Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in El SalvadorEl Salvador is the smallest country in Central America, bordered by Guatemala and Honduras. It is about the same size as the state of Massachusetts with a population of 6.4 million people. Most of the country overflows with mountains and rainforests, while one side is bordered by the Pacific Ocean, possessing miles of sandy beaches. El Salvador is a unique country filled with vivid culture, people, and beauty. In the article below, a list of the top 10 facts about living conditions in El Salvador is presented.

  1. El Salvador has an extremely dense population. As of 2016, the population density was about 306 people per square kilometer of land. This creates overcrowded living situations, squeezing huge families into tiny houses. As a result, for low-income families, alleyway houses are created in rows of up to 50.
  2. The education level remains extremely low. Many children do not end up attending secondary school due to financial or economic reasons. Most families cannot afford to send their child to school and other children must work in order to help support their families. Almost 20 percent of males and 25 percent of females aged 15 or above cannot read or write.
  3. El Salvador has one of the highest rates of crime and murder in the world. The country has been labeled, “the most violent in Latin America.” From 2014 to 2017, about 20,000 people were murdered as a result of gang violence. The gangs are active in 94 percent of the country and run as a continuous threat to children, families and business owners.
  4. Agriculture plays a key role in the economy of the country. Agriculture employs about 25 percent of the country’s labor force and meets about 70 percent of the countries food needs. The top agricultural exports include coffee and sugar. Having the country’s mild climate and fertile soil in mind, it is safe to say that these exports will continue to provide a steady income.
  5. El Salvador is extremely prone to natural disasters. Due to its location in a very seismically active region, the annual average loss from earthquakes for the country is about $176 million or 0.7% of the country’s GDP. Floods, tropical storms and volcanoes have also been known to displace many families.
  6. Although poverty is a persistent issue, it has been declining over the past decade. The poverty rate declined 8 percent from 2007 to 2016. The extreme poverty rate also declined 5 percent over the same time period. This was a result of several factors, most notably increased salary and economic growth.
  7. El Salvador struggles to provide quality and adequate health care to its people. This is directly associated with a low level of income of most individuals and families. Upon illness, these people are unable to receive the proper medical care they need. The health care system was ranked poorly, coming in at 115th place out of 190 different countries’ health care systems around the world.
  8. Because of the overall low-income levels, the housing situation is evidently affected. In urban settings, most of the homes are made up of bricks and cement. They are extremely small, averaging about 480 square feet, sometimes even for very large families. In the slums, most of the houses are huts made with aluminum sheets, cardboard and plastic.
  9. About 1.8 million minors between the age of 5 and 17 are forced to work. Often times these children are placed in unsanitary or dangerous work environments just to earn a few dollars for themselves and their families.
  10. In 2016, the World Bank Group proposed a new Country Partnership Strategy for El Salvador. This initiative focuses on several areas including economic growth, education and employment. It was created to work with and support the government’s ambitious agenda for change.

The top 10 facts about living conditions in El Salvador open the door for several improvements and changes the country has the opportunity to make over the next few years. Slowly but surely, El Salvador is developing better living conditions for its people.

– Savannah Huls

Photo: Flickr

Building HomesThe rule of three declares that a human cannot survive without a shelter any more than three hours.

If lost in the wilderness, an individual may choose to build a makeshift tent using the natural materials found around. In rural communities in the world, entire families are desperately relying on tents as their shelters.

These families live in survival mode daily, as their homes and living conditions can drastically change in a moment’s notice.

Living in inadequate housing leads to many health problems because of poor sanitation. With 1.5 million children under the age of 5 dying from water-borne illnesses like diarrhea, improved sanitation could cut down diarrhea-related deaths by more than a third.

Also, proper housing could ultimately increase the survival rate of people as concrete floors reduce the incidences of parasitic infections and a stable roof would protect families from extreme weather.

More than billion people worldwide suffer daily from living in the slums or in survival mode tents.

New Story’s housing project aims to change that. This nonprofit organization began a project that would bring together the donations and local workers to build sustainable and secure housing for rural communities.

Transparency of New Story’s Housing Project

New Story’s housing project also promises that every penny of a donation goes into building these homes.

As it can be difficult for some donors to trust a nonprofit organization to use the funds honestly, New Story works with complete transparency to earn the trust of the donors.

