Latin American Concerns Committee Job Description

LATIN AMERICAN CONCERNS COMMITTEE

In 1997, the Annual Session established a standing Latin America Concerns Committee to gather and disseminate information to Pacific and other Yearly Meetings regarding Friends groups and service projects in Latin America. The intention is to support rather than replace spirit-led projects already supported by Monthly Meetings, Worship Groups and individual Friends.

 

Committee meetings will be held three to four times a year: usually before and during Annual Session and Representative Committee. Some meetings will be by conference call. These meetings will include planning and preparation of Interest Groups at Annual Session. The three main programs, Casa de los Amigos, El Salvador Project and Guatemala Friends Scholarship Program, will take turns as presenters for Interest Groups. Subcommittee/Working Groups will be formed as appropriate. There is a PYM fund to assist the committee in bringing representatives or others to Annual Session. The committee, through the clerk, should communicate with clerk of Finance Committee the recommendations for committee expenses (line 5238) and Latin America Concerns Outreach (line 5212/R2749) for the upcoming fiscal year (October 1 – September 30) at least two months before Annual Session. The clerk should assess whether the approved committee budget is sufficient to complete the committee’s work and request augmentations as appropriate to clerk of Finance before Representative Committee and/or Annual Session.

 

The committee is composed of from five to nine members

who are determined by the Nominating Committee in consultation with the committee. Additionally, there are three members appointed to the committee, one each from Casa de los Amigos, El Salvador Project and Guatemala Friends Scholarship Program.

 

 

 

TASKS:

 

Information gathering and dissemination regarding Latin American meetings and projects.

Make report to the Representative Committee and PYM Annual Session

 

 

Communication with contacts in PYM Monthly Meetings.

Support of subcommittees as needed

Clerk shall make request to Finance for the coming year’s budget 2 months before Annual Session.

 

 

EXPECTATIONS AND TIME INVOLVED

Committee meetings are held usually 3-4 times a year, lasting up to 2 hours each time. One to two are in-person and two are by telephone conference. There may arise occasion for additional telephone conferences.

Co-Clerks meet as needed to prepare for meetings.

Committee member work may include writing, attending meetings, information gathering regarding Latin American meetings and projects, communication with contacts in PYM Monthly Meetings, and planning/preparation of Annual Session Interest Groups.

Minutes of meetings are kept.

No expenditures are necessary beyond reimbursable expenses.

 

 

Revision approved by LACC June 2015

Latin American Concerns Committee Report to Pacific Yearly Meeting Annual Session 2016

In 1997, PYM annual session established a standing Latin America Concerns Committee to gather and disseminate information to Pacific and other Yearly Meetings regarding Friends groups and service projects in Latin America. The intention is to support rather than replace spirit-led projects already supported by Monthly Meetings, Worship Groups and individual Friends.

LACC has met three times since last annual session. This Annual Session we are assisting Robert Broz, Director of El Salvador Projects in attending. He will be presenting an Interest Group to inform PYM about conditions in El Salvador and his work there.

LACC and Peace and Social Order Committee brought a minute to PYM Annual Session in 2015 which was supported by Annual Session as follows:

“  This year six monthly meetings in Pacific Yearly Meeting have approved minutes of concern for refugee children crossing the border from Latin America. A special subcommittee of the Latin American Concerns Committee, Child Refugees and Migration, was formed to address this concern. Many Friends have taken action from visiting elected officials, accompanying a local child refugee through the legal processes, to traveling to Texas to be in solidarity with these children and their families. Pacific Yearly Meeting’s Annual Session supports the efforts of the LACC and numerous other Friends who are seeking justice and showing compassion toward those who are fleeing the violence in their home countries and need a place of refuge in our country. We encourage monthly meetings and individual Friends to read the attached minutes and take them to heart. We also encourage Friends to support the efforts of AFSC and FCNL to promote just and compassionate policies toward immigrants.” 

Reports of the subcommittee and service projects follow:

Child Refugee and Migration Subcommittee

We have been meeting regularly, tracking and reporting on the work of some monthly meetings, collecting and sending on information and information sources about child and family asylum seekers coming from Central America, adding to the resource list on the PYM website and following political changes and challenges regarding these refugees. We have planned an Interest Group for 2016 Annual Session presented by Rev. Deborah Lee. She is the Director of Immigration-Northern California at the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity in Oakland. She will be speaking about her bay area interfaith immigration work as well as the People of Faith-Root Causes-Delegation to Central American that she led last August to Honduras and Guatemala.

In the minutes of our meetings we have discussed and shared specifics about Johanna’s asylum-seeking (Redwood Forest), Sonia’s perseverance and status (Santa Barbara), the providing of sanctuary and assistance to a family (La Jolla), family detention challenges, new information about programs from various sources, reports on the East Bay Sanctuary visit to Central America, learned of and passed on ideas about how we can help even if not near the border, and provided encouragement and information to monthly meetings.

We want to do more educating of ourselves, advocacy and making presentations, and supporting meetings providing sanctuary. We are planning an Interest Group for Annual Session with the leader of the Bay Area Immigration Covenant as speaker.

