Vacation for a cause

Fourteen students of the College are set to embark on a mission to El Salvador for peace and prosperity on June 1, 2007.

Titled “The El Salvador Solidarity Project 06-07,” the students will stay in the country’s capital, San Salvador, and work with the Women’s Cooperative of Mariona, a group of women and children who make a living by making crafts; and El Canton, a local community center.

El Salvador, a third-world country that suffers from both poverty and political strife, does not seem like the ideal place for a college student to spend the summer. Not only are these students undertaking this daunting task, they are doing it without any kind of financial backing.

Ashley Reichelmann, senior secondary education/English and women’s and gender studies major, and Laura Hopps, English major at Boston College, have been working to organize the trip since May. The trip is not affiliated with the College or any other organization.

“Unfortunately, the global department requires 18-24 months to get approval (for a trip) and we were not willing to wait that long,” Reichelmann said.

Participants in the trip were chosen based on their answers to three questions, which asked what solidarity means to the applicant personally, what experiences has the applicant had to call for this trip and what the applicant hopes to gain from the trip.

“(El Salvador) is one of those places you can read and read about, but it is so much more to go down there and experience first hand the conditions these people live in every day,” Kari Osmond, sophomore women’s and gender studies and political science major, said. “Half of the population lives under poverty, and (close to) 23 percent live on less than $1 a day. It’s mind-blowing.”

Reichelmann said they will meet with the mayor of San Salvador, the two established political parties (ARENA and FMLN), and the only feminist group in the country, “Las Dignas.”

Reichelmann was adamant about the treatment of women in El Salavador, blaming both the Catholic religion’s powerful influence in the region as well as “the machismo culture” instituted by the government.

The students need to raise $22,000 by June to cover their trip.

“We have been working on fundraising since September and we are well on our way,” Reichelmann said. “Letter-writing and odd jobs have been our largest source of funds . We are also working with some powerful women in the state who are helping us think of fundraising projects.”

Questions, concerns, comments, job requests and fundraising ideas should be e-mailed