29 Sep Books for a Better Future
Franziska Engelhardt is a Wandering Samaritan from Zurich, Switzerland who was traveling through El Salvador. Here’s an amazing story of goodness from her trip! —
I happen to know Margarita’s family who lives a tough reality, just as many people in Central American countries do. They live in neighborhoods controlled by gangs called the Maras. During my visit in their house I’m slightly on alert that someone might show up to check on “their foreign visitor.” The gangs know who enters their barrio. Margaritas house lies in between two rival gang territories. It is quiet now. But the parents assure that almost every night they hear shootings, closer or further away. “The most difficult thing is”, says the mother in the dark kitchen where the heat is almost unbearable that late afternoon, “that my two daughters can’t simply go outside. It’s too dangerous. We’re all locked up in here.” The house is fenced round – even the little patio where the laundry is hanging to dry from the roof bars.
Growing up in the territory of two rival gangs in San Salvador, Margarita is holding a leaflet of English classes in her hand and her face is showing a big smile. We’re standing in the living room of Margarita’s parents house in a poor neighborhood in San Salvador. She realizes: Finally she’ll be able learn English. Wandering Samaritan is giving her the books that she needs to attend the classes that her family couldn’t afford.
Margarita is 12 years old, and her mentally challenged sister 22. The older sister usually stays at home with their grandmother who also suffers from first stage Alzheimer’s. Margarita only leaves the house to go to school – a nun school which is two blocks away. The public school got too dangerous because of gang members trying to recruit the pupils or trying to kidnap young girls. So if Margarita’s mother is not there to pick her up from school, she is running home. The teenager knows what the gang members are capable of. Talking about the crimes, she seems much older than 12 years old. She used to go to a cyber cafe with her mom to print out homework.“ One day a young man came inside and shot another customer, she recalled. “Everything was full of blood and I saw his organs fall out. Terrified we ran home.” Since that moment, her parents worked hard to provide a printer at home– to have as little need as possible to leave the house.
The mother works in a mall, the father is a taxi driver. It is because of a journalistic project that I got to know him about two years ago. I don’t mention his name in order to protect him. As a worker in the transportation sector he’s one of the biggest targets of the gangs. I’ve been in touch with him ever since we met, and his situation got worse. So this summer when I went back for another journalist project about extortions, he told me about his young, wonderful daughter and – despite her tough reality – about her eagerness to learn and to get out of the misery. In passing, he mentioned her wish to learn English, which at this moment was impossible because of their economic situation. It’s then when I decided to visit the rest of his family and to support them in the mission of The Wandering Samaritan. We could make this dream a reality. English books in El Salvador via a Swiss traveler. Perfect!
Seeing Margarita’s happiness and her first attempts to pronounce “Wandering Samaritan” and to thank the organization in English already made me confident that this will be a good little investment in her future.
She says “smile” is her favorite word in English…one of ours too!
(press CC in the player below for subtitles)
And while leaving the house I realized that luckily no one had showed up to their house to check on the foreign visitor.
A little update: Margarita is doing well in her first coursework!