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Casa de la Solidaridad - News & Events

Casa News & Events

  •  Remembering Paul Locatelli, S.J.

    Wednesday, Jul. 28, 2010

    As the Santa Clara University community continues to mourn the loss and celebrate the life of Paul Locatelli, S.J., we wish to express our solidarity from El Salvador.

    Over the years, we have been fortunate that Paul took time out of his busy schedule to regularly visit us here in El Salvador. About once a year he would come down and give a talk to the Casa students during the final retreat of the semester and celebrate the despedida (going away) mass. The students always appreciated his presence. Honestly, however, I don't think Paul came for the students. He came because the people of El Salvador somehow filled him.

    Moved to Tears
    Every time Paul visited, he made it a point to visit the Quintanilla family. The 'Quints' as we call them are a remarkable family who, during the war, had to flee their home in Suchitoto to escape the wrath of the military. They suffered greatly during the war, losing two children, and having to live in the basement of a church for two years. Rosa, the mom, is the cornerstone of the family. One night, while drinking hot chocolate in their humble home, Rosa told Paul her story. Paul listened attentively for two hours as Rosita shared the joys and hardships in her life. Trena and I remember very vividly. Paul's eyes filled with tears as he listened to Rosa's life story.

    Paul was always generous with his time when it came to our four daughters (Sophia, Grace, Hannah, and Emma). Whenever we visited SCU, he would always make time to visit with them. He especially enjoyed escorting them to the bookstore so they could pick out a special gift. The love our family shared with Paul was a grace. When we told our girls he was sick and was going to die, they were very sad.
    Paul, Sophia, Grace, Hannah, and Emma
    Sophia asked if she could see him one last time. Nine days before he died, Mark (Ravizza) and Trena went to visit Paul in the hospital. He was asking about the girls. They told him that Sophia wanted to see him. He said that he wanted to see her and encouraged us to break the hospital rules and sneak her in. We did, and Sophia and I had the chance to say goodbye to Paul and let him know how much we loved him. For Paul's generosity, we are grateful.

    Casa de la Solidaridad
    On April 4, 1999, Trena and I met Paul Locatelli, S.J. for the first time. We had recently been hired to start Casa de la Solidaridad and were invited to Easter dinner at the Jesuit community. Of course, we were a little nervous to meet the 'president' but he laid our fears to rest as we talked about how both he and Trena came from rural beginnings. Any new initiative, like Casa, is vulnerable. There were times over the past 11 years (especially in the early years) where the whole program could have been dismantled. If it weren't for Paul's commitment to the Casa model of education, the Casa certainly would not be here today.

    We give thanks to God for the gift of Paul Locatelli, S.J.

    Kevin Yonkers-Talz

    Fr. Locatelli
  •  The Meaning of Solidarity

    Wednesday, Jul. 28, 2010

    This speech was given during the celebration of the 10th anniversary of the founding of Casa de la Solidaridad.

    "Sisters and brothers, for me this is a day to give thanks to God, for the opportunity to be here together again, after 10, 9, 8, 7 years….Or maybe it’s only been one year, with all of the young students from the Casa de Solidaridad. They have passed through different communities, experiencing a closeness with our humble people, with our culture, with our faith and hope that each one of the families has offered to them. What is for us, for our Christian base community, Pueblo de Dios en Camino, solidarity?

    In the current global moment, solidarity should be understood not only as the capacity to respond effectively to the needs of those who suffer most, but also as the commitment to denounce those conditions that create the inequalities that victimize these people who need our help.

    Solidarity means to create an integrated and permanent proposal in order to overcome, little by little, this way of life that dehumanizes us and tears down our dignity as people. In this context, the Casa de la Solidaridad is, and must continue to be, a privileged space to foster the following aspects:

    • To enable an open and fraternal cultural encounter that allows us to overcome the vision of racial, cultural, and technological inequality that inculcates us in this system.
    • To promote within the participating youth that 'solidarity' is something more than a stage in their formation, that it is a value and a practice that takes a lifetime.
    • To question those attitudes and anti-values that link us to this unjust and exclusionary system.
    • To give the communities that welcome the youth a more prominent role, allowing them to offer their particular support in the formation and the experience of a practice of an encounter in solidarity.

    We thank those responsible for this program at Santa Clara University in the US , the directors here, of the Casa de la Solidaridad: Kevin, Trena, and their collaborating team, for the opportunity that they give us to share an experience of life with the young students.

    Thank you to the teachers, to those responsible for the house, and to the youth who have come to celebrate this twentieth anniversary. Thank you for passing through our great country, for our people who struggle for life, for the spirit of faith that our communities transmit to the students, for the challenges and strength that our martyrs draw to them.

    Thank you for getting to know us as we are and that both, you and we, leave our mark."

    -Anita Landaverde from El pueblo de Dios en camino


    Meaning of Solidarity
  •  Casa Alums Earn Fulbright Scholarships... Again.

    Wednesday, Jul. 28, 2010

    We are proud to announce that for the second straight year, two Casa alums have received the prestigious Fulbright scholarship here in El Salvador. That puts the total of Casa alums earning a Fulbright scholarship to eight!

