Temporarily living in a rural community of El Salvador, I happen to encounter interesting non-governmental organisations that work to make a difference in their small community. For us Progressio ICS volunteers, we came across CoCoSi, based in the community of Santa Marta, almost on the border between El Salvador and Honduras. The Asociación Comité Contra El SIDA Cabañas (CoCoSi) works to reduce new infections of HIV in rural areas, along with supporting people living with AIDS and the HIV virus and doing work in the fields of sexuality and gender. Although in many ways talks about sexuality are still delicate and hard work, CoCoSi was founded in 1999 by a group of 15 and 16 year-olds, when addressing these topics could have had serious consequences for the people involved. The brave young workers did not back down under the pressure though, and CoCoSi has come a long way since those times. Involving transsexual and homosexual men can still be a hard task, and now people and entities turn to the Association first, to ask for their help.

The Committee currently works on three projects: social and political advocacy, prevention and accompaniment and mitigation. The political side of the first project covers actions to bring the public opinion to the government: this includes supporting women’s rights, victims of violence and the accompaniment of people with HIV. CoCoSi also pairs up with organisations who want to increase education on the matters of sexually transmitted diseases and sexual diversity. The social project deals with promoting the Association through the local radio, Radio Victoria, where three spots a month are broadcasted and a radio programme, which lasted 14 years, has just come to an end. Through these means, CoCoSi has managed to attract and involve people in need of help or just wanting to give a hand in the name of freedom and equality.

The prevention project works with young children and students, as well as adults, like teachers and parents, to increase education on sexual diversity and prevent sexual discrimination and the increase of HIV. Workshops include women’s rights, human rights and self-defence in case of violence.

The accompaniment and mitigation project is not less busy. Along with taking care of people living with HIV in isolated places of the Cabañas district and Honduras, CoCoSi reaches out to a prison too. Here HIV positive prisoners are taught how to take care of themselves. Monthly meetings happen within the prison and in the community as well, to offer support to people in need. House-to-house visits take place for HIV positive people living in isolated areas and also craft making workshops, like how to make shampoo and mirrors, so they are able to make a small income.

Through 15 years of work, the Committee has gained not only local, but national and international recognition too. Providing support work and using creative means, like drama and the radio, CoCoSi has made a successful change in the community and will surely achieve much more in the future.

Written by ICS volunteer Giulia Nespolo