropical Storm Amanda in the La Chacra and Apopa communities. We repurposed the youth spaces to allow for social distancing during COVID-19, giving kids the ability to continue their formal education while schools are shut down. The sisters and youth also took part in “The White Flag Movement,” a program to signal hunger: white shirts, aprons, and tablecloths were placed outside of homes and on roadsides signaling a family in need. Recognizing the white flag, Sisters and others sourced meals and food kits that were delivered to those locations.
We’re also undertaking a “train the trainers” project with youth coordinators in La Chacra and Apopa, getting people up to speed on technological tools so they can support a continued virtual education. We also provided workforce development training to build pathways for jobs during a very tough economic time for them and their families.
The Color Movement works to empower youth, and in the process, help stem and prevent the violence endemic in their communities. Together with Salvadoran partners like LERO Design Studio, we’re building youth hubs inside of the Sister-led centers, filled with computers, makers spaces, and community corners where youth can meet and plan community service projects. We’re funding ongoing field trips to locations these kids might otherwise never visit, exposing youth to the beauty El Salvador has to offer and giving them opportunities to see themselves in a new, positive way.
And, we’re transforming the youth center spaces themselves, bringing color, joy, and light with the Color Movement brand identity. Once dark and drab spaces are now infused with brightness and a refreshed identity, linking all centers under the movement.
Doing the Doable
Through Alight’s Changemakers 365 initiative, we’re funding small-scale projects that fill in the gaps of what Sisters need to keep things going. From school supplies for kindergarten classes, equipment for the women’s exercise group, computer gear for the youth labs, to COVID-19 prevention supplies, doing the doable has allowed the Color Movement to be nimble and flexible, showing up with little boosts in resources that have a mighty impact.
A True Co-Creation
Our work in El Salvador is a true co-creation, collaborating alongside not only Catholic Sisters and the people they support but also bringing in local and global powerhouses like IDEO.org, Global Shapers San Salvador Hub, Minnesota businesspeople, Sisters Rising Worldwide, LERO Design Studio, and MARTE, San Salvador’s modern art museum.
Together, we’ve designed a movement that’s all about joy, shining a light on abundance in El Salvador, while preventing violence and reactivating local economies.
And this is just the beginning!
We invite you to come along for the ride. Please reach out to Raquel Orellana with questions at RaquelO@WeAreAlight.org.
El Salvador: Related Information
A Colorful Collaboration
Since the Color Movement launched in El Salvador, the Global Shapers and LERO Studio have been such amazing partners. They’re always willing to support every initiative and to serve as a networking resource, identifying and connecting the project with various local actors who can help maximize the project's impact.(more…)
Sisters on the Frontlines
Partnering with Catholic Sisters to fight COVID-19 Around the GlobeDid you know there’s a network of 642,000 Catholic Sisters around the world, many of them on the frontlines of COVID-19? Nuns have a long history of standing alongside some of the most vulnerable communities during times of great need, doing the doable to protect them as fiercely as they can. Recognizing the unique power of this Sisterhood, we began our work with Sisters in El Salvador and at the border in 2018 under the Color Movement initiative. Now, in this unprecedented moment, we’re helping them protect the people they serve all over the world. And, we’re working to keep them safe through virtual emergency planning sessions and trainings - so they can keep going. Read More
The Sisters transform realities and restore hope, even in places where violence persists. The Color Movement is a recognition of their work, a way to join them and make their impact even bigger."
- Raquel Orellana, Color Movement Program Lead