    Here are our eight Fulbright scholars, and some information about their research:

    Steve Hege (Fall 2001)

    Mike McMahon (Spring 2005)
    My Fulbright Teaching Assistantship took me to Madrid, Spain. In addition to conducting social research, I also worked part time as an English Teaching Assistant in a bilingual program in a secondary school. I trained my students in Model United Nations (MUN) rules and procedures, formal writing and debate skills, and research methods in preparation for the city-wide MUN conference that took place at the end of the term.

    Students researched and debated such topics as Global Warming, Genocide in Darfur, and the UN Millennium Development Goal of achieving Universal Primary Education. One of my students was selected to participate in the International MUN Conference in New York City.

    The research component of my Fulbright Grant was aimed at studying the social effects of globalization in Spain. I focused on current immigration trends and the response of the government and Spanish society at large. I took courses on globalization and immigration at La Universidad Complutense in Madrid, interviewed Spanish and American professors about current trends, participated in various seminars throughout the country, interviewed dozens of undocumented immigrants in Madrid and compiled their personal narratives, and presented my research at La Escola d'Orient's annual conference on globalization in Mallorca, Spain.

    Maggie Hargrave (Fall 2005)
    My Fulbright Research Grant provided me with the wonderful opportunity to study and live in Sucre, Bolivia. My research looked at the effects of rural to urban migration amongst Quechua women and children in the department of Chuquisaca, Bolivia. As a point of focus, I explored the use of traditional medicines and the practice of ritual healing in an urban setting. The idea was to get to the heart of what it means to live within the Quechua cosmovision in an increasingly urbanized and westernized space. On the flip side of that is the question of what it means for the city of Sucre and those that identify as non-indigenous to have such a strong indigenous influence in their urban/non-indigenous culture and tradition. I worked closely with women in the market place and children at a Quechua cultural center for child workers (lustrabotas, chicleros, lavanderos).

    My Casa experience was very important to my research. Casa -- and the thinking that I was inspired to do by my many Casa-mates -- helped me to view academic research in a comfortable and productive way; I began to view 'research' in the language of conversation and understanding.

    Allison Ramirez (Fall 2005)
    Allison Ramirez returned to El Salvador on a Fulbright grant from 2007-2008. Along with another Fulbright researcher, she produced a documentary entitled The Safety Valve: Understanding Contemporary Salvadoran Society, which focused on the economic, social, and cultural impacts of the civil war, the phenomenon of migration, and the growing epidemic of gang violence on El Salvador. Allison did research both within El Salvador, and along the route Central American migrants take through southern Mexico. Additionally, Allison has been involved with COFAMIDE, the Committee of Family Members of Migrants who have Died or Disappeared, since 2006. As part of her Fulbright year, she created a proposal to help fundraise for the group to travel to Mexico on a 'Journey of Hope,' to search for their family members and demand respect for the human rights of migrants. Allison continues to collaborate with COFAMIDE and plans to continue working in this area.

    Christopher Hallberg (Spring 2007)
    Lower respiratory tract infections are the leading cause of death in low-income countries. Nebulizers are medical devices used to treat a wide variety of respiratory ailments, but traditional nebulizers require electricity to operate and are cost-prohibitive in developing contexts. Lars Olson, Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Marquette University in Milwaukee, WI, invented a low-cost nebulizer that doesn't require electricity. Chris Hallberg worked with the Ministry of Health to implement the nebulizer in rural El Salvador.

    Beth Tellman (Fall 2007)
    Beth divided her time between disaster relief and disaster research after devastating rains following Hurricane Ida in November 2009. Her research focuses on community resilience to 'climate shock' in the context of deadly landslides due to Ida in the municipality of Santiago Texacuangos. She presented her work at UN University Institute for Environment's Protecting Environmental Migrants Summer Academy (July 2010). Her research inspired the founding of Colectivo CEIBA, an NGO working to reduce social vulnerability to disasters (see or to donate via PayPal). After raising $30,000 with the help of other Casa alums, CEIBA was able to implement programs in trauma therapy, art therapy, organic gardening for food security, and community organizing focusing on disaster prevention. She decided to stay in El Salvador for another two years with the support of VMM (Volunteer Missionary Movement) to coordinate and fundraise for CEIBA.

    Jenna Knapp (Spring 2008)
    I will be researching the effectiveness of the gang violence prevention and rehabilitation programs that Catholic Relief Services affiliate Quetzalcoatl runs in San Salvador. I aim to explore the effects of the increasingly hard-line political approach toward gang violence on the work of grassroots violence-prevention NGOs like Quetzalcoatl. Additionally, I hope to assess the successes and challenges of restorative justice programs given the shortcomings of the current corrupt, punitive justice system.

    Olivia Holdsworth (Spring 2009)
    I will spend this year working with Probusqueda and accompanying mothers of the disappeared. Probusqueda is a human rights organization which promotes the the search, reencounter, and reintegration into families of disappeared children. It also works to reestablish the victims' right to identity and promotes their moral and material repair. I think this will be an exciting and challenging opportunity for me to collaborate with an NGO doing work unique to El Salvador, to create a space for these mothers to tell their stories, and hopefully to design a study that looks at the psycho-social effects these disappearances have on women that can be useful to the organization in the future.

    Olivia Holdsworth