As a result, New Story publicizes its spending in detail for anyone to see. For example, the home cost breakdown for a New Story community in Nuevo Cuscátlan, El Salvador, totals to $6,014. This includes the cost of the foundation, roof, concrete walls, door and windows, interior and electrical wiring, bathroom fixings and a sewage system.

Another great way that New Story offers irrefutable proofs of the fruits of the labor by the communities and donors is that the organization will videotape a family moving into the specific home that those specific funds had built.

Through these consistent and truthful updates, donors and witnesses alike can attest to the transparency of the organization.

In the upcoming period, New Story plans on using 3D-printing technology to potentially build an 800-square-foot home in just 24 hours for $4,000 or less.

The Effects of the New Story’s Housing Project

New Story emphasizes working together with the local community. This is because it believes that working with local partners and encouraging community involvement allows for the most effective operation of the construction.

The organization first finds out what the locals really need and what they consider to be important features for housing in their region. After that, the designing becomes focused on the people as homes are built to accommodate and provide for these families.

New Story’s housing project also stresses the importance of planning for a community as having a home is not the only factor that improves livelihoods. This is why New Story is committed to building several homes in one community as it would create a thriving community with schools, markets, and opportunities for the people.

The building process also brings in local workers and materials to stimulate the local economies while exposing the locals to a new set of skills such as construction and urban planning.

New Story’s project showed that proper housing opens new opportunities for people. Once families had homes that could protect them, sickness reduced drastically.

A safe home that was guaranteed to be habitable provided the chance for families to focus on income and their futures.

Positive Examples

Since 2015, this organization has been working in Haiti, El Salvador, Bolivia and Mexico. New Story states that it works with local people to find the most desperate and destitute communities to focus on.

In Haiti, New Story built 534 homes in eight communities for 1,848 people. In El Salvador, it built 190 homes in five communities for 769 people. In Bolivia, it built 59 homes in one community for 177 people.

One example of a participant of New Story’s housing is Maria-Rose Delice. After her home was destroyed as a consequence of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, she was living in tents with her four children.

When New Story’s housing project had created a home for her and her children, Delice’s life was instantaneously lifted from living in survival mode. Instead of survival, she can now focus on other activities that can further benefit her life financially and comfortable. The security of her own New Story home has given her new opportunities.

“I’d like to start a business,” said Delice. “I’ll also be able to build a fence and start a garden. Pinto beans, bananas white beans – everything!”

Nonprofit organizations such as New Story are giving new life and hope for people in rural areas.

The basic need of housing is finally being addressed properly and with integrity by New Story.

Initiatives such as New Story’s housing project connect donors with recipients around the world as well as improve and stimulate the local economy for future developments.

– Jenny S. Park
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts about Girls’ Education in El SalvadorIn the 1980s, El Salvador was involved in conflict associated with protests, kidnapping and gang violence.

During this time, children in El Salvador faced hardships such as the lack of secondary education, limited job opportunities and early pregnancy.

The education sector was affected by the conflicts happening in the country. Military combat led to the destruction of some schools which prevented children from attending their classes. Today, education has improved and El Salvador has gained support from many beneficial programs.

Issues still remain and need to be improved, and one of the most important ones is supporting education equality between male and female students. In the article below, top 10 facts about girls’ education in El Salvador and the differentiation in education between the genders in the country are presented.

