Year Joined MKLM: 2007
City: Canton Las Delicias, La Libertad El Salvador
Focus: Civil & Human Rights, Economic Development, Education
Project(s): Community Development Las Delicias
People Served: More than 250 children, 15 mothers and more than 600 families.
Project Goal(s): To accompany the people of Las Delicias in their journey to improve and create self sustainable projects to better their community and learn to work together as leaders for change.
Larry is originally from Baltimore, Maryland where he attended Loyola Blakefield High School and was a parishioner of Saint Pius X. He joined MKLM in 2007 after graduating from Loyola University in Chicago with majors in International Studies and Political Science and minors in Spanish & Latin American Studies.
Larry has a long resume of community involvement. As part of his studies, Larry was enrolled at the Universidad Alberto Hurtado in Santiago, where he volunteered at the Hogar De Christo, a homeless shelter for men.
In Chicago and Baltimore, Larry worked closely with Spanish-speaking immigrants, teaching English and citizenship classes for more than five years. With Chicago Interfaith Worker Justice, Larry advised Spanish-speaking workers of their legal right and options and was a workers’ right advocate for improved wages, benefits and conditions.
Larry’s ministry is in Las Delicias, a very poor, rural community of 600 families, located 45 minutes from the capitol of El Salvador. The community originally relied on the coffee picking industry. However, in recent years, coffee picking has diminished and residents have been left without means to support themselves.
Community members suffer poor health, poor nutrition, lack of education, and unemployment. Individual families feel the painful affect of primary income-earners immigrating to the United States is search of jobs. Families have been broken. Children left without a father often turn to the gangs that provide them a false sense of security and role modeling. Families that are able to stay together live under the constant stress of wondering where their next meal will come from. The stress often leads to alcoholism, domestic abuse, and family dysfunction.
Some of Las Delicias’s residents have found jobs in factories while others look for agriculture or domestic work making less than 4 dollars a day. Others still cannot find work and struggle each day to provide food for their families and basic school supplies for the children. The public schools suspend children who do not have supplies. There is a water shortage and each family receives water only once per week. Children are malnourished. There is a high rate of immigration to the United States resulting in family breakdowns and lack of community support systems.
Larry works with FUDECSA, a foundation started by members of the Catholic Church in Las Delicias, to help strengthen the community through development and education. Larry, together with local leaders, assists the community youth to develop their leadership skills as they work together on projects that will better the community. Although projects are diverse, the primary focus of each is to develop the team skills of community members in order to promote social and financial independence.
Mothers’ groups projects include a class which teaches income generating skills such as jewelry making, and a school lunch program where mothers hone their skills in cooking nutritious meals for their children. Another project is the building of a library. Both projects work in collaboration with The Hand Maidens of the Sacred Heart of Christ. More than 100 children receive scholarships to pay for the basic materials that allow them to attend school. Youth who have benefited from the scholarship program also help to coordinate this project. In addition, there is a tutoring program for children who struggle with academics. Children participate in activities such as field trips and organized parties. Currently, the foundation is establishing a special education program for children whose special needs are not being met through the local education system.
A major new development is Playing for Peace, a community-wide initiative geared to gang- prevention. Due to the impoverished conditions of the community, there has been a lack of safe places for children to play. This results in unstructured, unsafe activities leading to potential influence from gang members.
Play for Peace has quickly grown to include adult-supervised soccer teams. More than 100 boys and girls, aged 7 to 17, play and learn team-building skills in a structured, safe and fun environment. The children also participate in prayer and peace formation events together. The goal is to help them develop into well-rounded adults. The coaches are local young men who play soccer and all study or work. They are truly role models for the children.
Since his arrival, Larry has seen many changes in Las Delicias. Some can be numbered; some are felt to permeate throughout the community with an assurance of long-term change. Hundreds of children that had never attended school now do. Mothers have learned methods for keeping their children healthy, even with minimal resources. Children are opting to join the soccer team over the street gang. And the men of the community are taking on the task of setting an example for the children as they coach them both in team playing and spiritually.