Many families in this small and densely populated Central American country have been left with deep psychological, emotional and physical scars as a result of illness and years of conflict.
Extreme poverty and gang violence continue to plague communities in El Salvador despite a UN-brokered peace agreement ending the civil war in 1992. The most vulnerable like the disabled are often ostracised, ignored, bullied and stigmatised, even in their own homes, and they receive no extra health care support from the government.
SCIAF (Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund) has been working with local partner CESTA (Friends of the Earth El Salvador) for the past eight years, helping people with disabilities, including many severely injured during the war, overcome the challenges they face, fight for their rights, lift themselves out of poverty and become champions for the disabled in their communities.
CESTA brings people with a disability together to form local associations, offer training so they know their legal rights, provide small loans and grants to help them set up and run their own businesses.
The team at CESTA also provide livestock such as chickens, seeds and tools so they can support themselves and work their way out of poverty.
Linda Guadalupe Rubio, the head of CESTA’s disability project, said: “There are many problems in El Salvador facing disabled people including invisibility, the lack of rights, accessibility of public transport and public places. There are also no specialist health care provisions for people with disabilities.
“We’re empowering others to realise their rights and give them the tools to fight for them. We need to leave the knowledge with the people.
“Through a national committee for people with disabilities, we’re holding meetings at a political level to try and influence the government and change policy.”
SCIAF Director Alistair Dutton said it was vital that Scots remember people in need around the world this Christmas by supporting its appeal and giving them the gift of hope for the future.
He said: “Christmas is a time for hope and joy to triumph over adversity. It gives us the opportunity to stop and think about the important things in our lives and hold our loved ones close. It is also a time to consider those less fortunate than ourselves – like the inspirational disabled people we are helping in El Salvador – thanks to the generosity of our Scottish supporters.
“Scotland has a long history of caring and generosity, and I urge everyone to support our Christmas Appeal to help give families in poor countries the gift of hope, dignity and the tools they need to work their way out of poverty. Your donation will change the lives of communities living in poverty and help bring hope for the future.”