The Next Generation: Facing Reality with a SMILE

Did you know that 53% of all Salvadorans are under the age of 25.

One half of the population is college aged or younger. That is a huge population beginning to enter the work force but with little life experience to guide them and a society in which “home” may be a cinder block house with no electricity or running water.   These same young people who will set the course for their generation risk being shot by gangs each day as they walk to school.

Only 38% of the Salvadoran population is between 25 and 60 years old with just 9% of the population over 60. Compare El Salvador to the USA, where approximately 50% of our population is between 25-60 with 34% under 25 and 18% over 60 (US Census 2010).

The work of COAR, the Archdiocese of San Salvadoran and all of the NGO’s serving El Salvador is monumental. We are ushering in the next generation of parents & leaders that must resolve the perennial challenges facing the country while innovating new approaches, new industries and new policies.

Post Civil War Salvadoran Society is complex:
The Salvadoran currency is the US dollar.  
Prices throughout El Salvador are equivalent to those in the USA.  
The cost of a gallon of gasoline at the time of this article was:  $2.86 
The cost of a hamburger, fries and drink at a local restaurant was:  $15.00 without any tip
The cost of an electric oscillating fan ranges from $29.99-$49.99 – even at Walmart

Yet the new MINIMUM WAGE in effect 1/1/2017:
Workers in general agriculture make:  $200 per month or $6-$7 per day
Worker who cut/collect sugar cane make:  $225 per month of slightly over $7 per day
Workers in factories/maquiladoras make:  $295 per month or just under $10 per day
Workers in retail stores and general “commerce” make: $300 per month or $10 per day

Imagine working 8-10 hours a day, 40+ hours a week – only to earn $200-$300 per month while all of the expenses are at about the same level that you pay currently in the USA.  Educators and Professionals are not subject to the minimum wage laws.  But, imagine spending years in college only to find out that as a teacher or psychologist or accountant, you will make less than $1,000 per month.  Yet, a new car with no frills still costs $20,000-$30,000.  You can forget the idea of ever owning a new car.  Even as a professional, you will ride a public bus, walk, or if you are lucky, buy a very used car.

And, for so many rural families, they wake each morning in a cinder block house, no running water and no bathroom other than a hole dug behind the house or a simple latrine.  If they are lucky, there is electricity for some light and a radio.  Cooking, for so many, still includes firewood fed stoves that inevitably lead to increased cases of asthma and lung cancer for the women, children and elderly who spend their day working around the smoke filled room.  But, even in this climate of poverty and gang violence, today’s young people have hope at COAR. 

As Blessed Romero said ” We plant the seeds that one day will grow. We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise”. ” Let us not hide the talent that God gave us on the day of our baptism and let us truly live the beauty and responsibility of being a prophetic people.”  

Hope, Security, Love and Education: These are the things that we can give the kids at COAR.  I’ve included these smiling faces so that you can see the HOPE that does exist in the HEARTS and MINDS of the children that you support!