For a rural Salvadoran youth, there are very few prospects in life. Due to increasing economic demands and poor educational systems, only about 50 percent of youth attend early secondary school (7-9th grades), and only half of these go on to complete high school. The majority of youth are left with only two options: to work in the fields or to work in the city. Working in the field means they will make little money and struggle to support their families. Working in the city means they will be subject to inconsistent pay, extortion, and unjust labor practices, in addition to being separated from their families.
One would hope that the educational system would equip students with the ability to pursue higher education and better job options. Rural schools, however, are understaffed, with class sizes often exceeding 50 students. The teachers that are present lack proper training. Many of them are more concerned with keeping their jobs than educating their students. The teachers who do have their student’s best interest in mind, often lack the most basic supplies necessary to teach. In the end, it is students who suffer the consequences of a broken educational system. Poor literacy and critical thinking skills leave youth unable to break the cycle of poverty that exists in rural El Salvador.
The plight of Salvadoran youth is complex, thus any lasting solution to address their needs could never be accomplished through a simple or short term effort. Our organization’s approach has always begun with education. For the past several years, one of the ways that we have done this is through hosting consistent bible conferences for the youth in our area. We believe that by teaching youth the Word of God in a way that is relevant to their lives, their eyes will be opened to the opportunity that exist for them to do God’s will in their communities.
This weekend, we are hosting an end of the summer youth conference, focusing specifically on the youth we have worked with consistently over the last 3 years. We want the youth to learn that opportunities to thrive exist for them. We want to teach them that the numbing effects of alcohol, social media, and drug use will not fill the void they feel on a daily basis.
It is our goal to offer meaningful job opportunities, creative programs, and community service projects to their area, and invite the youth to participate with us in the process. But first, the youth must make the decision to believe that another option is possible, that God cares for them and can use them to transform their communities. We believe this for them. But as is the case in any development effort, that counts for little if the people themselves don't believe. Connecting youth to God's Word is the best thing we can do for them. It is where everything begins. Please pray for our time this weekend.