Covid-19, Tropical Storms, and Solidarity

By Doris Evangelista | ARUMES, Joining Hands El Salvador

Silverio Morales at a march for world environment day. Photo courtesy of ARUMES.

As ARUMES, the Joining Hands network in El Salvador, we have worked for the past 8 years to build spaces for collective advocacy work and strengthen efforts, in coordination with other local organizations, to improve agricultural policies and eliminate toxic pesticides from agriculture in El Salvador.

What we do as a network goes beyond advocacy. We do not build things, but we build relationships of friendship and solidarity. Networking is always an opportunity to reflect God’s love to others.

ARUMES has succeeded in introducing values of friendship and solidarity into these collective advocacy spaces. At every meeting, we have a solidarity basket where all participants bring a fruit or something else to share with the group. This sharing has become a practice that allows us all to get to know each other deeper so that we may improve our collaboration.

The power of friendship and solidarity is clear in the story of Silverio Morales. In May of this year, Silverio wrote to our WhatsApp group to tell us he thought he was close to death. He, his wife and two of their children had contracted Covid-19.

Silverio and his family live in a rural area, in a dirt house, with no electricity or drinking water. They are a very poor family – small farmers who earn their livelihood from small-scale agriculture.

May 2020 was a time when positive covid-19 cases were on the rise in El Salvador, and the government was enforcing home quarantines.

Immediately everyone asked, “How can we help our colleague Silverio?” Our network members began collecting donations to help Silverio and his family. We were able to raise $300, but since he lives two hours from San Salvador, and we were not permitted to travel due to the quarantine we had to find another solution.

Fortunately, we were able to transfer funds to a friend in the area who then gave the money to Silverio. They were able to pay for food and medicine and in two weeks they were starting to recover well.

And then, Tropical Storms Amanda and Cristobal hit late May and early June with very strong rains and winds. Silverio lost his home in the storms while still trying to recover from Covid-19.

Again, all the colleagues from the different advocacy spaces began to ask, “how can we help?” We raised enough in personal contributions to purchase zinc sheets to replace the roof and cement to build new walls for Silverio’s home to protect the family.

The left photo shows the damaged wall of Silverio’s home. The right photo shows the newly constructed wall. Photos courtesy of Doris Evangelista.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, our network partners started a prayer chain to pray for struggling members, but also to intercede when they are in need of help. Many ARUMES partners have requested food aid due to situations of food shortage. Many are reduced to going out onto the main streets with white flags to signal that they need food.

ARUMES does not have funds for emergencies, but the Presbyterian Hunger Program reached out to see if the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance Program (PDA) could support ARUMES network families with emergency food, and fortunately PDA was able to help.

This is how ARUMES accompanies poor families. This is how we walk together.

We are reminded of the miracle of the loaves and fishes. Many families continue to need food and we continue to pray for the provision to arrive.

In this pandemic, we have read Nehemiah’s lament and cry over the destruction of the wall and we have seen people get up and work for the construction of a roof for a family.  We have seen miracles of healing in seriously ill bodies. The plagues of Egypt may come, but we can also believe that we are going to walk dry in the middle of the sea, be freed from the plagues and sing a hymn of Victoria. God is faithful, and God’s faithfulness is eternal.

The work of the Joining Hands initiative of the Presbyterian Hunger Program is possible thanks to your gifts to One Great Hour of Sharing.


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