River Road Unitarian Universalist Congregation

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El-Salvador — A Multigenerational Service Learning Trip

Due to increasing violence in El Salvador and current US State Department warnings, there will not be a trip in summer 2016.

A Multigenerational Delegation to El Salvador

Join a group from RRUUC and other UU congregations for a Learning Service Trip scheduled for June 18-July 2, 2016 (Proposed). Attendee delegates are needed to participate, assist, support the purposes of the Learning Service, and celebrate and have fun! Minimum of ten (10) participants with a maximum of 20. Applications required. Registration opens mid-January.

Purpose of the Delegation

The delegation is primarily for youth and focuses on a rural community in El Salvador where we have experience building ally relationships and have established ties of friendship. The purposes of the trip include

  • Having an immersion experience in a rural community of Central America.
  • Participating in intercultural exchange with other youth and adults in El Salvador.
  • Working in solidarity on water and sanitation development and “popular education” projects, focusing on sustainable development assistance.
  • Accompanying the Salvadoran people in their daily lives and learning about their economic, social and political lives.
  • Learning how to act as their allies in the United States.
  • Connecting to the LATN Task Force work at RRUUC: Immigration Film Festival; Fair Trade, and the Fiesta

Planned Program/Activities:

  • Spend about 8 days in a rural Salvadoran community where the delegation will support a community-designed project requiring physical labor.
  • Live with families and participate in daily life.
  • Visit campus of UCA (Central American University) and museum commemorating El Salvadoran quest for independence.
  • Visit San Salvador sites of note.

Arrangements/Contacts in El Salvador

The trip is arranged through Companion Community Development Alternatives (CoCoDA). CoCoDA is a U.S. non-governmental organization (NGO) supporting efforts of grassroots development in El Salvador. CoCoDA has extensive contacts with non-governmental and organizations in El Salvador. With these contacts, they select the development projects and make the arrangements for supplies and the living accommodations in communities where the project is located. CoCoDA has a vision of global community founded on just inter-group relationships and they work in partnership with Salvadoran NGOs to promote democratic social and economic development.

Costs (Estimated from 2014)

Participant Cost (administration, in country transport, lodging, etc)


Estimated Airfare


Estimated Chaperone Cost


TOTAL Estimated Cost


Plus $110-$150 Spending Money

Payment Schedule: A non-refundable $500 deposit must accompany the application with the remainder due after applications are accepted. Final payments are due 30 days prior to the trip.

**If financial assistance is needed, please complete the scholarship application.


Please complete the scholarship application when completing the application which will be found online by clicking here.

Application & Registration opens mid-January

Deadline is April 1, 2016 for application with deposit. Maximum number of delegates is 20; Minimum is 10. Complete the online registration by clicking here, downloading the application, and emailing it back to birikura(at)rruuc.org. RRUUC is happy to help with any issues related to online registration, application, and payment.

Service Hours

This trip confers eighty hours of Student Service Learning needed for graduation from Maryland public schools. It also applies to Student Service Credit for District of Columbia public schools and other schools.

Lead RRUUC Staff and Sponsoring Organizations

  • Beth Irikura, 301-229-0400, Religious Educator for Youth and Don Chery, 301-652-0259, LATN Task Force Member are RRUUC contacts at this time. Gabrielle Farrell will cover during Beth Irikura's sabbatical thru 1/15.
  • Latin America Taskforce Network (LATN) of River Road Unitarian Universalist Congregation (RRUUC). Since 1984, a group of members and friends of RRUUC have focused on justice and humanitarian aspects of the social, economic and political injustices faced by Central Americans in their home countries and in the Washington, DC area. Charlotte Jones Carroll is LATN liaison to the Delegation planning group.
  • Companion Community Development Alternatives (CoCoDA) CoCoDA is a U.S. non-governmental organization (NGO) supporting efforts of grassroots development in El Salvador. CoCoDA has a vision of global community founded on just inter-group relationships and works in partnership with Salvadoran NGOs to promote democratic social and economic development.
    609 E. 29th Street
    Indianapolis, IN, 46205-4199
    Tel. 317/920-8643; Fax 317/920-8649; e-mail: cocodaindy(at)igc.org
  • Yunior Medardo Gómez Alfaro, Delegations Coordinator, El Salvador TELÉFONO Celuar: 7500–3957 & 7753-7147
  • Correo Electronico: yumealfa(at)gmail.com

The History of RRUUC El Salvador Delegations

The first River Road Delegation to El Salvador was in June-July 1996. That year the group traveled to the rural community of Santa Marta where the group learned about struggles of the community to rebuild their lives following the devastating civil war that lasted from 1980 to 1992. The first delegation came into the lives of these people just 4 years after the signing of the Peace Accords that brought an end to the bloody 12 plus years of struggle. We heard the stories of the people, lived in their homes, and accompanied them to their fields, clinic, and the school that they were building. Delegations continued going to Santa Marta until 2009 and 2010. The Delegations then went to the community of Las Marias for two years, assisting them in the development of their coffee cooperative. Next the Delegations went to the community of Aguacayo for two years where they contributed to the building of an office for the community water project. And in 2013, the Delegation went to El Roble where they worked on the reconstruction of an elementary school building.

