Saturday night students from the Central American Studies (CAS) Field Work 270 class gathered at a house in the valley for some carne asada (BBQ meat), pupusas, beans, rice, fried bananas, music and ambience. Not usual for a house party, there was a $5 entrance fee.
Money raised from the gathering went to benefit a women’s artisan group in El Salvador raising money to build a children’s library and recreation center.
‘These groups of artisan women try to rely on their own funds to build a library so kids won’t be in danger outside on the streets so we offered to help them,’ said Nancy Menjivar a senior psychology and CAS double major. ‘They never came to us, we did it because we wanted to help them.’
The class hopes to raise money to send back to the artisan group located in a town called Tonacatepeque, Apopa in El Salvador. The funds would help the artisan women build bookshelves, buy books, and arts and crafts for the children in their neighborhood.
The efforts made by CAS 270 are in conjunction with the Central American Research and Policy Institute (CARPI).
Students and supporters were outside on the lawn as some played Rock Band and others sat on lawn chairs under the night sky eating and socializing.
The CAS 270 class is designed to teach students how to interact inside a community by conducting field work within a given neighborhood.
‘We do community organizing on behalf of the needs of that community, specifically within Latin America,’ said Professor Douglas Carranza wh’s been working on projects like these for three years.
Over the past two years, CAS 270 classes were’ able to fundraise enough money to buy a water pump for a school in Guatemala and to send construction materials to El Salvador.
‘We already know the area; we just teach them how to get involved. There is an element of social work because the students have to do 25 hours of community involvement working with an organization from a certain community,’ said Carranza.
‘What is important to note is the community itself decided it was what they needed. If one wants to help the community they have to pay attention to what they want,’ said Beatriz Cortez the program coordinator for CAS. ‘The students just offered to support (the women artisans).’
During the fundraiser plates and drinks were sold. This particular group, of three in the class, is finding mechanisms to collect donations. The other groups are selling T-shirts and raffle tickets for a gift card.
‘Everything you ate here was donated to us,’ said Menjivar who was in charge of serving the food.
‘It has been fun,’ said Roberto Saravia a senior CAS major about their efforts. ‘It is important to have those ties with people from other countries especially with artisan groups in Central America.’
Transnational families is another issue that this class has been exploring.
‘In the long run, we want to build a transnational community by being able to connect with the Salvadoran community while being here in California,’ said Saravia.
There are already many transnational families said Menjivar, there are many families that are separated so they continue to keep close ties with their families back home by sending money or anything else they need. ‘