Watercolor original by: Marie Spaeder Haas

December 2020 – Executive Director’s Reflections & News from El Salvador

“Where are they now?” “Do you have pictures of me when I was little?”

That was one of the first questions I got when I became Executive Director in 2004, soon after our website went on-line in 2003. The question came from the US, Canada, and Australia – from the many corners of the world where the war had driven El Salvador’s children. (We do have pictures and happily supply them when asked.) That leads to the other question,

“Where are they now?”

Many COAR children have gone on to create strong families and careers both in El Salvador and afar. Many others have struggled to overcome the disadvantages that life dealt them, despite the support they received at COAR. But we are not afraid to ask the tough questions. Common sense and a beating heart tell us all that any kind of stability and care is better for children than neglect, abuse, and terror. But there are serious concerns around how to provide the best care for children and how to measure it, how to know that you are doing as good a job as possible. That is the reason that in 2009 the Archdiocese made the responsible decision to make sure that COAR (and all Church residential homes for children) is accredited by ISNA, the government childcare agency, which itself is modelled on UN best practices around childcare derived from decades of study throughout the world. But the Archdiocese did not relinquish pastoral responsibility. The extra care that you see in all our stories and pictures of birthdays, school projects, mass, retreats, Christmas and Easter, the smiles and occasional tears, the homes where they form families, these are made possible by you, by your gifts. You allow our dedicated staff to care for these children. It is the Christmas miracle, like it is every year, when you make the world safe for another child. Thank you.

News from El Salvador

El Salvador weathered two hurricanes this fall, Eta and Iota. Some areas had heavy rain and landslides but COAR was spared. El Salvador is vulnerable to hurricanes, droughts, earthquakes, and volcanos. But the greatest devastation has been man-made: war. Sadly, even after it ended 30 years ago, the legacy of El Salvador’s Civil War, 1980-1992, still overwhelms the country: its economy, its politics, its criminal gang problem, and its on-going emigration crisis. The roots of that war, inequality and chronic poverty, remain. The long-term work of building strong civic institutions remains: free and fair elections, well-trained and honest civil police (versus the army), independent courts, and quality accessible health care and education. Salvadorans do not take progress in these areas for granted. We are committed to supporting the Archdiocese of San Salvador in its work to build a better and stronger El Salvador, one school, one clinic, one foster care home, and one child at a time.