Top 10 Facts About Girls’ Education in El Salvador

  1. Due to the culture in the country that as implies the El Salvadorian women running the household while the men bring in income, girls usually spend a lesser amount of time in school compared to boys. Boys spend around 4.6 years in school while girls only spend around 3.4 years. Many girls are forced to end their education prematurely in order to help with duties at home.
  2. Gang violence, abuse and the threats made towards girls while being in school make it difficult for them to maintain an education. In 2015, 30 schools reported the act of sexual violence or misconduct towards the girls in school. It is nearly impossible for a girl in El Salvador to gain justice when many of the cases are not reported, and does that are, are rarely investigated.
  3. Girls as young as 12 are pressured to start a family. Having to maintain so much responsibility leads to education exclusion for females while males continue education. Logically, boys have a better chance at pursuing a career due to the advantage of staying in school longer.
  4. Based on statistics in Santa Catarina Masahuat, 92 percent of children complete primary education. Out of this number, 98 percent are boys and 86 percent are girls. Statistics at a national level, estimated by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, showed that the gross enrollment ratio for females who attended secondary school stood at 74.24 percent in 2016. In comparison, enrollment in 1970 was 19.64 percent. The gross enrollment ratio in 2016 was, however, higher for men than women.
  5. In 2015, El Salvador’s literacy rate was estimated to be about 88 percent. The literacy rate for men was around 90 percent and for women was 86.2 percent. These statistics include people aged 15 and above.
  6. Marriage is illegal in El Salvador if you are under the age of 18, however, Article 14 of the nations family code made underage marriage possible under certain circumstances. These circumstances allowed for a girl to be forced into marriage if she was pregnant at 13 with no consent required.
  7. UNICEF El Salvador continues to advocate for children’s rights. In 2017, the Legislative Assembly voted to prohibit child marriage. By doing so, the country office used social media and the U-report platform to inform the public about sexual violence and early child marriage of the young girls. A survey was issued to ask for opinions on how to eradicate child marriage. About 70 percent of the U-report survey takers claimed that they know a young girl either married, pregnant or already a parent.
  8. Parliament of El Salvador closed the loophole in the child marriage law in August 2017. This is a huge step towards enabling the rights for girls education in El Salvador. This gives them hope they need to continue their future in education. Carmen Elena Aleman, Country Director for Plan International in El Salvador, stated that there is still much to do and that it will take time to change the practices and beliefs that are so deeply entrenched within the society. The responsible people must redouble their efforts to raise awareness of the damage this practice does to girls’ lives in the communities.
  9. According to UNICEF, education for girls is extremely important and has a multiplier effect. Girls that receive education are more likely to marry later and conceive fewer children which benefits their health and their education. These girls will then grow up with better social and work skills that will enable them better lives.
  10. UNICEF supports gender equality and has set the Gender Action Plan (GAP). This plan empowers young girls who were at risk of child marriage or who are already married by building support networks and providing them with life skills. Strategies are created to prevent violence and discrimination against girls and boys in school or in general. GAP is the roadmap to gender equality and opportunities in El Salvador but worldwide as well.

Girls’ education in El Salvador is a lot different than boys education in the country, considering the facts listed above. Although education has improved for girls, there are still changes that need to be made.

With the support of programs like GAP and organizations like UNICEF, hope is given to young girls in continuing on with an education and a healthier lifestyle. Plans like this one create a stepping stool to gender equality and poverty eradication.

– Kathleen Smith
Photo: Flickr

Starkey Hearing Foundation Empowers Patients in El SalvadorThe Starkey Hearing Foundation, founded in 1984 by William F. Austin, began in Minnesota and has since expanded. Currently, Starkey Hearing Foundation services over 100 countries around the world. In 2010, the Foundation made a commitment with the Clinton Global Initiative to provide 1 million hearing aids to those in need by 2020.

According to The World Health Organization, approximately 466 million people worldwide suffer from hearing loss, and around 34 million of those affected are children. Deafness and hearing loss have drastic consequences to people living in impoverished countries. Children who are affected by hearing loss during their developmental stages are more likely to be prevented from attending schooling and prevented from attaining a job. Adults with deafness or hearing loss have a high probability for social isolation, limited occupational abilities and lower earnings.

These effects are especially apparent in El Salvador, a country with an estimated deaf population of 15,000 and a GDP of approximately $4,200 per capita. In a country with little economic opportunity, those with hearing disabilities are often discriminated against in the workplace, personal and public life. In addition to the adversity deaf and hearing impaired people experience in El Salvador, most cannot afford access to the necessary healthcare to treat their conditions, including basics like hearing aids and their subsequent upkeep.

The Starkey Hearing Foundation in El Salvador

The Starkey Hearing Foundation recently completed another hearing mission to San Salvador, El Salvador, where patients were given hearing aids and other services free of charge. The Foundation completed their first hearing mission to San Salvador, El Salvador, in 1997, and has done multiple others since. During their most recent mission, they were able to see former patient, Juan Carlo, who was fit for a hearing aid when he was three years old. Since then, Carlo has graduated high school and been successful in the professional field, thanks to the access to hearing that Starkey Foundation gave him.

