A woman on a mission to change the world
Elba Ventura is married with 11 children and 22 grandchildren and has seen many changes in El Salvador. She has lived through a Civil War and experienced many of her fellow citizens leaving to find work in the United States.
At 62 years old she should be putting her feet up but Elba is very involved in a children’s centre for single mothers and their children. She explained how many of the children are living in very poor conditions, often with four families sharing a very small house and eating one meal a day. The year old centre, in San Fernando, takes children from 6 months to 6 years. The children play together whilst the mothers find work. This will often be as domestic help or taking in laundry. They pay US$2 a month towards the cost of the centre but this means the Centre Committee must raise funds for essentials such as soap and brooms.
Elba became involved with Christian Aid partner, Social Initiative for Democracy (ISD) through representing the women’s committee of the child day care centre at gatherings. She explains,
“The training is so valuable because through that we can achieve democracy and participate fully (in the life of our community). We need to raise more awareness with youth and provide more recreational activities. The Catholic Church has made great strides here. As leaders we must show love towards our young people. We have seen they have strong potential, so we must continue to build.”
These wider gatherings, made up of many different groups, have received training from ISD on active citizenship. This has helped them understand that local governments need to be more accountable to the people. ISD provided training on how to talk to local government and, through this, it became clear that they also needed to support the authorities, so real change could happen at all levels. In El Salvador, a Citizen Participation Bill is going through parliament which will introduce greater accountability issues and allow the most vulnerable to have a voice. ISD’s work covers all levels of training, from the local committees’ right up to writing reports for the government. They want to see active and engaged citizens involved in a democratic process; something that has been a long time coming for the people of El Salvador.
Elba’s strong faith is evident when she speaks. She observes the many festivals in El Salvador including ‘The Day of the Cross’ on 3rd May.
“I will put out a cross with fruit and vegetables around it. I will pray an Ava Maria. I will pray a blessing on the cross of Jesus.” Elva is motivated to volunteer at the centre through reading her Bible, especially these words, “We should feed the poor, give to the hungry, give water. That is what we should do. I do these things because I have love for my people I serve. I have a lot of love for my people, my beautiful people.’
When asked if she has hope for the future, she replies,
“I have a lot of hope. I hope my committee will be established (registered) as they are young. I hope we have children who leave our day care active and prepared. I hope for less violence for women, that women’s rights are improved. That violence is reported against women and their rights are respected and that we will have a fairer wage and work.”
Perhaps the greatest change has been Elba herself, now informed and ready to stand up for her rights. A testimony to the wonderful work of ISD.