"Together with the local government and the schools, we are involving the whole community and local non-governmental organizations in the production of knowledge products, school and community gardens, and climate change adaptation through volunteer actions."
Five international UN Volunteers from Brazil are in El Salvador working on the implementation of the 'Escuelas Vivas' (Living Schools) project in the country. The project is an initiative of the Government of Brazil, as part of its international actions to fight hunger, and the Government of El Salvador, in collaboration with the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme.
El Salvador is located in a region that is prone to natural disasters. This is why the project focuses on disaster risk reduction and food security in one of the most vulnerable areas of the country, with the UN Volunteers working on building capacity in the communities regarding adequate prevention and effective response measures.
The UN Volunteers will help to sustainably improve food security and nutrition in and around three schools of Tepetitán, Verapaz and Guadalupe municipalities, training students, their families, teachers and other members of the community to grow vegetables in school and family-run gardens.
"The project will benefit three communities and help directly to improve the lives of more than 1,000 families. Together with the local government and the schools, we are involving the whole community and local non-governmental organizations in the production of knowledge products, school and community gardens, and climate change adaptation through volunteer actions."
-- Flavio Lopes Ribeiro, Coordinator of the team of Brazilian UN Volunteers in El Salvador "
The Brazilian UN Volunteers are specialists in various areas, including agronomy, health, nutrition, risk management, gender and education.
Aside from applying their technical skills, they will be training youth volunteers in the schools and communities, enabling them to replicate the trainings and acquire leadership skills.
The UN Volunteers arrived in the Department of San Vicente almost at the same time as a tropical storm that lasted for more than nine days and caused great destruction in the entire country.
"Our programme and everything else in the region was interrupted," Flavio explains. "But our volunteerism spirit was kept alive, and we joined efforts with the local Civil Protection Committee to help the families in need."
Their actions included helping with the construction of shelters for more than 500 people, putting together food baskets for the affected families, evaluating landslide risks in the nearby volcano, and assessing post-disaster needs, among others.
"I am working to relieve human suffering, in close contact with people who are deprived of food, and suffer violence, prejudice and poverty. This is what volunteers do: we donate our energy and personal abilities as a small gift to the world, and what we receive back is beyond words," said Flavio at a General Assembly session on 5 December dedicated to the follow up to the International Year of Volunteers.
"I am a volunteer because I want a better world, and I know that we can only achieve it together."