Since its inception in 2006, Team El Salvador has provided 105 Monterey Institute students with the opportunity to hone their development and language skills while making a meaningful contribution to the lives of people in the Bajo Lempa region of El Salvador. This January, nine MIIS students were joined by two Middlebury students and, for the first time, a student from California State University, Monterey Bay.
Faculty director Adele Negro is the glue that keeps Team El Salvador together, but each year the leadership of projects is in the hands of students. The student-driven leadership model is, according to Negro, a key component of the program’s effectiveness. Another important factor is the consistency and longstanding partnership that has been developed and nurtured over the years with the two community partner organizations in El Salvador, la Coordinadora and the Mangrove Association.
This year, the students worked on four major projects:
- The “PLAS” Project, to help improve the functionality and implementation of the Local Sustainable Resource Utilization Plan.
- The Microcredit Project, to strengthen the administrative system of the NGO’s microcredit program under a new profit-based organization in order to improve its sustainability.
- The Public Spaces Project, to assess community perception and utilization of spaces and structures so as to answer the question: ”What makes for a strong, healthy, cohesive community?”
- A Photojournalism Project, to capture in visual and narrative forms the history, experiences and people characterizing the evolution of an eight-year relationship developed between Team El Salvador and its partners.
Many Monterey Institute alumni have spoken about the transformative effect their Team El Salvador participation has had on their studies and careers. Lauren Lambert (MAIEP ’15) appears to have a similarly meaningful experience: “While I have lived abroad on and off throughout my entire life, the three weeks I spent working in El Salvador contextualized what I am doing here at MIIS in a way that nothing else could have.” It “connected the dots,” and clarified how she can make the most of her time at MIIS, so that when she leaves she can have a more profound impact on what she sees as our shared “project human” – to leave this world a better place than when we arrived.