In Urban El Salvador
Geography & Climate
- El Salvador is the smallest Central American country and the only one without a coastline on the Caribbean Sea.
- Two parallel mountain ranges cross the country from east to west, with a central plateau between them.
- A narrow coastal belt borders the Pacific Ocean and extends about 190 miles.
- Known as the “Land of Volcanoes,” El Salvador experiences frequent and often destructive earthquakes and volcanic activity.
- Like other countries in Central America, El Salvador is also susceptible to hurricanes.
Of El Salvador’s total population, 61 percent live in the crowded urban areas. This is where many Compassion-assisted children live, in slums called zonas marginales.
About two-thirds of urban adults are unemployed or underemployed, unable to provide for even the most basic needs of their children.
Children at Home
Typical low-income homes in El Salvador’s cities are constructed of bricks and cement.
They average 480 square feet in size and are connected by common walls in long rows of up to 50 homes.
In the more destitute urban slums, where many Compassion-assisted children live, homes are makeshift dwellings constructed of scrap materials.
Issues and Concerns
- El Salvador (meaning The Savior) is named for Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace. But because of the proliferation of gangs, the country is one of the most violent in Central America.
- El Salvador has the highest murder rate in the region.
- Recently, gangs and other criminal groups started the practice of demanding money, called “rent,” from families, businesses and even churches. If the demanded amount is not paid, gang members retaliate with physical and property harm.
- The amount of “rent” money charged by gangs can range from $50 to thousands of dollars per week.
- Local newspapers regularly report murders, kidnappings and businesses burned because someone failed to pay the required “rent.”
Local Needs and Challenges
Children are highly susceptible to involvement in the violent gangs that are a growing problem in the cities.
In most cases, children’s homes don’t have such basic services as running water or garbage collection.
Schools and Education
- El Salvador is mired in poverty partly because of the general population’s low education level.
- Although poor urban children attend school an average of three more years than those in the rural areas, few have the opportunity to obtain a secondary education.
- El Salvador’s urban children typically attend school only through the sixth grade.
- Nearly 20 percent of males and 25 percent of females age 15 and older in El Salvador can’t read or write.
Compassion El Salvador works to ensure that every registered child is able to attend school, and it provides additional support, including tutoring, at the child development centers.
At the Compassion Child Development Center
Compassion-assisted child development centers in El Salvador’s cities, operated by local churches, provide registered children with the learning opportunities they need to develop their full potential in Christ.
In addition to attending school, older children also learn practical job skills, such as baking, that will enable them to earn a viable income.
At the centers, Compassion-assisted children also attend health classes, tutoring sessions and Bible studies.
What Compassion Sponsorship Provides
In partnership with local churches, Compassion is bringing help and hope to urban El Salvador’s children in need, providing:
- regular nutritious meals and snacks
- health checkups and medical care as needed
- the support needed to attend school
- spiritual development, including Bible studies, youth retreats and counseling
- the opportunity for youths to dream of a different life — they don’t have to join a gang and sell drugs to support a family. Instead, they can finish school or learn a trade like baking, silk-screening or sewing.