• Community building and construction in Paso Puente

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  • Community building and construction in Paso Puente Community

  • Next Election Observation Mission in 2021

  • Language School

  • Small Businesses for Women

  • Providing Access to Clean Water

  • Scholarship Recipients 2019

As we close yet another year of hard work, challenges, successes, advances and solidarity, we want to share our year end report with you. See below the letter from Executive Director Leslie Schuld, and to see the full report which breaks down successes and challenges of each area, you may download it here.

“I will not tire of declaring that if we really want an effective end to the violence, we must remove the violence that lies at the root of all violence: structural violence, social injustice, the exclusion of citizens from the management of the country, representation…” – SaintOscar Romero of El Salvador.

San Salvador, December 2019


Dear Friends,

We want to wish you happy holidays and express our gratitude for your support to CIS’ solidarity work – empowering communities to be architects in their own social and economic transformation over 26 years! 

A transformation is taking place in El Salvador, where, for the first time, the government is prioritizing investing in the most marginalized communities in El Salvador; previously the only government presence in these areas was police and military.   Real investment in social fabric is taking place, including: dignified housing; potable water; roads; community centers – with art, hip hop, skate boarding, computers, and libraries; 6,000 university scholarships and vocational training; and other social investment.    Government ministers and their teams are visiting these communities daily instead of sitting behind a desk.   Government ministries are also coordinating. With earlier administrations, communities had to visit as many as seven different ministries, multiple times, to resolve one problem. Now the information is shared, and the ministries come to the community to facilitate solutions. The results are palpable, with the percentage of Salvadoran immigrants arriving at the U.S. border lowering significantly, as migrations from Honduras and Guatemala surge in 2019.   At CIS we know these transformations do not take place overnight and they are complicated processes, but we are happy to see a government empowering the most left-out communities and young people!

With this opening, CIS approached the government about potable water in the Paso Puente Community and sewage for some 5,000 families covering Distrito Italia, Romero, Paso Puente, and other nearby communities.  We informed them of the poverty and social exclusion.   CIS has been accompanying these communities with the request for potable water and sewage since 2008, always being rejected.  Within days of a government visit in July, they started working on a potable water system and promised to work on a sewage system within three years.  They asked CIS to be partners in building dignified homes for families living in deplorable conditions.  They have offered vocational training for the at-risk youth to complement CIS scholarship programs in the area.    Paso Puente Community is not well organized, and we foresaw many difficulties in taking on such a complex project.   But with the new government offering housing subsidies, we knew we had to strike while the iron is hot.  In October we began building the first 15 dignified homes of 54 approved by the government in Paso Puente.  The Government will provide a subsidy of $3,500 and CIS has committed to raising $4,000 per home to complete a dignified home.  Homes for the Heart in Kansas City also committed to help CIS raise a big chunk of the funds needed.  With our experience building 65 homes in Romero Community in 2016, we knew we had the experience and trust to be partners with the community and the government.  

The process has helped CIS to better understand the needs and to work more effectively with the community.   Above, I mentioned marginalization, and my understanding of the word has deepened in this process.  We found that youth are stigmatized and not able to get jobs if they live in that zone; families live in homes made of plastic, tin, and bed springs, with dirt floors; and families lack potable water and sanitation. When we began to make personal visits, we found that many young women who head up households cannot read or write; their kids are not in school, even though it is a stone’s throw away; women lack family planning as well as knowledge of sexual and reproductive health; more than a handful of kids who are deaf or with minimal disability have not received any formal education; and kids are regularly beaten by authorities. In short, instead of hope or vision, we found generally perfect conditions for cultivating gang members. 

In just a few short months CIS was able to facilitate a literacy teacher, increase scholarships, and start to build dignified homes, but we need your support for continued social transformation in Paso Puente and other communities where CIS works.  

Below are a few highlights of additional CIS solidarity, empowerment and transformation work in 2019:

  • CIS Scholarship and Leadership development program included 495 students this year! 104 students graduated:22 university students and 82 from high school, with leadership skills and local projects focusing on protecting the environment, clean water, literacy, English and Computer courses, and art and mental health programs for youth in high risk zones. 
  • Women’s businesses have continued to professionalize with additional training in the process of becoming legal businesses, including: sanitary and hygiene certification, sales training, filling out and paying government tax forms, improving and broadening product line, and more. Manos Creativas (Creative Hands) in Estanzuelas graduated as a business and is training another group of women with economic needs to learn sewing to complement their embroidery and handicraft business.
  • CIS School for Solidarity and Social Transformation completed a 7-month leadership course with 40 community leaders and CIS social organizing staff – with a focus on gender equality and human rights.
  • Five women falsely accused of abortion had their 30-year sentences commuted to 10 years and were released from prison. In addition, Evelyn was absolved after spending 33 months in prison. CIS provided care packages to women released from prison with only the shirts on their backs, as well as scholarships to the women and their children, so they can have an opportunity for the future.  
  • CIS scholarship students visited St. Patrick’s Church and St. Peter’s Church in Kansas City in November, and the CIS Director and Delegation Coordinator were invited to give a workshop on solidarity at the School of the Americas Watch Conference and vigil at Ft. Benning, Georgia.
  • $4,000 will complete a dignified home for one family. (Specifically, $1,200 will place a roof; $300 will provide a cement sink; and $1,500 will build a bathroom and absorption well.)
  • $75 will provide clean water to a family for 10 years and train and raise awareness about the environment, hygiene, clean water, and proper use and care of water filters.  
  • $ 500 a year will subsidize health care or pension fund for one of CIS dedicated team members.  
  • Join the CIS St. Oscar Romero 40th Anniversary Delegation – Solidarity and the Struggle for Social Justice in El Salvador Today!  March 19 – 26, 2020. In addition to participating in vigils commemorating St. Romero’s struggle for justice, we will visit marginalized communities, women in prison, CIS solidarity projects, and analysis of the reality.   The cost of the delegation is between $700 - $900, depending on whether you want a shared or single room.   Please write us at:   This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information.  See flyer on last page for more details.

We ask for your support and solidarity action for CIS to strike while the iron is hot in transforming communities and those who have been left out for decades!

We look forward to hearing from you.   Blessings and Solidarity,

Leslie Schuld, CIS Director and Los Olivos CIS Representative in El Salvador

CIS Board of Directors: Wilfredo Medrano, Delmy Valencia, Mario Arevalo, Veronica Arevalo,  Hector Diaz, Eliseo Meléndez, Cathy A Howell.
Los Olivos CIS Board of Directors:  Mimi Jordan, Robyn Smith, Gary Ellis, Mary Frances Ross, Sara Mulrooney, Rosemary Biggins, Mike Tork, Susan Mull, Ed Osowski, Kerm Fendler. 
CIS and Los Olivos CIS staff: Bellini Castro, Oscar García, Víctor Andaluz, Vicenta Martínez, Wilmer Erroa, Arturo Severo, Maira Romero, Delmy Linarez, Yessenia Flores, Luis Aguillón, Yeny Girón, Josué Duran, Iris Hernández, Leonor del Carmen Huezo, Esmeralda Reyes, Evelyn Portillo.

To see the full report which breaks down successes and challenges of each area, you may download it here.

CIS needs your solidarity and support!


Please donate generously to CIS solidarity work for social and economic transformation.