Issues & Results
Needs in Central America and Rwanda. Central America is home to 43.2 million people, nearly tripling in numbers since the 1950s. Half of the people are women, and 40% are under 14 years of age. Over 70% of the population of El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala live in poverty. The civil wars that dominated the 70s and 80s resulted in devastation of the social infrastructure region-wide. Historical privatization of land; displacement and high levels of migration, especially of the poor; environmental degradation and deforestation; growing rates of crime and gangs; and natural disasters have magnified this devastation.
Rwanda, in Sub-Saharan Africa, is also challenged by high levels of poverty: nearly 65% of rural Rwandans live on under $2.00 US dollars a day. In the last ten years Rwanda has made significant development progress: they have established a national healthcare program, have more than doubled primary-school enrollment, and have increased per capita income more than six percent. Yet Rwanda remains one of the poorest countries in the world, with high levels of food insecurity and malnutrition. Economic opportunities for women are limited, particularly in rural areas. One out of ten children die before their fifth birthday - of those who live, over 50% are chronically malnourished.
Issue progress: health care, clean water, safety, and community development. Hundreds of indigenous, grassroots leaders from El Salvador, Guatemala and Rwanda who live with these conditions have decided to work on their own community development needs, using the successful PICO model of community organizing. Through one-to-one conversations in their neighborhoods and congregations, they have identified their top priority issues and conducted research to find solutions. In Central America, they have:
- Launched a health care campaign between El Salvadoran grassroots leaders, local government officials and the health care department which successfully cleaned up a heavily polluted water drain. Lack of access to clean water is a major problem across the country. They have also held health care fairs and educational sessions on contamination prevention.
- Held candidate forums in two parishes where 600 community leaders engaged with mayoral candidates regarding the most pressing concerns of the community. Leader-organized forums stood in sharp contrast to the tense pre-electoral climate in Central America, demonstrating tolerance and capacity for dialogue, discipline and a respectful multi-partisan environment.
- Held a large action to improve public safety by Cuyultitan leaders in November 2009, gaining the commitment of the Mayor and City Council members to improve alcohol control regulations through municipal ordinances. Leaders presented over 600 citizen signatures to show the Mayor the community need for restrictions to alcohol access, because public intoxication is a safety issue for families and elders.
- Started a national campaign through a March 2010 action with 1,500 people participating to reduce escalating violence and crime that plagues El Salvador. The "United Neighbors = Safe Neighborhoods" campaign began in May, through a new agreement with local and national authorities and El Salvadoran grassroots leaders.
- Gained a commitment from public officials in Guatemala, organized primarily by indigenous Mayan women, to clean up polluted central washing facilities.
In Rwanda, hundreds of grassroots Mumeya leaders have built and opened their first health center. Over the past two years they have:
- cleared acres of land for the health center
- laid the foundation after breaking up tons of rock
- planted over 1,500 trees to prevent soil erosion
- worked with public officials and technical advisors regarding construction of the site
- completed the first three rooms of the health center in May 2009
- secured placement of two health staff from the Ministry of Health, serving a population of 30,000 gained commitment for pharmaceuticals from the Ministry of Health, and obtained donated medical equipment and furnishings
- begun daily provision of medical services, hiring a local leader as a health worker
- gained commitment by Kirehe's Mayor to rebuild the road from Kirehe to Mumeya which was nearly impassable - the road is now completed and the clinic is accessible to surrounding villages
- began construction of the next set of rooms, including making all the bricks for the rooms themselves, so that in-patient facilities will be available by the end of 2010
- trained leaders in Kagitumba and Nyamata to conduct one-to-one conversations in their congregations and communities to surface key issues, and trained Anglican clergy and leaders to build new tools for post-genocide reconciliation