Year Joined MKLM: 2007
Country: El Salvador
City: Las Delicias
Focus: Education, Justice and Peace, Pastoral Care, Sustainable Development
Project(s): Community Development Las Delicias, FUDESCA (Fundacion para El Desarrollo y La Solidaridad Castulo Antonio)
People Served: 600 families
Project Goal(s): Accompany people in their journey to work together as leaders for change and create and improve self-sustainable projects to better themselves and their community.
Larry serves in Las Delicias, a rural town, located 45 minutes from the capital city. The community of 600 families originally relied on income from the coffee picking industry. In recent years, the work diminished and residents have been left without means to support themselves.
In search of jobs, primary income-earners immigrate to the USA. Families are broken and feel its painful effects. Children left without a father frequently turn to gangs, which give them a false sense of security and bad role modeling. Families wonder where they will obtain their next meal. Stress often leads to alcoholism, domestic abuse and family dysfunction. Many residents suffer from lack of education, poor health and nutrition, and unemployment. Some have found factory jobs while others seek agricultural or domestic work, where they could make less than $4 a day. Others cannot find work and struggle to provide their children’s basic school needs and food for their families. Children are malnourished and many students drop out of school for financial reasons. There is a water shortage and during the dry season each family receives water only once per week.
Larry works with FUDESCA, a foundation started by Las Delicias Catholic Church members, to strengthen the community through development and education. He, together with local leaders, helps others to cultivate their leadership skills and work on projects to better the community. Each project’s focus is to enhance team skills and promote financial and social independence. The community has built a well-used library where they have computer, artisan, music, and dance classes, as well as tutoring and an agriculture program.
Larry coordinates the scholarship program that provides $30 a month for transportation costs to 5 university and 7 high school students. The program supports and accompanies the youth in their journeys to reach their goals and construct a better life for their families and community. The students participate in monthly prayer and reflection meetings, leadership training, and social hours.
Another element of the educational programs in the community is the tutoring program Father Dean Brackley. This program sends more than 30 students from Las Delicias to the University of Central America every Saturday to receive tutoring to help them reach their potential and prepare them academically to compete for scholarships to attend the university.
Due to impoverished conditions, there is a lack of safe play places. This results in unstructured, unsafe activities that lead to the potential gang members’ influence on children and youth. Playing for Peace is a community-wide initiative that is geared to gang prevention. The goal is to help children and youth develop into well-rounded adults. Playing for Peace has grown to include adult supervised soccer teams. The coaches, local young men who play soccer and study or work, are positive children’s role models. More than 60 boys and girls, aged 6 to 24, play and learn team-building skills in a fun, safe, structured environment and participate in prayer and peace formation events together.
Larry states, “Our motto is “God, Academics, Sports,” because we believe that focusing on these three elements can help young people change their negative views and work to build a new culture of solidarity and love for others.”
Larry is involved with the Alternatives to Violence Program (AVP) and conducts training workshops for at-risk youth and other groups. AVP is a volunteer-run conflict transformation program. Trained AVP facilitators conduct experiential workshops to develop participants’ abilities to resolve conflicts without resorting to manipulation, coercion or violence. AVP, in El Salvador, has completed workshops with local communities, schools, juvenile detention centers, and parishes. It helps to create a culture of peace and compassion throughout the country.
Larry is from Baltimore, MD. He has a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies and Political Science, Minors in Spanish & Latin American Studies from Loyola University Chicago, and a Master in Latin American Theology from the University of Central America, San Salvador, El Salvador. During undergraduate studies, Larry attended the Universidad Alberto Hurtado in Santiago, Chile, where he volunteered at the Hogar De Christo, a homeless men’s shelter.
Larry worked with Spanish-speaking immigrants and taught English and citizenship classes. With Chicago Interfaith Worker Justice, Larry advised Spanish-speaking workers of their legal rights and options, and was a workers’ rights advocate to improve their benefits, conditions and wages. He was a member of Saint Pius X Parish.