Casa de los Amigos www.casadelosamigos.org

Casa de los Amigos approaches yet another transition! This one is all good, and the Casa is in a good spot. There’s a board meeting this Saturday to, among other things, make a final decision about a new executive director. To all of you good Casa allies out there, here are three accurate 2016 Casa talking points you can use to talk to anybody in the world about Casa de los Amigos:

     1. 2016 is the Casa’s 60th anniversary year! There will be a celebration in October, and the Casa’s deep roots will be a present theme throughout the year. The celebration will also serve as a release date for a long-awaited book about Casa de los Amigos. Kickstarter campaign launches any minute now, when you hear about it please help spread the word!

     2. The Casa’s peace work is stronger than ever. You have to visit to truly get a sense of the dizzying array of projects and movements that the Casa is meaningfully involved in. But you should know that the Casa houses thousands annually in its peace guesthouse, provides emergency housing to migrants and refugees, central meeting space for dozens of NGOs, supports local small producers and solidarity economics, has a cool environmental concerns program, and is a social justice clearinghouse for movements and groups from around Mexico and the world. 

     3. Hayley Hathaway is sad to go but feels right in her decision to turn the page and leave the Casa after over six years of nonstop service. The good news is that the Casa today is on an excellent footing, a wide net has been cast and 60-some applications received for the director spot. The important things to know about bringing in a new person at this time is that the person will arrive to a firm foundation of partner-based programs running strong, financial support and institutional networks, and a dynamite on-the-ground team willing to work to help orient, train and support a new director.

El Salvador Projects pafmelsalvadorprojects.org

Carmen Broz started the El Salvador Projects in the context of a civil war so viciously destructive that it brought this smallest country in Central America to the world’s attention. Her initiatives in child care, maternal and child health, early education, community development, and ultimately support for higher education for young people from poor rural families were transformative, bringing hope and tangible improvements to many lives. That legacy continues today. The candles we light with your support do more than dispel some of the darkness for individuals, as important as that is. Every child whose dream is made real, every family that takes a significant step away from the desperation of poverty into a more secure future, every young adult whose path leads to a role of positive service and leadership in the community – each of these demonstrates to others that there are realistic alternatives to despair. In my reports I share my experiences and observations with you frankly, confident that you will realize that in times of adversity the assistance and opportunities we are able to offer together become even more important.

Reports on social and economic conditions in El Salvador by both domestic and international news agencies are overwhelmingly dismal these days, reflecting a toxic blend of human activities and forces of nature:

  • Allegations and investigations of political corruption at high levels.
  • Escalating warfare that pits Salvadoran gangs against the police and military.
  • A dramatic decline in visits by tourists and solidarity delegations due to fear of violent crime and health risks caused by serious new viruses – Chikungunya in 2015 and Zica fever in 2016 – which are spread by mosquitoes, like the dengue that preceded them, and are now common in the region.
  • A failing economy that is affected by all of the above factors.

Reforms to a 1959 anti-corruption law were passed in December of 2015 and put into effect in January of 2016. Since then, 29 investigations have been opened against past and current politicians and high-level government employees. These reforms were pushed through by the governing FMLN in alliance with other parties and opposed by the right-wing ARENA party, which expected the law to be used against former officials of the ARENA party who controlled the central government for more than 20 years with obvious corruption and no fear of criminal charges.

In practice, application of the law appears impartial. High-level politicians including three former presidents, one of them the immediate past president Mauricio Funes (FMLN), are being investigated to determine sources of financial gain during their terms in office. Current FMLN Vice-President Oscar Ortiz was accused of having had business ties in a local land development company since the early 2000’s with Salvadoran drug lord José Adán Salazar Umaña, alias Chepe Diablo, who was named years ago by the U.S. as the leader of El Salvador’s Texis drug cartel.

The dramatic news of allegations against Ortiz nearly made Salvadorans forget about Francisco Flores of the right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance, President from 1999-2004, who was under house arrest for embezzling millions of dollars of a donation from Taiwan. Flores’s reported illness and death soon after being admitted to a private hospital is suspected by many of being a well-orchestrated trick to get him out of the country. They ask why no autopsy was performed and why the family held a low-profile, closed casket burial. Even in social media networks like Facebook, photos of the Flores family celebrating in the US were published shortly after the funeral. The now-famous Panama Papers reveal tax evasion by most of El Salvador’s larger companies as well.

Although currently we see few news reports like those of early 2015, when literally thousands of minors fled El Salvador and Honduras to escape the intense violence caused by gangs, the situation has hardly improved. Both countries are still listed as the most violent countries in the world where there is no war going on. In 2015 El Salvador surpassed Honduras in violent deaths per capita, and now leads the world in that grisly statistic.