News from the 2014 El Salvador Delegation

July 9, 2014  Hi Mommy! And other mommys and daddys! We're all alive and well. Sorry for the email delay but we literally just didn't have internet access for a while. We've been working hard and learning lots of new words. Our group is awesome and we all get along súper well. We're just constantly cracking each other up and then we have relaxing reflections at night. Sadie and Steff are fantastic chaperones. Our bowels are all doing relatively well! And we've been talking about our poop plenty. We have med students from Indiana to ask about health questions and Steff is reassuring us with our medicines and that kinda stuff. Carli and Natalie and Steff are súper excited to learn Spanish and they're doing awesome. Please don't worry about us! We're great.

July 3, 2014   Greetings from San Salvador!   We made it here safe and sound, though yesterday was a very long day of travel. We made it through the first flight just fine, but it was the connecting flight that gave us trouble. We waited on the plane for over an hour before we took off because they had to locate some lost bags. On the plus side, Rosie made a friend from El Salvador-- a very sweet woman sitting next to her on the plane. We finally got to San Salvador around 8:45 and met Yunior, then made it to the guest house (called Hotel Internacional) by 10:30. By that time, everyone was completely beat, but they fed us some delicious pupusas and sent us to a very comfortable room. Now we're eating a breakfast of eggs, salsa, beans, and fried plantains. Que delicioso!  Until next time,  Your favorite delegation

July 6, 2014 Hola!  We're all doing great! We've learned a lot about the history of the country. Yesterday we went to the Divine Providence Hospital, where we learned a lot about Oscar Romero, a hero of this country. We ate a delicious vegitarian lunch, then drove to the war memorial, where we were atsonished horrified by the number of massacres that took place during the civil war. For dinner, we went to the university house that RRUUC donates to. We met students from that school, watched their dance performances, and learned about how much they value their opportunity to build their own education and to share it with others.We're heading to El Roble today. We'll try to email during the week but we may not have signal in the community, so don't be worried if you don't hear from us before next weekend.  We're all safe and having tons of fun, and really looking forward to getting settled in the community with our host families. Until next time, The best group ever!

2012 Delegation Blog

June 28  Hi Padres  After our early early arrival, we barely made it to the plane on time. United must have been shorthanded as it took a long time to check us all in, and then the security line was endless. Once on board, your babies seemed, for the most part, to collapse into sleeping pretzels.  The stopover in Houston we short and after a quick bite, we were on our way.  We emerged into an intensively hot hot hot airport, found our BIG BAGS, negotiated the immigration and soon were gathered up by our Cocoda leaders, Ivan and Marta. We are settled into the very cozy National Hotel, really a little inn on a side road near the downtown All the boys are sharing a room, as are the girls. We just returned from a great lunch at La Esperanza, a open air buffet surrounded by leafy plants. The kids are doing fine, if appetite is any indicator. So far, our instructions are  Don't put toilet paper in thejohn. And take only the food you plan to eat.lucky and bill