The Starkey Hearing Foundation completes their hearing missions under a community-based hearing healthcare system comprised of three main stages:

  1. The first stage of this system is patient identification. The Foundation identifies and trains workers in the area where they are planning a hearing mission. The workers then screen people with hearing impairments and give them the primary ear-care treatments they need. After giving primary care to potential hearing aid candidates, the workers take ear impressions and create custom molds for hearing aids.
  2. Phase two of the program is when the hearing mission takes place. The Starkey Hearing Foundation begins by fitting hearing aids on qualified patients. They then counsel the hearing aid recipients on how to care for and operate hearing aids, including providing aftercare information so patients can continue their ear-care when the Foundation leaves the area.
  3. The third and last phase of the hearing mission is executing the aftercare program. The Starkey team provides monthly aftercare appointments at a central location to give patients additional care including counseling, batteries, repairs and replacements free of charge to the patients. The Starkey Hearing Foundation then evaluates the program and team and begins to evaluate and identify future patients for the next hearing mission in the area.

By providing hearing aids and ear care to patients in impoverished countries who would not otherwise be able to afford the treatments, the Starkey Hearing Foundation offers patients a chance to success. With their hearing aids and care, patients are able to gain and education and participate in the workforce, securing them more economic success and helping end their poverty.

– Savannah Hawley

Photo: Flickr

5 Facts About Human Rights in El Salvador
The focus on immigration along the U.S. border has brought human rights of several Latin American countries into the limelight. A large portion of the migrants come from El Salvador — the smallest and most densely populated country in Central America. A large number of migrants is largely due to violations of women’s rights and gang violence throughout the country.  Here are 5 crucial facts about human rights in El Salvador.

5 Important Facts About Human Rightsi in El Salvador

  1. El Salvador is regarded as the murder capital of the world. Violence is very prevalent in El Salvador due to the dominance of gangs. In the first three months of 2016, there was an average of one murder per hour. Two gangs, in particular, have a supreme rule — MS-13 and 18th Street Gang. In 2015, the Supreme Court of El Salvador declared both organizations as terroristic; yet, the government fails to control gang activity — the gang leaders proclaim that they control the country. The hope of escaping gang activity and violence is a leading cause of El Salvadoran migration to the U.S.
  1. Internal displacement is extremely dangerous. Freedom of movement is almost non-existent and another one of the human rights violations in El Salvador. This is due in part to the territorial nature of the gangs. Even if persons are not a member of the gang, but live in an area controlled by a gang, they will not be permitted to enter a different gang’s territory even if they are using public transportation.  Upon entry to a different territory, identification cards which include an address must be presented and, in the most extreme cases, innocent persons are killed due to their residence location. At the same time, many are forced to flee their homes due to violence and crime; 66 percent have changed their place of residence once, 31 percent two to four times and over 3 percent five or more times.  The same poll showed that over 40 percent of people hope to migrate to another country within a year.
  1. Prisons are overcrowded and conditions are inhumane. In 2017, over 38,000 inmates were being held in a facility designed for less than 11,500. This facility was not unique in its overcrowding. In many facilities, provisions for sanitation, potable water, proper ventilation, temperature control and medical care were inadequate by human rights standards. Many have reported that the conditions are an abuse to the right to life and right to health of the inmates. The overcrowding has also lead to an easier and wider-spread proliferation of diseases; tuberculosis cases have increased by 400 percent as the prisons have become more crowded.
  1. Nearly 1/3 of workers on sugarcane plantations are under the age of 18. El Salvador does have child labor laws — children ages 14-18 may engage in light work if it does not pose a threat to the child’s health, education, or development. The law also distinguishes that children under 18 years old may not work in “hazardous occupations.”  Yet, these laws are not enforced or followed, as at least 5,000 kids and as many as 30,000 kids work on the sugar plantations, using large machetes to sheer the leaves for up to 9 hours a day in the hot sun. In interviews conducted by the Human Rights Watch, nearly every child said he/she had suffered gashes. Despite labor codes that make employers responsible for medical expenses resulting from on the job injuries, many kids are left to pay for their own medical care.  Additionally, the majority of kids who work on the plantations miss the first several months of school.
  1. Government corruption exists on all levels. Many government officials allegedly have ties or allegiances to certain gangs. In August of 2017, the Probity Section of the Supreme Court was investigating 517 current and former public officials for illicit enrichment. That same year, the Ethics Tribunal reported that it received 375 complaints against 467 public officials. Reports and complaints of cruel treatment or torture by public officers are all too common, as is discrimination against sexual minorities by police officers. Unlawful killings and arrests are also a continual problem for officers.