I can foresee no quick fix for this complex situation, of course. Some of the newer programs at both local and central government levels may lead to long-term improvements, but even these can involve drastic tactics that impact the general population. No longer willing to negotiate with the leaders of internationally recognized organized crime groups, the government has combined police and military efforts to disable the high commands of the gangs. A recent initiative involved working with cell phone companies to block signals at the prisons, an imprecise process that usually causes residents of surrounding areas to lose their phone service. With many gang leaders operating from prison and a low-paid prison guard receiving up to $3000 per illegal phone introduced to the prison, little more could be done. Just days before the signal blocking was implemented, a cell phone with $20,000 in credit was decommissioned from one inmate. This was possible, apparently, because a new way to send money using cell phones was implemented by two of the larger telecommunication companies. It is assumed that these new ways to send money are now used to transfer illicit funds to the kingpins in prison.

As I write this report, a newly trained battalion of soldiers is scheduled to be on the streets by late April. These 600 elite soldiers will join 400 police attempting to catch gang members as they flee from one gang-ridden area to another just before a police operation, a practice that has been common for years and raises the suspicion that gangs have infiltrated the police and military. This new unit is very controversial, compared by right wing politicians and the local press in many cases to abuse of police and military forces in the 1970s and 1980s, but now controlled by the FMLN rather than by the military dictatorships of the past.

As I said earlier, Salvadorans are drastically affected by the country’s worsening economy. The U.S. State Department and many other foreign government websites list El Salvador as the most violent country in the world, with travel advisories that discourage travel to El Salvador because of the high level of violence and several dangerous mosquito-transmitted viruses. The result is an enormous decline in private travelers, as well as solidarity, religious, and educational delegations. Tourism, which had been considered until 2015 one of the fastest growing components of El Salvador’s economy, is now withering.

In just two groups I work with in addition to the El Salvador Projects of Palo Alto, I have seen more than 20 delegations cancel trips planned for 2016, causing non-profit organizations in both El Salvador and the U.S. to re-evaluate current budgets, reduce projected spending, let staff go, and in one case even close the local offices. If we combine this with the loss of income to small communities where project money is spent, and additional services like food services and transportation are taken into account, the lost income enters into to every aspect of the local economy, motivating Salvadorans both young and old to consider taking the dangerous trip to the north in search of the American Dream that more than three million Salvadorans already live.

On a much brighter side, some positive programs are in place around the country – better street lighting, full school days, sports and arts programs, vocational training programs, scholarships, seed and fertilizer programs to insure a decent production this season and income for the poor campesinos who continue to produce the majority of our local grains on small parcels of land. How different their lives are from those of the large sugar cane and coffee producers who form part of the wealthiest upper-class of Salvadoran society!

In the private sector, too, determined efforts continue for a new El Salvador with a positive future. Since the September 2015 death of my mother Carmen Broz, founder of our Projects and our university student loan program in El Salvador, and more recently the death of my good friend Frank Cummings, who was an attender of Atlanta Friends Meeting and founder of two other local scholarship programs, I have seen positive changes. Within the municipality of Suchitoto Frank was my “accomplice in Education,” as I used to say, for the last ten years. Frank and I worked for years to unite several educational programs and now, in 2016, we are moving very quickly to do just that in honor of his work.

We now hold monthly student meetings with around 90 university students supported by our own El Salvador Projects, the programs of Frank Cummings, and Santa Lucia Parish. I oversee a new scholarship program managed by a local non- profit called CORDES that has financial support from the City of Suchitoto. At our meeting in April when we asked for volunteers to form a new committee of scholarship students, nine stepped forward in just five minutes! The new committee met on April 10th to start work on planning this year’s University Fair, a task that Frank and I had done alone for the past nine years. As I write this report, students from the new committee will be visiting the six schools in Suchitoto that offer high school (secundaria) to promote the upcoming Fair, the several financial aid programs, and the opening of the entrance process at the National University to the 2016 graduating high school students in Suchitoto. The committee will also be responsible for all logistics of the Fair, and with some guidance will help with the selection of scholarship students for the different programs in 2017. A dream Frank and I shared is to one day have the programs not only managed by ex-beneficiaries, but even supported financially by the professionals we have helped to gain a college education. We are on the path!

You will probably not be surprised when I say that the months since our last newsletter have been a period of mourning and intense emotion for me. In addition to my own mother’s death and the death of my dear friend Frank, my work has involved situations of a kind that are all too common in El Salvador. I think the case that continues to be most unsettling to me is that of Erika, a young woman from a small, remote village in the rural northeast part of Suchitoto who started in our program in 2015. Erika contacted me late last year, telling me she would be unable to continue her studies in modern languages in 2016. Initially she said only that her decision was for personal reasons, but as I questioned her she told me her mother had given birth, had complications, and was admitted to the hospital. As the only daughter, Erika decided to drop out of school to bring up her new little sister. When I realized that this was the only realistic option for Erika and her family I cried, as I am now while writing this report, knowing there is little that I or our program can do to help. I have told Erika that we will help her in the future if she decides to go back to school, but as her mother continues to deal with serious health issues she does not see this as a possible future.

