We faced several challenges on our most recent trip to El Salvador in June. The goal of the trip was to conduct a pre-assessment of the project site, collect detailed community demographic and spatial information, establish a working relationship with the community, and determine the feasibility of the project alternatives. Unfortunately, the June trip did not have the outcome that we anticipated.
The community of Miraflores 3 is highly divided by political affiliations, to the extent that they cannot work together. The country’s presidential elections in March resulted in a president from the left wing party, which is the first time they’ve been represented since the end of the civil war in 1992. The community saw the same changes, the municipality changed parties for the first time in their history (the community was mostly formed after the earthquakes hit San Salvador in 2001). EWB has a rule that when we choose a community to work with, we need to make a commitment to work with them for at least 5 years on one or many projects, depending on how the projects progress. When we tried to host a community meeting in Miraflores, we saw very clearly that the political divisions within the community would jeopardize the success of any project as well as the success of any relationship.
Also, one of the project objectives was to design and build an extension of the medical clinic. When we asked the local NGO (Manos Amigas) if they would use local labor from the community for free so they could be more involved in the project (this is one of EWB’s strategies), Manos Amigas said they would use an external contractor, instead of seeking help from within the community.
By the end of the trip, we decided to stop working with the community of Miraflores on the project. We made that decision together with the Pediatricians for Central America’s Children (PFCAC), who initially invited us to a project in Miraflores. We are now working together with PFCAC to find another community where we can work together for health related projects.