Dwayne Fernandes

Year Joined MKLM: 2014
Country: El Salvador
City: San Salvador
Human Formation
People Served: Children, many of whom are emotionally, physically or sexually abused

Project Goal(s): Education, child safety and rights, empowerment, gender equality, counselling and healing.

Current Ministry:

In the afternoon shadow of the Quetzaltepeque volcano, on the margins of the city of San Salvador, lies a small suburb listed high amongst the country’s most dangerous developments. UPS does not deliver here nor does curiosity favor the stranger keen on exploring its innards. While at first glance everything does seem normal, unseen eyes follow one’s every move. Off the main street, in this suburb riddled with violence, poverty and instability, is a large house cheerfully painted with colorful art. This is FUNDASIL, where Dwayne works, an organization that promotes human development in children.

About 30-40 children from the neighborhood come here daily. Aged 3 to 15, their energy is effervescent and their demand for affection, competitive. It is a home filled with tiny hugs, voracious appetites and inquiring minds. The children are helped with their school work, treated to snacks and participate in daily workshops. While some workshops focus on arts and crafts, dance, theatre, meditation and music, others are informative, detailing children’s rights, alternatives to violence, gender equality, sexuality and health.

One of the more popular projects to encourage teamwork and a feeling of creative accomplishment has been the Culinary School for Kids, which Dwayne started last year. As a child, he always wanted to be a chef. He loved watching his mother cook, and the culinary adventures of combining colors, textures and flavors held him captive. Culinary school in Mumbai, India, where he grew up, was unfortunately expensive, but this did not deter the dream. He sought out kitchens wherever he travelled and sported his own tiny suitcase of spices. He welcomed any opportunity to cook and create a table of hospitality.

The migrant journeys of many in El Salvador are not unlike his. And while a culinary school might spark a new passion in a six-year old, create a Master Chef, or simply provide a small meal for a hungry child, Dwayne’s real hope is to show the incredible potential that food and meals create in building a welcoming space, fostering relationships and breaking bread. In 2018, Dwayne is happy to see the Culinary School for Kids expanding to include children with HIV/AIDS – a collaboration with “Hogar de Ninos Adalberto Guirola,” an orphanage with over 60 children.

Dwayne’s work with FUNDASIL takes him to the muddy depths of a community where life is raw, relationships are battered and faith is tested. Its pain follows him home and is impossible to shake. But Dwayne grows stronger each day with the smiling faces, resilient hugs and firm kisses that greet him every morning.

Personal Data:

Dwayne is originally from Mumbai, India. He has a Bachelor of Commerce in Business Administration from the University of Bombay, a Master of Divinity from Newman Theological College, Canada, and a Graduate Certificate in Spiritual Direction Studies from Washington Theological Union, Washington, D.C. He has completed five Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) Units and has studied Theory and Pianoforte at Trinity College of Music and The Royal Schools of Music, London, England.

Between 2003 and 2012, Dwayne served as a hospital and prison chaplain in Canada and the U.S., but has been ministering to the poor, homeless, and those on the margins since 1997. Dwayne’s passion for working as a Maryknoll lay missioner in El Salvador stemmed from his friendship with a Salvadorean youth, who braved the U.S. migrant trail to escape a life of war and violence. As a child, Dwayne, too, grew up in a country at war. Over time, persistent Hindu-Muslim-Christian unrest in his country, including seeing people burnt alive, shaped his resolve to be an advocate for peace, justice and the rights of minorities.

As an Indian, Dwayne sees the divine in all creation and with mentors like Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Oscar Romero, Saint Francis and Jesus, his spirituality, mission and joy is grounded in servant leadership and in the unfailing guarantee of the resurrection.