My work as Project Director has always involved difficult situations, and although this case was more severe and personally emotional than many others over the past eleven years, I always find peace and joy knowing our programs have made a difference and will continue to make El Salvador a better country. I see an example in one of our new students, Rosa Isabel, who is in her first year of medicine at the Salvadoran University Alberto Masferrer (USAM). Rosa Isabel is the oldest daughter of one of our past students, Rosa Orellana, who studied and is now a licensed teacher working at one of the rural schools in Suchitoto. Rosa Isabel tried to enter the National University where the medical program is one of the hardest to get into. When she did not make the cut she was still determined to follow her dream and study medicine. She also opted to join our coed student house in San Salvador, where 22 students from five different programs live. One of our continuing students in the house is a third-year student of medicine, and Rosa has already used this in-house resource for tutoring in this first year. Rosa Isabel was last on my list for new student candidates in 2016, but when Erika told me she would not be continuing her studies, we opened her spot for young Rosa Isabel. This late and final addition of Rosa Isabel to our list of new students in 2016 felt so right, and it brought a feeling of light and peace in this work that at times can be difficult.

Guatemala Friends Scholarship Program (PROGRESA) www.guatemalafriends.org

PROGRESA has just celebrated its 43rd year providing an opportunity for education to rural, poor Mayans. We saw 17 of our students graduate in 2015. Their careers included teaching, law, nursing, natural resources, computer science and bookkeeping. In the 2016 school year, we have 75 new and continuing students. Most are women and they are studying at the university level.

Progresa’s Teaching English Experience has just completed its 7th year with 15 North Americans and 15 Progresa students sharing a fun-filled and rewarding week together in Antigua, Guatemala. Join us next year January 3-11, 2017.

In the 1990’s Progresa received funding for scholarships for refugees of the armed conflict from Casa de los Amigos when Casa laid down their Central American Refugee Program. We were invited to the community who received these scholarships, Primavera del Ixcan, for their annual meeting and celebration. It is in a remote area and it was an adventure getting there. We have 18 former and 2 current students from this community. In a meeting with our former students (many are teachers), we learned that this community has an educational system far superior to other communities in remote areas with 97% of their children finishing primary school. One of our former students was responsible for obtaining governmental approval for a high school in the community, a major achievement.

The new President of Guatemala just appointed one of our former students, Hector Canto, Assistant Secretary of Education in charge of rural education. Hector has asked to speak with our director, Miguel Costop, about Progresa’s work in rural education. We look forward to this collaboration.

Hector Canto was the keynote speaker at our Annual Student Conference where he sought in-put from our students and encouraged their participation in improving rural education. A Meeting for Worship was held and over 50 of our students joined the four North American Quakers present in a deeply moving spiritual experience.

For more information about the scholarship program or the Teaching English Experience next January, call Donna Smith (707)542-2874 or Harriet Lewis (707)526-1066 Co-Clerks of the program at Redwood Forest Meeting.

Submitted by Donna Smith, Co-Clerk

Latin America Concerns Committee Report to Representative Committee – March 2016

In 1997, PYM annual session established a standing Latin America Concerns Committee to gather and disseminate information to Pacific and other Yearly Meetings regarding Friends groups and service projects in Latin America. The intention is to support rather than replace spirit-led projects already supported by Monthly Meetings, Worship Groups and individual Friends.

LACC continues to work with Casa de los Amigos, El Salvador Project and Guatemala Friends Scholarship Program. Since Annual Session 2014, the Child Refugee and Migration subcommittee has been very active in disseminating information and involvement in immigrant rights. The following are their reports:

Casa de los Amigos

www.casadelosamigos.org

Casa de los Amigos approaches yet another transition! This one is all good, and the Casa is in a good spot. There’s a board meeting this Saturday to, among other things, make a final decision about a new executive director. To all of you good Casa allies out there, here are three accurate 2016 Casa talking points you can use to talk to anybody in the world about Casa de los Amigos:

  1. 2016 is the Casa’s 60th anniversary year! There will be a celebration in October, and the Casa’s deep roots will be a present theme throughout the year. The celebration will also serve as a release date for a long-awaited book about Casa de los Amigos. Kickstarter campaign launches any minute now, when you hear about it please help spread the word!
  2. The Casa’s peace work is stronger than ever. You have to visit to truly get a sense of the dizzying array of projects and movements that the Casa is meaningfully involved in. But you should know that the Casa houses thousands annually in its peace guesthouse, provides emergency housing to migrants and refugees, central meeting space for dozens of NGOs, supports local small producers and solidarity economics, has a cool environmental concerns program, and is a social justice clearinghouse for movements and groups from around Mexico and the world.
  3. Hayley Hathaway is sad to go but feels right in her decision to turn the page and leave the Casa after over six years of nonstop service. The good news is that the Casa today is on an excellent footing, a wide net has been cast and 60-some applications received for the director spot. The important things to know about bringing in a new person at this time is that the person will arrive to a firm foundation of partner-based programs running strong, financial support and institutional networks, and a dynamite on-the-ground team willing to work to help orient, train and support a new director.

