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SEEING CENTRAL AMERICAN YOUTH AS HUMAN BEINGS, Book Review by David Bacon, 01 SEPTEMBER 2014

There is violence in Central America, as everywhere, much of it the consequence of social inequality and poverty. But violence in El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Honduras mushroomed because of the United States policy of sponsoring wars against popular movements for social change. Huge social dislocation and violence are today the legacy of those wars, not just in Central America, but in the US as well.

That violence is the subject of Donna De Cesare's book, Unsettled/Desasosiego. De Cesare spent two decades taking photographs of Salvadoran young people, documenting the impact of violence on their lives. Her work is as far from media stereotype as one can get. She clearly loves the Salvadoran people whose lives have intersected her own, and her involvement with and commitment to them extends over many years. Her concern is to show the humanity of what is now a Salvadoran binational community, as it tries to deal with the consequences of war and migration.


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U.S. TRADE AND IMMIGRATION POLICIES--NOT "LAX IMMIGRATION ENFORCEMENT"--HAVE CAUSED MIGRATION FROM CENTRAL AMERICA By David Bacon 3 August 2014

Meanwhile, the story is being manipulated by the Tea Party and conservative Republicans to attack Obama's executive action deferring the deportation of young people, along with any possibility he might expand it the demand of many immigrant rights advocates. More broadly, the Right wants to shut down any immigration reform that includes legalization, and instead is gunning for harsher enforcement measures. Even Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly, commander of U.S. Southern Command, has sought to frame migration as a national security threat, calling it a "crime-terror convergence," and describing it as "an incredibly efficient network along which anything - hundreds of tons of drugs, people, terrorists, potentially weapons of mass destruction or children - can travel, so long as they can pay the fare."

This push for greater enforcement ignores the real reasons families take the desperate measure of leaving home and trying to cross the border. Media coverage focuses on gang violence in Central America, as though it was spontaneous and unrelated to a history of U.S.-promoted wars and a policy of mass deportations.


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My Trip to Haiti by Cindy Fung

16 June 2014

Walking hand in hand with them, I became really aware that I was tracing the paths that they take to go to school every day. At that moment, it suddenly struck me that the three of them – who are all around 8 years old – have never known a life without the primary school, or a life without the lunch program that VHP has been funding since day one.

In that moment, I felt overwhelmed by how tremendous a responsibility VHP has taken on. Our motto is “creating change through art” – but it isn’t until you realize that a whole generation of kids is growing up with one meal a day, with a stable primary education, with health care, with water access, that you really start to grasp how the funds we send to Chermaitre really, truly, change lives. VHP is 13 years old. Even just within the four years that I’ve been at Vassar, we’ve transformed and expanded in so many ways. But one thing that hasn’t changed and will not change is our commitment to partnership: to build trusting relationships.

Before we go on these trips, VHP’s Co-Founders, Andrew and Lila Meade, always tell us that the ‘being’ is more important than the ‘doing.’ Going to Chermaitre this second time round, I think I finally understood what they meant. ‘To be’ means being comfortable with walking in silence with Cati, Chilove, and Youvelia. It means being okay with not always having the answers, or the statistics, or the exact measurements to things. Because Cati and her friends are not statistics – they are people whose lives we are affecting in very tangible ways. They are the generous hosts who open their homes to us and welcome us with open arms.

VHP’s responsibility is tremendous, and overwhelming, but we’ll be able to do everything step by step, because we realize that we are not the fixers. We are just people here, in Poughkeepsie, who are lucky enough to share a connection and partnership with people there, in Chermaitre. For those of us who had the privilege to experience this partnership firsthand, we’ve come home with many stories to tell. We invite you to experience the Haitian artwork, and share in our work in Chermaitre:

Cindy Fung

Class of 2014, Vassar College