Settit Beyene - Progressio ICS
In Spring 2013, 22 year old Settit Beyene completed a ten week project in rural El Salvador where she was worked on developing sustainable agriculture and community infrastructure. Settit, who completed the project with international development charity Progressio, was aided on her venture by the Jack Petchey Foundation after receiving one of the charity’s Individual Grants for Volunteering.
Settit, from Ealing in West London, said the experience was wholly worthwhile, both for the communities she helped, and for her own personal development. “Unlike many other charities which perpetuate ‘voluntourism’ and charge exorbitant fees for volunteering that can actually hinder the local people, Progressio are ethical in the practice, working alongside local communities to tackle poverty and improve lives. I had an unforgettable experience, which words can hardly do justice.”
Settit was based in the rural town of Santa Marta, which is located to the north of the country’s capital. Working alongside Salvadorian national volunteers, the first half of the project focused on converting the community’s greenhouses into fully organic facilities to reduce the usage of chemicals in the community’s agricultural work. The second half of the project encompassed various issues to do with community and heritage, and developing the Santa Marta Tourist Route.“Their history is very much a part of their present and it was to this end that we set about honouring the past. We helped to restore underground shelters and develop walking trails and campsites, as well as painting a mural in the town hall, depicting the history of the community and country. We also conducted interviews with veterans in the community and recorded their testimonials of Santa Marta’s past. By illuminating the past of this community, we helped to develop the appeal of Santa Marta for tourists.”
Settit also aided many young women with job applications and entry into further study. There is a gender imbalance in El Salvador, and Settit helped to assess the building of a womens only communal space to enable them to socialise out of their homes. Finally, Settit took part in a litter campaign, clearing up waste in schools and the town plaza, while she also organised a ‘Day of Drawing’ for children in the community.
Settit has aspirations to work in third world development and said this experience will be a huge benefit for her future career. She also said how her proficiency in Spanish improved dramatically; “The exposure I gained from volunteering and living within a community was invaluable, and I will now continue to learn Spanish to a more advanced level.”
To find out more about Progressio's work in El Salvador, visit: www.progressio.org.uk
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