Reward Greater Than Risk

Human rights in El Salvador must be addressed and improved in order to ensure widespread safety. If violence decreases and improved rights are met, then the peoples’ quality of life overall will prosper and hardship will lessen. Fewer people will be forced to helplessly flee in search of difficult asylum elsewhere, and family members and familiarity will cease to be left behind.

– Jessie Serody
Photo: Flickr

Northern Triangle
On June 14, 2017, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) arranged $2.5 billion in infrastructure projects for the nations of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. IDB invested $750 million, plus additional funding for another $1.75 billion from public and private sectors within the Northern Triangle. One year later, with levels of violence and regional emigration still growing, it begs the question, what is the U.S. doing to help?

U.S. Aid To The Northern Triangle

This funding was proposed to compliment the Plan of the Alliance for the Prosperity of the Northern Triangle, which has made progress in addressing security issues and strengthening local institutions.

The initiative intends to improve the region’s infrastructure and, above all else, to slow the path of northern migration by providing economic opportunities in the region. However, it is estimated that the Alliance For Prosperity, in place since 2014, directs 60 percent of the budget towards security measures.

With the additional $2.5 billion in regional and IDB backing, far more development progress should be achieved. IDB President Luis Alberto Moreno stated in 2017 that “the key over the next five years will be to tap the private sector to help build critical infrastructure that will generate jobs, improve competitiveness, and create the conditions that encourage people to build prosperous lives in their homelands.” Only one year into a five year plan, numerous of the project’s goals need time to produce results.

Northern Triangle Migration

In 2017, 54 percent of migrants detained at the border arrived from the Northern Triangle, in comparison to only 13 percent back in 2010. The Brookings institute reports that migration to countries like the U.S. has much to do with unprecedented levels of violence, including kidnapping, sex crimes and extortion in home countries.

Former Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, suggested that United States’ demand for drugs is what drives “violence” and “lawlessness” in the Northern Triangle nations. The majority of those arriving in the U.S. are not a part of the violent gang crime themselves, but rather are fleeing this crime seeking asylum and safety.

Regional Efforts

Surges of gang violence coupled by weak institutional support, corruption and a general lack of economic opportunity have undermined regional efforts to address the crisis. With 95 percent of crimes going unpunished, refugees have little choice but to flee. Eric Olsen at the Wilson Center argues, “There has been so much penetration of the state and so much criminal involvement in security forces, it makes it difficult to think about how they would [reform] without some outside intervention.”

It’s understandable that so much funding is needed to address organized crime, but this allocation leaves the Northern Triangle to struggle with a multitude of other concerns. IDB’s development pledge in coordination with the existing Alliance for Prosperity projects addressing security is a great step towards addressing the larger institutional infrastructure problems of the Northern Triangle.

U.S. Response and the Alliance for Prosperity

In recent years, the U.S. has responded in various ways to help El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Under President George W. Bush, the U.S. allocated hundreds of millions to the Northern Triangle and focused on increasing growth, trade and stability. President Barack Obama established the Central America Regional Security Initiative (CARSI) that provided over $1 billion to help law enforcement, counternarcotics and justice systems in the region.

This initiative was designed to coincide with the Alliance for Prosperity to promote commerce and security. Under President Donald J. Trump, Alliance for Prosperity has continued, but his administration has established a much harsher line on immigration policies affecting Northern Triangle refugees.

After one year, the anticipated effects of IDB’s pledge have yet to be realized. Recent media coverage of separated migrant families has raised more awareness of the realities faced in the Northern Triangle, and presents a new opportunity to direct new projects to restore the prosperity of these three nations.

With Central Americans still dealing with forced emigration, it is clear additional measures must be taken by the U.S. government to prevent atrocities in the Northern Triangle and that the congressional IDB pledge is just one step of many needed in the right direction.

– Joseph Ventura
Photo: Flickr

Girls' Education in El Salvador
Despite past cultural demands, girls’ education in El Salvador now equals that of their male counterparts with the support of hard-working mothers and USAID’s commitments under the Alliance for Prosperity Plan.

Cultural Shifts Improving Girls’ Education in El Salvador

For many years, women in El Salvador have been relegated to domestic roles. Young girls were often pulled out of school to assist with household tasks while boys continued on, pursuing an education that was more culturally valued. However, women are becoming increasingly more educated. Each generation of girls stays in school longer than their mothers, often because of their mother’s commitment to providing them with an education. Overwhelmingly, women express a desire for their daughters to have as much schooling as possible. This shift is evidence of changing cultural values, moving away from traditional gender roles to a climate that allows women to pursue things outside of domestic life.