June 30th  Today is my third day in El Salvador. Alek turned on the lights at 5:00 AM because hethought his alarm had sounded, but he was mistaken and we slept for anotherhour. At seven, we congregated for  a meal of pupusas, plantaines, and fruit. Our first stop ofthe day was the church where former Archbishop Oscar Romero was shot. His clothes and other affectswere hunged and preserved on hangers, much like a shrine. We could see thesplatters of blood on the clothes where the bullet had entered his body. Thelove and attachment that the salvadorians feel towards Romero is staggering. Itis not uncommon to compare him to Jesus Christ. We also learned about themassacres of the jesuits, powerful religious figures that spoke out against thecruelty of the oligarchy.  Theprimary purpose of today was to learn about the war that ravaged El Salvador duringthe 70s and 80s. It’s been 30 years, but the wounds are still fresh.  To further educate ourselves on the subject,we went to a war memorial that was tucked in the back of a park. Written on thewall were the names of those who had died or had disappeared during the war. We learned about the "desaparecidos/as," boys and girls who had disappeared andhad either been killed or adopted by a member of the military. There wereflowers and memorabilia taped to the wall by various people’s names. While thewall reminds one of the violence and misery of the war, it also gives dignityand recognition to those who had died. We were wisked away in our bus and thentaken to a cathedral. We entered the crypt of Oscar Romero. The crypt was aspacious marble structure, and Romero’s body was kept in a stone vault carved withthe shape of the four evangelists on each side.  A sister spoke to us about Romero and gave us a picture ofhim surrounded by those he spoke for, the people. After this, we went shoppingin a warehouse filled with stores (basically all selling the same thing.) Wehaggled for trinkets like slingshots and shirts. After that, we went to a restaurantand sat down for some pasta bolognesse covered with cheese. With full stomachs,we traversed in our bus to a zipline. We were lashed, strapped, and harnessedto a metal chord, and we flew over dense grenery to another gorge. The last activity of the day was a visit to some collage housing. Young adults from Santa Marta talked to us about their program to put people from their villageinto universities.Their prudence and frugality with their resources is admirable, using a little to do a lot. After a big pizza dinner, we got some ice cream and went to bed.  Patrick Lansdale

July 3 Hola! Things are going well here. On Thursday evening, we received our first briefing from Carlos Garcia, who heads up the NGO Equipo Maiz. He gave us an historical rundown, explaining that how the scene was set many centuries ago for the civil war  that took place here from 1981 to 1992, how the two indigenous peoples descended from the Mayan and the Aztec were apportioned farmland on a fair basis and were able to sustain their families. This ended sometime after the Spaniards arrived in 1492 when the natives were conquered and their land exproprated. They were move at first to the mountains so that the large Spanish landowners could plan indigo, and moved later on when for economic reasons, the crop was shifted to coffee. All uprisings were brutally squashed: massacres were commonplace. When eventually, independence was won, the government became that domain of Spanish offspring who formed large farms, allowing the indigenous peoples small plots on the edge of their fincas in order to feed their families. A tightfisted military controlled the island right up to modern era, when finally the people said Enough and rose up, creating a guerilla army that would eventually change the country forever.  He took us through the Civil War, the horrific death squads, the bloodshed that drenched the country and finally the peace and transformation of the FMLN into a political party which in 2009 won the largest percentage of the vote in the assemly and last year, captured the Presidency.  

Yesterday was jampacked with visits to a church in one of the poorest neighborhoods where they are working hard to rehabilitate young gang members and to prevent other youth from joining. Gang violence is one of the country´s biggest problems. We fought our way through the traffic to visit another community project in another empoverish barrio, where youngsters are learning computer skills, making pinatas, dancing,  There was a joyous spirit in this place. Another highlight: our visit to the Catholic University where a lovely chapel commemorates the slaying of Archbishop Romero. Another room houses the belongings and photos of the various martyrs of the Civil War, the nuns and priest who were slain for working with the poor.

We spent the afternoon at the Legislature meeting with a first-term Alejandrina Castro of the right-wing Arena Party and Darmain Allegria of the FMLN. I would venture to say that those two parties are as far apart as our Republicans and Democrats. THe FMLN is feeing it´s oats, having captured the presidency and is hurrying to pass programs that meet the urgent needs for education, medical care and land reform.Today we will visit the National Cathedral, the large market, an pottery studio. It´s a privilege to be here with your kids.Tomorrow we head for the village. Lucky  

July 11  The days speed by for the delegation of 9 River Road youths and threea adults who have been ten days in the village of Aquacayo in north central Salvador.  All are healthy and engaged.  We have hadt fascinating meetings with village people on the subject of  the perils of migration to the U.S. and another session led by veterans of the savage civil war that still scars the country.  Today we spend the morning at the local school playing games with local kids and delivering a large pile of books, and other school supplies.  We have also activated a computer for the village centro to replace their old one.  tomorrow we have our farewell ceremony with the families with whom we have been living.   Friday we leave for a day at the beach before returning to DCA on Saturday.   Bill Marmon

July 12 Today and tomorrow are our last 2 days in Aguacayo. Early on Friday we will depart for La Libertad to spend a day at the beach before departing to the US on Saturday. Everyone is doing well and having fun. Tonight we have invited all the kids of the village to watch Toy Story 3 and we will make popcorn for 50 kids. It will be a blast. I hope everyone is doing well, with regards,  Ivan





Photos from the 2007 Delegation