Read some extracts from Empower volunteer Katherine Wright's blog:
12 July: During the thunder storm which hit Suchitoto this afternoon the training venue was hit by a stray piece of lightning. No one was hurt, but the sound of the lightbulb blowing was enough to send us all jumping out of our seats! These first few days in El Salvador have challenged and surprised us all and we are just at the beginning of this amazing experience.
The 10 days of training are delivered by the Global Platform programme in Suchitoto and involves comprehensive sessions on all elements of development work from the Millennium Development Goals to country specific information about El Salvador's past. We are also attending Spanish lessons every morning in the local Spanish School, the teachers may speak no English but it is the best language course I have ever been on!
Salvadoreans have been very open to sharing with us their painful and still raw experiences during the Civil War (1980 to 1992) and this has confirmed my resolve to improve my Spanish in order to find out more. Hearing first hand accounts of the atrocities which took place here is shocking and upsetting, but you then begin to understand how far this country has come and the challenges it still faces. The Salvadoreans who have shared their reality have been very proud and keen to welcome visitors to their country who want to learn about their history.
17 July: Almost a third of the population of El Salvador live illegally in the US; 3 million individuals who have endured both a mentally and physically challenging journey, across 3 countries, in search of employment and opportunities not available in El Salvador.
Today, we heard a first hand account of such a journey; from a Salvadorean who returned last year after 3 years living and working illegally in the US. His story encompassed the lost hope of the Salvadorean youth, a group of people who have little prospect of employment, no matter how educated or skilled they are. Of the 27,000 who apply to the subsidised University every year, only 9,000 are able to take up places. Yet, an education has little purpose in El Salvador with graduate jobs virtually non-existent - and with any job at all in scarce availability, there seems little point.
Faced with the choice of unemployment in El Salvador or a dangerous journey to the US and the prospect of a job, it is understandable why so many choose the latter. If they survive the journey to the US and find employment, they are able to support their families in El Salvador and build a future if they choose to return.
The other viable option for youth in El Salvador is to join a gang and with no opportunities it is easier to understand why many do. Despite this, instead of investing in providing opportunities for young Salvadoreans the government has put in place stricter security measures and a greater police presence.
The inability of the Salvadorean government to invest in the future of 60% of the population (under 25s) is not a problem isolated to El Salvador. The issue of youth unemployment and a lack of opportunities is something we can see mirrored in the UK and beyond. Young people can be exploited by governments when it is convenient and cast aside when they are no longer needed, with no consequence.
These extracts were taken from Katherine's Progressio El Salvador Blog - check it out here
Photo: Empower volunteers at a meeting in El Salvador with representatives of the partner organisations that they will be working with. Katherine is second from right in the middle row.