According to an October 2015 study conducted by UNICEF, girls are actually more likely to finish primary school, with 86 percent of girls finishing as compared to 81 percent of boys. Additionally, 31,000 boys of primary school age do not attend school in contrast with 27,000 girls, a clear flip from the typical gender norms that once opposed girls’ education in El Salvador. Furthermore, the gross enrollment rate for secondary schools is 71 percent for girls and 70 percent for boys. Girls’ education in El Salvador is rising to a level that usurps their male equivalents.

This upswing is partially due to the Law of Equality, Fairness and the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women passed in March 2011 at the urging of many women’s rights groups. The bill addressed El Salvador’s need to provide equitable education for girls, as well as the gender wage gap.

Challenges Remain for All El Salvadorian Children

Fabiola Rivas, an El Salvadorian native currently attending university in the United States, told The Borgen Project that the major challenges to improving education in El Salvador are not related to gender. “Good opportunities for education in El Salvador really depend on the family’s income. The problem with El Salvador’s education is that public schools do not provide good quality education. Regardless if you are a boy or a girl, the amount of information you are being taught and the quality of it is not good enough to go to college.”

Rivas acknowledges that her educational path is an uncommon one, having been able to attend a private school in El Salvador before obtaining a full scholarship in the United States. In fact, the majority of youth in El Salvador, male and female alike, do not attend school past sixth grade. At the transition to middle school, half of students drop out, and then another half of the remaining students drop out at the start of high school. Unlike the American education system, which is organized, typically good quality, and free, good schools in El Salvador are too expensive for the average citizen to afford.

USAID Programs Focus on Most Vulnerable Populations

In advocating for the goals of the Alliance for Prosperity Plan and the U.S. Strategy of Engagement in Central America, USAID has implemented programs in El Salvador to combat these startling dropout numbers. USAID programs concentrate on developing high-quality education and trade skills programs in areas of low economic efficiency with the hope of creating a more competitive workforce to spur on fiscal growth. This, coupled with USAID’s efforts to offer advanced certification courses for teachers, continues to increase the quality of education in El Salvador.

These programs also focus on keeping children in school and out of gangs, which typically recruit students that are vulnerable to dropping out. Currently, El Salvador has astonishingly high rates of crime and gang violence. The longer kids can be motivated to stay in school, the more likely it is that these rates can and will be diminished.

Salvador Sanchez Ceren, a former school teacher and the current president of El Salvador, promised in his inaugural address in 2014 that education would be one of the top priorities of his administration. Although girls’ education in El Salvador encountered many gender-biased problems in the past, today all the children of El Salvador, regardless of gender, must face the same issues.

– Sarah Dean

Photo: Flickr


Poverty is a condition in which income is not enough to afford access to necessary goods, services and infrastructure needed to sustain a quality living standard. Securing and maintaining the means to satisfy adequate nutrition, healthcare, shelter, clothing and other humane safety provisions requires significant funds.

Past Printing

Imagine post-World War I Germany in the 1920s. To fund its military during the war and satisfy reparations thereafter to the Allied nations, the German government’s solution to producing more national income was simple — it commissioned 130 printing companies to print more money.

This, however, gave rise to increasing inflation in which their currency, the German mark, unsupported by a gold standard, became virtually worthless. With every printing press, creating more money became perpetually futile, and the German mark was more useful for a child’s arts and crafts project than it was to purchase food and clothing.

A New Kind of Tech

Less than a century later, technology and three-dimensional (3D) printing has allowed us to not only print currency with regular modifications (so as to prevent counterfeit bills), but to also print the very goods and supplies purchasable with said currency.

Three-dimensional printing employs the use of specialized technology called “additive manufacturing” — computer aided design and modeling software produce a virtual rendering of just about any three-dimensional object.

A 3D printer then reads a data file and melts raw material, such as plastic, metals and concrete, and with laser technology deposits that material through a nozzle. Layer upon layer, the virtual model forms the tactile facsimile.

New Story

A California-based non-profit organization, New Story, wants to sponsor printing-improved homes in El Salvador — Central America’s smallest and most population-dense nation. New Story has also partnered with the company ICON, an Austin, Texas construction technology company, to remedy housing shortages in El Salvador through ICON’s industrial Vulcan 3D printer.

