The People at the End of the Road – Reflections on El Salvador by Trish Murphy, SHARE Board of Director and Vice Chair writing about her impressions of SHARE’s work after visiting project sites in El Salvador.
The people at the end of the road....those are the people that SHARE helps. I had heard that expression a few times over my last three years with SHARE. Both Bob Thomas and Les Frayne use that expression and they know of what they speak. For me it had a nice ring to it...but, truthfully, not much more...until this past March when I got to see the reality behind those words in El Salvador. I want to tell you a little about that trip and I want to talk to you a little about the people.
We often refer to the projects that SHARE is doing in Central and South America. The “stoves” project, the literacy project, the cattle project...but the reality is those projects are people. They are the poor and disenfranchised people of countries where poor and disenfranchised can be a way of life but they have shown great determination and strength to take what little they have to turn it into something better with a little help.
Let me get back to the people at the end of the road. When you drive down a paved street and the street turns into a cobblestone road which later turns into a gravel lane and the gravel lane eventually becomes a dirt path ...then you are at the end of the road and can find the people who live there...the people that SHARE helps.
Like the Literacy group we met at the end of this road...where all ages and genders come to learn the basics of reading and writing and more. They also learn basic life and job skills which have proven to be successful in improving levels of employment and income.
One woman who was part of a literacy group, who told us how grateful she is that now, when she has to put her mark on an official document, she no longer has to use a finger print but can write her name for the first time in her life. She can go into town with written directions and find where she’s going because she can read the directions AND the street signs. Think about it...imagine you are walking along the streets of a new place and the street signs are filled with markings that mean nothing to you. Or reading the instructions on the seed packets in order to plant the seeds to grow the food to help your family.
SHARE with the help of CIDA funding and our southern partner ANTA supports literacy groups providing the opportunity for Salvadoran government accredited education to over 800 adults in 40 communities.
The people at the end of the road. Drive off the highway on a rutted laneway across what seems like miles of open land through terrain that gets flooded every year but right now seems like a desert.
This road ends with a farmer and some cattle. His family and extended family live in a small house nearby. By no means what I had come to picture in my mind when I thought of the word “farm”. But the pride in his eyes as he showed us his herd of strong healthy cattle told me that he would have a lot in common with farmers right here. The herd is not big but the ability to sell one cow can double a family’s yearly income. It only takes a little for a lot to happen.
We travelled to the ends of a few roads...and at the end of each road was a group of people with an idea or a plan that required a little help from SHARE to get off the ground both in terms of dollars and advice and they, in turn would help their families and others in the community.
All of these are great ideas but without the people and their desire to work hard to improve things for themselves, their children and their communities they would be nothing more than ideas.
There are still more roads to take ...and more people who need a hand up...people at the ends and even those living on the side of the highway waiting for the chance to change their life just a little.
Whenever you are thinking about SHARE I ask you to picture people who live at the end of the road...they are what SHARE is all about.