The majority of the work that IFCLA does in El Salvador is involved with the town of Guarjila in the department of Chalatenango. We have a long history with the community.
In January of 1988, IFCLA made a covenant with the people of Guarjila, Chalatenango, El Salvador who had just returned from the Mesa Grande refugee camp in Honduras and who were courageously rebuilding their lives in the midst of war. We began by raising awareness about their precarious situation with our members of Congress and the people of the St. Louis region. We sent people to visit and to challenge the army's disregard of their status as a civilian community. We raised funds for land titles, for cows, for a roof for the school, for a water project, and for teacher salaries. Dr. Ann Manganaro, Sister of Loretto, went to live in Guarjila and opened a clinic which served the entire area. She trained health promoters, many of whom are health professionals today. Sadly, Ann died of cancer in June, 1993.
After the Peace Accords were signed in 1992 and the combatants returned to live with their families, more people from St. Louis were able to visit Guarjila. Two health promoters and a German doctor who worked with Ann came to visit St. Louis in the 90's.
In 1998, students from Ann's high school (Nerinx Hall High School, Webster Groves, MO) began to visit Guarjila. This annual visit has deepened the bonds of friendship and has expanded horizons for many young women. Each year we learn first hand the ever-changing challenges which the community faces. It helps to inform our on-going work for justice in El Salvador.
In addition to visits, IFCLA has sold embroidery and hand work from the women's' collective and continues to raise funds to ourchase medicines, to supplement the stipends of the health workers at the clinic and to provide for future retirement funds.
The Nerinx students hold an annual volleyball tournament to raise funds for university scholarships for young women of Guarjila.
For more information, please see the following:
Ann Manganaro Clinic - Clinica Anna Manganaro
Ann Manganaro grew up in Webster Groves, MO, eldest in a large family. She graduated from Nerinx Hall and joined the Sisters of Loretto in 1964. After starting the Neighborhood School in the Skinker-DeBalividere neighborhood, she helped found Karen Catholic Worker House and went to Med School at St Louis University. Ann worked as a pediatrician in the emergency room at Cardinal Glennon Hospital in St. Louis. In late 1987 she went to El Salvador as a volunteer with Jesuit Refugee Services. She was sent to Guarjila, Chalatenango to provide healthcare for civilians in the midst of the civil war.
Healthcare skills learned by refugees returning from the UN sponsored Mesa Grande camp were enhanced by Ann’s skilled leadership. Ann trained 200 health promoters to meet the needs of the people, in Guarjila and throughout Chalatenago.
She and Jon Cortina SJ, a Jesuit priest who served in the community, and was an engineer and taught at the University of Central America (UCA)designed and built the initial clinic in Guarjila.
Further studies have prepared a staff of local health professionals: Doctors, Nurses, Med Techs, and Health Educators. The Clinic remained an independent health care facility until after the health care reforms of President Carlos Mauricio Funes.
In 2010, Guarjila was chosen as a Communal Family Health Unit by the Ministry of Health under the government of Mauricio Dunes, and was used as part of the model for the national communal medicine system. With professionals from the community and specialists, the clinic now serves 50,00 people in the eastern zone of Chalatenango and is open 7 days a week.
All services and medicines are free. Young people now are entering health professions with the hope in sharing in this bright future for El Salvador.
"Set My Hands to Heal" Documentary - "Dar Mis Manos Para Sanar"
Inspired by stories about Ann at Karen Catholic Worker House, Dr. Rodney Yarnal and his spouse Christen Parker went to El Salvador in 2007 to interview Ann’s friends and colleagues, and her family. Each one shared stories of her remarkable mission of accompaniment.
They recorded over twenty-four hours of video. IFCLA joined Parker and Yarnal in the mission of transcription, translation and film production. Carson Minnow and colleagues from First Punch Productions edited the footage into the documentary, which premiered in June, 2013, the twentieth anniversary of Ann’s untimely death from cancer.
Copies of the dvd are available through IFCLA. The minimum donation is $20. All donations are sent to Guarjila to build a retirement fund for Ann’s health promoters who worked outside the national social security system for twenty years.
For more information, please contact the office.
During the first visits by the students of Nerinx Hall to Guarjila, the students and the town council identified a need for their Guarjila sisters to be able to attend school. Many families would send their boys to the equivalent of high school but did not make it possible for the girls to attend past the elementary level.
Instead of giving monies directly to families because the Nerinx girls would not know who might really need the help, it was decided that the money would be given to the town council who would distribute the funds to those who needed it most. The first groups of Nerinx students decided to hold a fun volleyball tournament during January or February each year (the visits are currently held during the Nerinx spring break in March) with all of the proceeds going to the scholarship fund.
With the election of Mauricio Funes, tuition for elementary and secondary education began to be paid for by the state. At the same time, a number of the young women of Guarjila who had been helped to attend the high school had grown and were wanting to go to a university. Although tuition is low, students have to pay to live (or for daily transportation - there are no dorms), for food, for books, and even to take exams. In conjunction with the town council, Nerinx students decided to use the monies raised for help for young women to go to a university.