At this year’s South by Southwest festival in Austin, ICON debuted its cement, single-story, 650-square-foot prototype home, a 3D rendering from the Vulcan printer. ICON claims it can erect such a home for $10,000 and in less than 24 hours time. The model is sleek with white concrete and features a living room, bedroom, bathroom and arched porch.

New Story aims to build 100 3D printed homes in El Salvador by 2019, compounding its previous accomplishments in the building of over 700 traditionally constructed homes in Bolivia, El Salvador, and Haiti; the corporation also built 1,300 worldwide.

Revitalizing Slums

ICON maintains it can trim 3D-printed building costs down to $4,000 and that its Vulcan printer can make a home as large as 800-square-feet. 3D printed homes are considered far more cost effective than the typical home. In El Salvador, a nation of over 6 million people, 35 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. Housing shortages are said to affect 944,000 families, amounting to 6 out of 10 families with insufficient housing.

And as 68 percent of El Salvadorians lived in urban areas in 2017, latest estimates from 2005 show 29 percent of El Salvador’s urban population lived in slum housing. Slum dwelling is defined as a group of people under the same roof without improved water and sanitation, durable housing or all of the above.

Preventing Natural Disasters

El Salvador’s geography leaves its buildings’ integrity exceptionally susceptible to natural hazards such as earthquakes, hurricanes, floods and volcanic eruptions. It is precariously situated along the Pacific Ring of Fire, a global seismic belt where 81 percent of the world’s earthquakes occur.

Ninety-five percent of El Salvadorians are said to be at risk of a natural disaster. In November 2009, Hurricane Ida displaced 15,000 people and damaged no less than 2,500 homes. New Story is currently fundraising $600,000 for research and development and another $400,000 for the community of 100 3D printed homes in El Salvador.

3D printed homes and building materials originated in Europe. A Dutch company, Dus Architects, built one of the first prototypes, — a small pavilion structure — in Amsterdam in March 2014. In September 2014, Chinese company, WinSun Decoration Design Engineering, used their custom 3D printer to create 10 homes with a cement blend of construction waste and glass fiber. This material incorporation lent more efficient material use to an already eco-friendly production.

3D Printing Around the Globe

The first inhabitable 3D printed home was recently erected in Nantes, France in April 2018 and tenancy is expected this June. The University of Nantes and the Nantes Digital Sciences Laboratory developed the five-bedroom home and a machine called the Batiprint3D built its frame in 18 days.

3D printing has also been proposed by the U.K.-based Oxfam, a confederation of 20 charitable organizations, to aid disaster relief by reproducing its water, sanitation and hygiene kits. Oxfam and non-profit 3D printing company, Field Ready, provided medical instruments and water pipe fittings in response to Nepal’s 2015 earthquake that claimed the lives of 9,000 people and injured 16,800.

There are several predecessors that have used, or plan to use, 3D printing for home construction and humanitarian efforts. But New Story and ICON lead the way with their campaigns to actualize proposals, print homes and alleviate homelessness and unsafe housing without for-profit interest.

Home is Where the Hard-drive Is 

According to the United Nations, over one billion people worldwide live in slum housing — ramshackle homes fortified with scrap metal and founded on unfinished or dirt flooring.

New Story wants to transform slums worldwide into safe living communities; to that end, El Salvador stands to benefit first ahead of the rest of international community with the advent of livable 3D printed homes and requisite funding. All donations to New Story are matched up to $1 million.

– Thomas Benjamin
Photo: Flickr

How the Media Misrepresents El SalvadorLatin American countries tend to be represented as third-world countries compared to more prosperous ones like the United States. El Salvador is not exempt from such narratives. One such way that the media misrepresents El Salvador is by only covering the negative aspects of the news and not the positive. Some of the negative portrayals include stories about drugs, murders and gang violence.

A Better Future for Salvadorans

While there is this negativity present, there is also a garment factory that is trying to help turn the life of its workers around. This garment factory hired people “who are normally left out of society, including ex-gang members,” according to PBS News Hour. The factory combines school and works to give El Salvador a brighter future.

The factory’s general manager, Rodrigo Bolanos, said, “I saw the American dream, where lower- and middle-class kids can work and study at night in community colleges. And for me, that is a good way to resolve and to give the American dream right here in El Salvador to all these poor people.”

