"El Milagro" Top 5 Page for this destination El Salvador Travelogue by Ken_Weaver
El Salvador Travel Guide: 759 reviews and 2,231 photos
El Milagro village didn't exist before March 2000. Easter weekend of that year 150 Habitat for Humanity volunteers came from all over the Western Hemisphere to build the first 13 houses that would be the homes for displaced poor families. This project was initiated by AGROS, a faithbased organization out of Seattle, Washington. Unlike other land reform programs, AGROS goes to the open market and buys land at the prevailing price. AGROS then locates families that will commit to working together and will commit to repaying a long term, no interest note for the property. In turn, AGROS provides the upfront funds for building materials and other infrastructure. When the note is paid off in 10-15 years each family will have legal title to their home site and their agricultural plot, 1-2 acres. This is just one of about 20 villages in Central America that AGROS has helped to create. 3 of the villages have paid off their notes and the people are proud and successful landowners who never would have had this opportunity to break the chains of poverty in countries where 95% of the land is owned by 3% of the population.
One of the residents is showing off some of the flowers from his garden. Note the two houses in the background. They area about 6m x 7m in size and are constructed of cinderblock reinformed with rebar. The floor plan consists of a main living area and two bedrooms. The floor is cement slab topped with red tile. The roof is steel boxbeam reinformed with welded rebar and a composite type tile that reflects alot of the heat from the sun. The windows and doors are metal frame. The toilets are outside, self composting cement outhouses. Laundry and dishwashing is mostly done outside. Kitchen setup varies from house to house. Some have inside burner tops using natural gas...many have adobe ovens and cooking tops outside. A typical neighbor has an adobe shelter with a dirt floor, and no windows or doors.
Elvia is one of my favorite friends in the village. This picture was taken in 2000 when she was 12 years old. She is the oldest of 5 girls. Her mother and father and the family lived in a shelter made of black plastic and branches prior to coming to El Milagro. The shelter was located on a toxic waste dump because the family could not fine "squatting rights" anywhere else. In the late summer of 2000, the father left the family. Elvia helps her mother by taking care of the younger girls and working in the milpa, their corn field. She has continued to go to school where she is a top student. Her mother has taken on a job in factory in San Salvador where she works 10-12 hours a day and then rides a bus each way for an hour and a half. Several other families help the family but it is still tough on the mother, Ellie.
This picture was taked in July 2002. Our team of 19 from the Seattle area came down to build a cement and rock road leading into the village. Originally the road was just the red clay that is difficult to travel on when wet, which is most of the time. In 2000 our team build two stone bridges to allow trucks to cross streams that traverse that road. In 2001, the team build about 35m of cement road bed leading up to the outmost bridge. This last July, this team laid another 35m of road between the two bridges. All of this work is done in 100-110F weather with no power tools just pry bars to move rocks, sledge hammers to break rocks and lots of muscles to carry rocks, sand and cement bags.The cement is mixed with sand right on the ground and water is carried in buckets from the stream to make the concrete which is pour over the rock foundation and finished.
Life in El Milagro for the now 25 families that live there is much better than what they had experience before they became part of the community. Women's Enterprises, another Seattle organization is helping to set up micro credit banks to help start small businesses in the village. The villagers have learned new agricultural techniques from the the AGROS agronomist which have increased their crop yields. They are also growing a variety of other crops such as tomatoes, squash,and watermelon for sale in the market. The villagers also have learned to store their corn in large galvanized silos and put it on the market when the supply of corn is down and they are getting premium prices for their excess crops.
Mayra had no hope of even going to high shool before her family came to El Milagro. Her family lived in a near by city where her father supported his family by carrying heavy parcels on his back between businesses. They had no permanent home and were constantly hungry. Mayra's father is now one of the more successful farmers in the village, thanks to the agronomist AGROS has provided. Mayra did get to go to high school and has completed almost all of her requirements. She also attends a special school to prepare students for the university where she will attend before attending medical school, her current goal.
The residents named this village "El Milagro" which in Spanish means The Miracle. If you would like to find out more about other AGROS villages in Central America click on this link.
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