In 1998, in the wake of a series of devastating hurricane-generated floods and earthquakes in Central America, Guillermo Gonzalez, a native of El Salvador and a member of the St. Andrew congregation, approached the Church to ask if it could provide financial assistance to support the construction of housing for residents of a small village in that country, named Buenos Aires. Buenos Aires is a village of close to 1,000 people — over half of them under 18, and badly in need of many basic necessities. It is located in the hills, up a badly rutted road, midway between Sonsonate and the country’s capital city of San Salvador. The church and its members generously contributed over $35,000 to that initial effort, and the funds were used to pay for medicine and supplies and to construct 54 dwelling units for the village.
After meeting with village leaders, local government officials, and various local non-profit organizations St. Andrew put together a five-year plan for what it hopes to accomplish in Buenos Aires. Rather than helping with a few projects in one village and then moving on to another village, St. Andrew has made a long-term commitment to stay in Buenos Aires and help the village meet as many of the needs of the villagers as possible.
Since St. Andrew sent down the initial emergency funds in 1998, the church has been a part of many projects in the village and has sent three work groups down to El Salvador. The first work group went to the village in October of 2002 to construct a pre-fabricated 60-foot long metal building, which is used by the village as a combination school and community center. A second team was sent to the village in 2004 to build a community center after the church purchased the plot of land where the community center was to be located and then donated both the land and the building to the village.
In 2007 the church sent a third team to the village to build an additional school room as the village had outgrown the three-room school building the church had built in 2002 and a second room that World Vision Canada had constructed in 2006.
On April 4, 2010, a fourth team left for El Salvador. The project this time was the construction of a playground as well as a basketball court that also doubles as a mini soccer field.
In October 2018 a fifth team took a trip that included meetings with the principal of the school to assist in setting up an English-speaking program (K-6). In a meeting at the school, while our team was working on the bakery project, the principal reached out to us, explaining that the students continuing on to middle and high school are at a disadvantage because they lack this skill; proficiency in English helps them continue their education and obtain higher-paying jobs, rather than dropping out and working as laborers, or worse, taking jobs with the higher paying drug operators.
It is the goal of St. Andrew to serve as a model to other organizations and individuals who wish to help in similar ways in El Salvador. We are more than happy to speak with you and share what we have learned so that you can choose a village to support them as best as you possibly can. If you would like more information about St. Andrew Presbyterian Church and its work in El Salvador, please feel free to contact Stacey Schoeningh, our Mission Coordinator.