El Salvador Projects of Palo Alto Meeting

pafmelsalvadorprojects.org

The El Salvador Projects of Palo Alto Meeting currently support 13 university students from poor rural communities with student loans that can be repaid either in cash or through community service or financial support for another student. Of the current university students, eight are new students from the rural communities of Suchitoto and five are continuing students from 2015. Fields of study of the students are varied, including law, business administration, art, medicine, accounting, social work, nursing, agricultural engineering, teaching, civil engineering and architecture, and international relations. Twenty-two students live in a house in San Salvador that we rent in partnership with several other programs that also support university students from the municipality of Suchitoto. Our Field Director, Robert Broz, is the principal organizer of an annual university fair in Suchitoto, El Salvador, that brings prospective university students together with representatives of institutions of higher learning and representatives of programs that offer financial aid.

A small part of our budget goes to enable rural villages to organize periodic skills workshops with socializing for elderly people, workshops on production of inexpensive and efficient “rocket stoves” to reduce the labor of gathering fuel for woodfires and reduce smoke that contributes to childhood asthma, and to help fund Alternatives to Violence training in El Salvador.

We collect unneeded reading glasses in the United States and send them to El Salvador, where they enable older people to resume work and activities that had been beyond them due to vision loss.

The Projects are overseen by a committee of Palo Alto Meeting that supports the Field Director in discernment and planning and raises funds, largely through a newsletter that is sent to supporters 2-3 times per year and periodic visits by Field Director Robert Broz to Pacific Yearly Meeting, Intermountain Yearly Meeting, monthly meetings of these two yearly meetings, and other supporters in the US.

Guatemala Friends Scholarship Program (Progresa)

www.guatemalafriends.org

Progresa is soon to celebrate its 43rd year providing an opportunity for education to rural, poor Mayans. We saw 17 of our students graduate in 2015. Their careers included teaching, law, nursing, natural resources, computer science and bookkeeping. In the 2016 school year, we have 75 new and continuing students. Most are women and they are studying at the university level.

Progresa’s Teaching English Experience has just completed its 7th year with 15 North Americans and 15 Progresa students sharing a fun-filled and rewarding week together in Antigua, Guatemala. Join us next year January 3-11, 2017.

In the 1990’s Progresa received funding for scholarships for refugees of the armed conflict from Casa de los Amigos when Casa laid down their Central American Refugee Program. We were invited to the community who received these scholarships, Primavera del Ixcan, for their annual meeting and celebration. It is in a remote area and it was an adventure getting there. We have 18 former and 2 current students from this community. In a meeting with our former students (many are teachers), we learned that this community has an educational system far superior to other communities in remote areas with 97% of their children finishing primary school. One of our former students was responsible for obtaining governmental approval for a high school in the community.

The new President of Guatemala just appointed one of our former students, Hector Canto, Assistant Secretary of Education in charge of rural education. Hector has asked to speak with our director, Miguel Costop, about Progresa’s work in rural education. We look forward to this collaboration.

For more information call Donna Smith (707)542-2874 or Harriet Lewis (707)526-1066 Co-Clerks of the program at Redwood Forest Meeting.

Child Refugee and Migration Subcommittee

Lynnette Arnold (Santa Barbara Meeting), convener

We have been meeting regularly, tracking and reporting on the work of some monthly meetings, collecting and sending on information and information sources about child and family asylum seekers coming from Central America, adding to the resource list on the PYM website and following political changes and challenges regarding these refugees. We have begun to plan for an Interest Group for 2016 Annual Session.

In the minutes of our meetings we have discussed and shared specifics about Johanna’s asylum-seeking (Redwood Forest), Sonia’s perseverance and status (Santa Barbara), the providing of sanctuary and assistance to a family (La Jolla), family detention challenges, new information about programs from various sources, reports on the East Bay Sanctuary visit to Central America, learned of and passed on ideas about how we can help even if not near the border, and provided encouragement and information to monthly meetings.

We want to do more educating of ourselves, advocacy and making presentations, and supporting meetings providing sanctuary. We are planning an Interest Group for Annual Session with the leader of the Bay Area Immigration Covenant as speaker.

Donna Smith and Ann Boone, Co-Clerks of LACC

LACC Report to PYM Annual Session 2015

LATIN AMERICAN CONCERNS COMMITTEE

REPORT TO PYM ANNUAL SESSION 2015

In 1997, PYM annual session established a standing Latin America Concerns Committee to gather and disseminate information to Pacific and other Yearly Meetings regarding Friends groups and service projects in Latin America. The intention is to support rather than replace spirit-led projects already supported by Monthly Meetings, Worship Groups and individual Friends.

LACC has met three times since last annual session. LACC, along with Peace and Social Order Committee, encouraged the invitation of Paula Palmer of Boulder Meeting to present a workshop at Annual Session 2015 titled Toward Right Relationship with America’s Native Peoples. The director of the Guatemala Friends Scholarship Program, Miguel Costop, is attending Annual Session and will be presenting an Interest Group on Quakerism and Mayan Spirituality. The basic elements of Mayan spirituality will be discussed by an indigenous Kaqchikel Guatemalan as he shares how Quakerism became part of his spiritual journey. Participation in a Mayan ceremony of thanksgiving will be part of this Interest Group.