Carlos Arguetta, a previous gang member, wore long sleeves to his interview to try to cover up his tattoos, as described in the report. Through an interpreter, Arguetta stated that if he “didn’t have a job like this one, [he] would probably still be part of the gang and be doing killings.”

Improving Living Conditions in Slums

Another way that the media misrepresents El Salvador is in the way that its citizens live. Descriptions of wooden shacks are abundant when describing living conditions. While that might be true, there are two companies that are trying to change the places that Salvadorans live in.

Recently, a Texas-based construction technology company by the name of ICON partnered with New Story, a company that builds homes in developing countries, in order to provide better living conditions for those stuck in the El Salvador slums. ICON and New Story plan to transport a 3D-printer in order to produce 3D-printed homes for people at a highly reduced building cost.

The companies hope to give people who live in the slums an opportunity to live in a safer housing environment. As reported by Arab News, the mixture that produces the homes contains “a mix of concrete, water and other materials [that] are pumped through the 3D-printer.” The mixture hardens as it is being printed. It only takes 48 hours for a house to be built from the ground up. This is a much better alternative to makeshift shacks that citizens currently live in.

Using Art to Combat Violence

The final persistent misrepresentation of El Salvador in the media is the violence, and while the violence does occur, the nation is often presented as inescapable. However, art is one way that Salvadorans are able to escape their realities.

Marco Paíz is an artist and organizer of a festival by the name of “Sombrilla Fest,” or umbrella fest. It is a festival that is part of a bigger celebration called the World Social Circus Day, which takes place annually on April 7. This day is organized to be an international day to spread joy and is celebrated by 20 nations worldwide.

The goal of the festival is to have people “take over these spaces and these activities so that they [can] come out of the darkness of the violence that surrounds the country,” said Marco Paíz to TeleSur. It can also be an opportunity to motivate Salvadorans to learn the artistic practices so that they are able to improve their own living situation.

Despite the ways in which the media misrepresents El Salvador, there are numerous positive developments happening across this Central American nation.

– Valeria Flores

Photo: Flickr

Credit Access in El SalvadorThe country of El Salvador is known for being the smallest and most densely populated country in Latin America. It has the twelfth-highest GDP in the Americas. A large portion of its economic growth comes from remittances.

Meanwhile, agriculture, which had fallen off in the 1990s, continues to play an important role in the economy as it employs 25 percent of the country’s labor force. Coffee and sugar, El Salvador’s main exports, account for a significant portion of the agricultural sector. But despite its comfortably high GDP, 32.7 percent of its citizens live in poverty.

A significant obstacle to alleviating poverty is limited credit access in El Salvador. In particular, while banking is common and easy to obtain in the larger cities like San Salvador and Santa Ana, the poor, especially in rural areas, have the most difficulty. Of the 40 percent of the population with low income, only 6 percent have accounts at financial institutions. And while access has grown, most banks do not have branches outside of the major cities.

To combat this, in 2013 the World Bank funded and developed a program that, through technical assistance, supported the Salvadoran authorities in developing legal frameworks and financial services. The World Bank team provided a framework for financial correspondents (third parties such as grocery stores and pharmacies) that authorized them to provide basic financial services. As well, the World Bank provided feedback on models of regulation for mobile banking and electronic banking.

Through these efforts, the World Bank was able to legally enact a framework that allowed for those third-party groups to carry out basic financial services. And between December 2013 and May 2014, basic banking transactions through third parties totaled nearly US $45 million. By utilizing technical channels outside of banks themselves, the World Bank has been able to provide credit access in El Salvador for all its citizens.

And in 2010, the International Finance Corporation, which is a part of the World Bank, financed a $30 million project specifically for micro-financing. Based on remittance flow, which accounts for more than $2.8 billion of El Salvador’s GDP, this project will establish a new funding platform for Fedecredito, a cooperative of 55 El Salvador credit unions and banks. Through the support from the World Bank, which will grow Fedecredito’s portfolio by up to 25 percent, Fedecredito hopes to use this new structure to give credit to over 30,000 micro entrepreneurs.

Through these programs, credit access in El Salvador has improved, especially for the rural poor. As these projects continue and El Salvador gains more stability, hopefully, their citizens will have more economic freedom.

– Nick McGuire

Photo: Flickr