February 6, 2014

El Salvador: Church Changes Thousands of Lives Through Literacy Program

BY GUSTAVO MENEDEZ, reporting from Soyapango, San Salvador, El Salvador

Thousands of people learned how to read and write thanks to the
months-long efforts of Seventh-day Adventist church members in El Salvador and
Hope for Humanity.

More than 2,500 held their literacy completion certificates high
overhead during a special celebration held recently in Don Bosco Auditorium in
Soyapango, San Salvador, El Salvador.

National Literacy Coordinator for the Ministry of Education in El
Salvador Angelica Paniagua, applauded the efforts of the Adventist Church for
its partnership and commitment in holding literacy courses throughout hundreds
of communities across the Central American country. “I have no words to express
our gratitude on behalf of the Ministry of Education in El Salvador to Hope for
Humanity and the [Adventist] church because they are our main partner in the
process of eradicating illiteracy,” said Paniagua.“Thanks to your help, the
government’s partnership and other institutions, we have been able to lower the
illiteracy rate from 17 percent to 13 percent.”

The day’s celebration was a time to thank the hundreds of
volunteers who commit to teaching others how to read week after week, as the
United Nations observes the International Volunteer Day December 5th every

<strong>Movers and Shakers</strong>Maitland DiPinto (left) and Wally Amundson

During his keynote address, Maitland DiPinto of the North American
Division’s Hope for Humanity, was thrilled to see the fruits of the work of so
many volunteers. “I am so impressed with the commitment of volunteers who
invest more than two hours every day, four times per week, eight months every
year and then begin the cycle again the following year to help transform
lives,” said DiPinto. “This is not by chance, this is a real commitment.”

Literacy is a transforming process of life, emphasized DiPinto.
“The person who learns how to read and write has a new vision in life, a new

Wally Amundson, Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA)
director for Inter-America, who has been overseeing literacy programs
throughout the Inter-American Division (IAD) territory in Mexico, Central America,
Dominican Republic, and Haiti, said that it was the largest group of persons
graduated in a single event held throughout the church in Inter-America. “We
are excited because these literacy circles in different communities in El
Salvador are like a springboard to merge people into the educational system
helping them earn a high school diploma and pursue a national exam,” explained

More than 6,000 persons have been certified through more than 650
literacy circles led by more than 520 volunteers, according to Juan Pablo
Ventura, ADRA El Salvador director.

“The significant accomplishment of the program is the partnership
of ADRA El Salvador and the church,” said Ventura. “It’s been challenging to
link both and let the community know that ADRA is not only an agency that comes
to the aid when disaster comes, but one that can be seen as an organization
that can enable the church in the fulfillment of its social responsibility,” he

Pastor Abel Pacheco, president of the church in El Salvador, is
happy to see that the church has brought programs of this type to the community
for the first time. “This type of service to the community has allowed us to
establish ties and be known to communities, government agencies and private
entities, as a people who care for their fellowman,” said Pastor Pacheco.

Among those who graduated from the literacy program was Fermin
Requeno, mayor of the San Juan de la Reyna Municipal district in the state of
San Miguel. “Knowing how to read and write has changed my life,” said Requeno.
Requeno is now among the main promoters of education in his community.

Graduate Maria Elena Gonzalez, 70, works at a laundry service in a
medical center in the Apopa municipal district and was among a group of 22
people who attended the literacy circle there.

<strong>National Literacy Coordinator</strong> for the Ministry of Education in El Salvador Angelica Paniagua [PHOTO: Menendez]

“My family was so poor and I wasn’t able to get an education,”
said Gonzalez. “I felt so bad every time I went to the bank to cash my check
because I didn’t know how to write my name, so I decided to make an effort and
learn how to read and write.”

Each graduate was awarded with a brand new Bible.

Eradicating illiteracy throughout the territory is still very
present in the minds of church leaders, said Amundson.

Although statistics vary from country to country, said Amundson,
Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Honduras have seen the illiteracy index go down

To date, Hope for Humanity has funded literacy programs in nine
countries in the IAD. Among the 3.6 million IAD church membership, there are
estimates of several hundreds of thousands of church members who do not know
how to read or write.

“Literacy is a challenge in the Adventist Church in Inter-America
and other parts of the world,” said DiPinto. “We say that we are people of the
Word, but there are millions of church members world-wide who do not know how
to read their Bibles or their Sabbath school lessons.”

IAD wants to implement more programs based in the church, said
Amundson. “These literacy programs, which are led by the initiative and
participation of church members, make the program successful because there is
an infrastructure available to bring together various ministries of the church
to form groups of volunteers.”

Pastor Pacheco said the church in El Salvador had set a goal for
2014 to turn every one of its 930 Adventist Churches into a literacy circle for
their communities. So far literacy circles in El Salvador have 175

Hope for Humanity is the name of the North American Division’s annual
ingathering program. The initiative funds literacy programs in many countries
around the world. Since the year 2000, more than 100,000 people have learned
how to read and write thanks to more than 10,000 volunteers.

more information on Hope for Humanity, visit Hope4.com