This year six monthly meetings in Pacific Yearly Meeting have approved minutes of concern for refugee children crossing the border from Latin America. A special subcommittee of the Latin American Concerns Committee, Child Refugees and Migration, was formed to address this concern at Annual Session in 2014. Many Friends have taken action from visiting elected officials, to accompanying a local child refugee through the legal processes, to traveling to Texas to visit refugees being held in family detention facilities. Friends interested in learning more can contact members of the Child Refugees and Migration Subcommittee (see the LACC report posted on the PYM website).

PYM Latin American Concerns Committee and PYM Peace and Social Order Committee bring the following Minute of Support for approval by those gathered at the 2015 Annual Session:

“Those gathered at the 2015 Annual Session of Pacific Yearly Meeting support the efforts of the Latin America Concerns Committee and numerous other Friends who are seeking justice and showing compassion toward those who are fleeing the violence in their home countries and need a place of refuge in the United States. We encourage monthly meetings and individual Friends to read the minutes approved by monthly meetings and take them to heart. We also encourage Friends to support the efforts of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) and Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) to promote just and compassionate policies toward immigrants.”

CHILD REFUGEE AND MIGRATION SUBCOMMITTEE

The Child Refugee and Migration subcommittee, originally convened during last year’s Annual Session by Lynnette Arnold, has met via conference call on a weekly or biweekly basis a total of 30 times this year. We have a very dedicated group of 4 members who are on every call with another 4-5 who are generally on the calls. We also have an email list of about 25 who are kept in the loop of our work. One of our first actions as a group was to discuss together the leading of Spirit we felt guiding our work, which was later published in the September 2014 issue of Western Friend (and can be found online at https://westernfriend.org/article/love-always-protects). We also drafted a mission statement to guide our work, which reads:

“We are called to show love to the many children and families from Latin America who are arriving on our Southern border after fleeing difficult conditions in their home countries. We seek to provide a network among Friends in Pacific Yearly Meeting to share information about actions that Monthly Meetings are taking, as well as resources available at the regional and national level. Through this communication, we work to encourage Friends and others to take action to provide care for these refugees, to lobby political leaders for more humanitarian policies, and to speak out against fear and hatred and in support of kindness and compassion.”

As we have moved forward this year following our leading, many of us have worked with Friends at our Monthly Meetings to write minutes that address this issue. Six Monthly Meetings in PYM have now passed such minutes – listed here in order approved: Inland Valley, Humboldt, Redwood Forest, Santa Barbara, Orange Grove and La Jolla. Each of these minutes reflects how spirit is moving this shared concern in different ways within our community, and they can all be found on the PYM website, under PYM Documents, Committee Reports, LACC (http://www.pacificyearlymeeting.org/committee-newsletters-and-reports/latin-american-concerns/). We also compiled a list of resources with information on different aspects of this issue, which is posted on the website as well. The minutes and resources packet were sent out electronically to each Monthly Meeting within PYM as well.

We have also been working with our Monthly Meetings to move forward in corporate action. Sacramento Meeting’s Peace Committee brought forward a proposal that their meeting fund the legal defense of refugee children and the Meeting subsequently approved a donation to be made to the East Bay Sanctuary Covenant for this purpose. Redwood Forest has formed their own Child Refugees and Migration subcommittee of their Peace and Social Concerns Committee, and this group of 4-5 Friends has been actively accompanying a child refugee through the legal process. Santa Barbara Meeting held regular vigils for four months, sponsored a Friend to travel to Texas to visit the detention centers where refugee families are being held, and participated in a solidarity fast with detained mothers who had launched a hunger strike. Many meetings joined in an effort organized by Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services to send Christmas cards to many detained immigrants, and we were especially glad to have the active participation of young Friends from Junior Yearly Meeting in this effort. We have also organized screenings of a powerful new documentary on family detention (available here: http://grassrootsleadership.org/host-screening-no-sanctuary).

To strengthen our local efforts, we have also worked to make connections with others who share this concern beyond Yearly Meeting. Many of our efforts have evolved in coalition with other faith groups and community organizations including among others the Unitarian Society and the Interfaith Welcome Committee. We have also reached out to AFSC, including writing them a letter to express our concern with this issue. La Jolla Meeting also reached out to local AFSC staff, and was able to spark a rich conversation on this issue that helped strengthen the minute the Meeting eventually approved.

This year at Annual Session we will be holding an Interest Group on our work, including background information as well as suggestions of actions Friends can take on this issue. A child refugee and her mother will also be present and will share about their experiences, and we look forward eagerly to a rich discussion.

