Elevating Entrepreneurship & Nutrition with Soy Program in El Salvador

Written by Maryknoll Lay Missioner Ann Greig:

As the Soy Program that I have overseen for more than 20 years has developed over the years, we always look for natural ways it can evolve. Many times, this means playing ‘matchmaker,’ by inviting people to participate in Soy Program trainings or workshops, and helping to equip them to make and sell soy milk and soy project for income. The communities who then receive these goods also have the benefit of a more well-rounded diet.

Between 2010 and 2011, our Soy Program began a collaborative training program in soy / nutrition education with a woman who has been a longtime force in the community, Peggy Gregson MPH, RDN and LD. Peggy had been coordinating a bakery project since 2005 with a group of women in Bajo Lempa, about 1½ hours outside of San Salvador. In 2010, the bakery contributed at a Gastronomical Festival in conjunction with the National University, collaborating with the making of soy recipes and how to utilize fruits in the making of marmalades.

When I saw how organized these women were, but lacking anyone to help them with technical assistance of soy preparation, I suggested that the Soy Program of San Ramon assist them with workshops. I also played ‘matchmaker’ in helping to seek funding from the World Initiative for Soy for Human Health (WISHH), which ultimately offered financial support that enabled us to hold Soy Workshops in marginal areas.

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Group of Paticipants from Bajo Lempa enrolled is Soy Workshops

Bajo Lempa was one of the locations I selected for these workshops. The Soy Team and a Nutrition Professor from the National University, Josefina Sibrian, have so far completed four workshops there, and we are extremely thankful for WISHH’s funding.

One of the women in the Bajo Lempa group is Señora Irma Peerz, whose dedication and organizational skills are of a tremendous help. Her goal is to produce soymilk and soy products to sell for income. Presently Irma washes and irons clothes for a steady income, but would like to dedicate more of her time in the bakery. She thanks us each time we come out and said, “I am going to make and sell these soy products.”

soy 1As shown in the photo, Irma has two daughters, Gabriela – 20, Yanette –10 and son Mateo – 3 years old. Yanette was still in her mother’s womb when her father died of cancer. Irma’s oldest daughter Gabriela’s dream is to attend university and study medicine. Presently, she is in her second year of high school. She wishes to become a pediatrician and I know she would become a wonderful and gifted physician. Already, Yanette has a deep compassion for others, while Mateo is the little serious man of the family.

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Irma grinding corn to prepare corn-soy tamales

Señora Irma is dedicated to her community; besides her own children, she also takes care of two neglected girls (Michele and Yeni) who were identified as being malnourished several years ago before Irma took them in. El Cuenco, a DC-based NGO, helps with some funds so that these two girls can attend school. Gabriela has also taken them under her wing, making sure that they receive plenty of love and care.

I am moved by the courage and persistence shown by Irma and others like her who participate in our Soy Program workshops. I pray that Irma is able to begin a small business to support her family and help her daughter Gabriela attend the university.

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