CASA DE LOS AMIGOS

Casa de los Amigos has had a full and productive year of wide-ranging peace work in Mexico City. The Casa’s Hospitality Program, which includes our social justice oriented guesthouse and community center, has been active as ever. Our flourishing Migration and Economic Justice Programs are built on this fertile ground. The Casa offers temporary emergency housing and accompaniment to migrants and refugees from around the world, and this summer we celebrate 5 years of continuous free, daily Spanish classes for the migrant community in the city. We continue to slowly renovate our historic building and move toward more ecological practices and infrastructure. This year the Casa has also expanded opportunities to share our work and witness by coordinating educational and awareness-building activities for many of our visiting groups. In 2015 we have organized three weeklong study-tours, including two successful Quaker Social Action in Mexico Learning Tours. This summer we are hosting four summer interns from Haverford College and will welcome a new full-time volunteer team in August. We invite all, especially PYM Friends, to come and participate in our community of faith, celebration, daily service and good will.

EL SALVADOR PROJECTS OF PALO ALTO MEETING

The El Salvador Projects of Palo Alto Meeting currently support 13 university students from poor rural communities with student loans that can be repaid in cash, through community service, or through financial support for another student. The students’ fields of study are varied and wide-ranging, from law and medicine to art and teaching. Many students live in a house in San Salvador that we rent in partnership with other programs that also support university students.

Annually, our Field Director, Robert Broz, is the principal organizer of a university fair in Suchitoto, El Salvador, that brings prospective students together with representatives of institutions of higher learning and programs that offer financial aid.

The Projects also help to fund a few positions in rural schools that do not receive adequate support from the government. We also help to support periodic skills workshops in rural villages on such topics as how to build efficient and inexpensive stoves and alternatives to violence training. We collect unneeded reading glasses in the United States and send them to El Salvador, where they enable older people to resume work and activities that had been beyond them due to vision loss.

The Projects are overseen by a committee of Palo Alto Meeting that supports the Field Director in discernment and planning and raises funds, largely through newsletters that are sent to supporters 2-3 times per year.

GUATEMALA FRIENDS SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM

In 2014, 20 students graduated from the Guatemala Friends Scholarship Program (known as Progresa in Guatemala) 15 at the secondary level and 5 from university. We accepted 28 new students including 4 who are in medical school. Our total number of students for 2015 is 76. We have 46 women and 30 men, and 65 are indigenous. Of our 57 University students: 11 are in Secondary education, 8 in Professional Nursing RN, 8 in Medicine, 7 in Law and 5 in Business Administration.

Each student is responsible for planning and conducting a Community Service Project each year. This program has been successful in developing leadership in our students and providing needed service to their communities. Projects have included First Aid classes, Legal Rights training, recycling, organic agriculture, and domestic violence prevention.

Last summer, a group of 20 Junior Friends from North Pacific Yearly Meeting toured around Guatemala with our director Miguel Costop. During their travels, they met several Progresa students and graduates. They learned first hand about the hardships Guatemalans face and came to realize how important Progresa has been in overcoming obstacles.

The sixth Teaching English Experience was held in January with 14 North Americans teaching 14 Progresa students. It is such a rewarding experience that half of the teachers were returnees. Next year’s Teaching English will be held January 3-11, 2016.

The 30th Annual Student Conference was held May 2-3 Mixco with 60 students in attendance. Graduates of Progresa in the fields of psychology, civil engineering and nursing gave inspiring talks on Leadership. The theme for Sunday was “Who are the Quakers?” presented by members of Ipula Friends Church in Guatemala, North Pacific YM, Redwood Forest and Guatemala Monthly Meetings.

For all the work involved, we continue to feel encouraged and blessed when we see how lives and communities are enriched by the opportunities for economic and social justice that education provides.

Further information is available on www.guatemalafriends.org.

Submitted by

Donna Smith, Clerk

Committee: Barbara Babin, Margaret Bean, Erin Cizina, Laura Kohl, Nico Wright

Child Refugees and Migration Subcommittee: Lynnette Arnold- convener, Alvaro Alvarado, Holly Anderson, Laura Kohl, Maryanne Michaels, Patricia Portillo, Donna Smith, Leslie Zondervan-Droz

LACC Letter to Monthly Meetings

Dear Monthly Meeting Clerk,

This note is from the members of the Child Refugees and Migration Subcommittee of PYM’s Latin American Concerns Committee who have been participating in regular conference call meetings. We formed last summer during PYM’s Annual Session, being very concerned about the tens of thousands of unaccompanied children coming north from several countries including Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Mexico in order to escape violence and extreme poverty.

We have produced a Resources List for those interested in learning more about this situation including notes about helpful organizations to whom to donate. You will find the resources document attached here.

So far four monthly meetings have produced minutes or advocacy letters on this issue, which we are also attaching here for your prayerful consideration.

Both the minutes and the resources list can be found on the PYM website, where there is also a Leading Statement which shares our spiritual motivation for this work. We hope this will provide inspiration for further conversations on this topic. This information can all be found here: http://www.pacificyearlymeeting.org/committee-newsletters-and-reports/latin-american-concerns/

We encourage all monthly meetings to learn more about this issue and either as individuals or as a meeting take your concerns to your local media, governmental representatives, or other decision-makers. The Resources List also notes organizations that can use volunteers.

Please email us if you would like to join us or, at least, stay informed about what is needed and what is being done by PYM meetings for these children. Feel free to email either lynnettearnold@gmail.com (Lynnette Arnold) or Lesliezd@reninet.com Leslie Zondervan-Droz, or reach out to any of the Friends listed below that you may happen to know.

In friendship,

Child Refugee Subcommittee

  • Álvaro Alvarado
  • Lynnette Arnold (convener)
  • Holly Anderson
  • Laura Kohl
  • Maryanne Michaels
  • Patricia Portillo
  • Donna Smith
  • Leslie Zondervan-Droz

Latin American Concerns Committee report

LATIN AMERICAN CONCERNS COMMITTEE

REPORT TO REPRESENTATIVE COMMITTEE 2015

In 1997, PYM annual session established a standing Latin America Concerns Committee to gather and disseminate information to Pacific and other Yearly Meetings regarding Friends groups and service projects in Latin America. The intention is to support rather than replace spirit-led projects already supported by Monthly Meetings, Worship Groups and individual Friends.

LACC has met once since last annual session. LACC, along with Peace and Social Order Committee, encouraged the invitation of Paula Palmer of Boulder Meeting to present a workshop at Annual Session 2015 titled Toward Right Relationship with America’s Native Peoples. The director of the Guatemala Friends Scholarship Program, Miguel Costop, is planning to attend this coming Annual Session. The committee has requested Interest Group time for his presentation on Quakerism and Mayan Spirituality.

The Child Refugee and Migration subcommittee led by convener Lynnette Arnold has met 20 times since Annual Session and continues to meet regularly. We have a very dedicated group of 4 members who are on every call with another 4-5 who are generally on the calls. We also have an email list of about 25 who are kept in the loop of our work. A Western Friend article, Leading of the Spirit in Support of Child Refugees, was written by participants of the subcommittee. A letter and resource packet has been developed and was distributed to all meetings in PYM along with Minutes from four PYM monthly meetings (attached). Leading and Mission statements were posted to the PYM web site under LACC along with the Resource List and monthly meeting Minutes. An Annual Session Interest Group on Child Refugees and Migration is being requested along with Peace and Social Order Committee, as co-sponsor.

CASA DE LOS AMIGOS

Casa de los Amigos has had a full and productive year of diverse peace work in Mexico City, and has been held by our local and international community. The Casa’s Hospitality Program, which includes our social justice oriented guesthouse, has been active as ever, all year long. Our flourishing Migration and Economic Justice Programs are built on this fertile ground. We have strengthened our rich partnerships with many Mexican and international organizations, and continue to provide temporary emergency housing and daily Spanish classes to migrants and refugees from around the world. We installed a rainwater catchment system as part of an ongoing process of lightening the Casa’s environmental impact. This year the Casa has also expanded opportunities to share our work and witness with our community, by coordinating educational and awareness-building activities for many of our visiting groups. We offered a Quaker Social Action in Mexico Learning Tour and are planning more! Above all, the Casa’s daily life of faith, fun and good will is the Casa’s offering to the city and open to all.

EL SALVADOR PROJECTS OF PALO ALTO MEETING

The El Salvador Projects of Palo Alto Meeting currently support 13 university students from poor rural communities with student loans that can be repaid in cash, through community service, or through financial support for another student. The students’ fields of study are varied and wide-ranging, from law and medicine to art and teaching. Many students live in a house in San Salvador that we rent in partnership with other programs that also support university students.

Annually, our Field Director, Robert Broz, is the principal organizer of a university fair in Suchitoto, El Salvador, that brings prospective students together with representatives of institutions of higher learning and programs that offer financial aid.

The Projects also help to fund a few positions in rural schools that do not receive adequate support from the government. We also help to support periodic skills workshops in rural villages on such topics as how to build efficient and inexpensive stoves and alternatives to violence training. We collect unneeded reading glasses in the United States and send them to El Salvador, where they enable older people to resume work and activities that had been beyond them due to vision loss.

 

The Projects are overseen by a committee of Palo Alto Meeting that supports the Field Director in discernment and planning and raises funds, largely through newsletters that are sent to supporters 2-3 times per year.

 

GUATEMALA FRIENDS SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM

In 2014, 20 students graduated from the Guatemala Friends Scholarship Program (known as Progresa in Guatemala) 15 at the secondary level and5 from university. We accepted 28 new students including 4 who are in medical school. Our total number of students for 2015 is 77 with the possibility of 1 to 3 more being added.

Last summer, a group of 20 Junior Friends from North Pacific Yearly Meeting toured around Guatemala with our director Miguel Costop. During their travels, they met several Progresa students and graduates. They learned first hand about the hardships Guatemalans face and came to realize how important Progresa has been in overcoming obstacles. The sixth Teaching English Experience was held in January with 14 North Americans teaching 14 Progresa students. It is such a rewarding experience that half of the teachers were returnees. We are looking forward to our Annual Student Conference in May when our students and former students come together to learn and network.

For all the work involved, we continue to feel encouraged and blessed when we see how lives and communities are enriched by the opportunities for social justice that education provides.

Submitted by

Donna Smith, Clerk