Tell us about the community that you engage? eg. economic conditions, political structures, norms and values, demographic trends, history, and experience with engagement efforts.
As mentioned before, the community of Guarjila is a close-knit group of people who have been forever tied together by a violent twelve-year civil war that gripped the country until 1992. The battle raged in both neighborhoods and cities, and whole households and family members were lost; the people lived through a nightmare, as boys were taken to be child soldiers on both sides of the conflict by the time they turned twelve. People sought shelter in Honduras, where conditions were just as horrific. One specific group of refugees, however, decided to return and build Guarjila from the ashes of a still torn El Salvador in 1987. Interestingly, the health program that the clinic currently relies on was started the same year the community was founded (the actual brick and mortar clinic was completed in 1991). In this way, Clinica Ana Manganaro’s presence in the community is central with values that are so aligned with the people. From these humble beginnings, Guarjila has since grown to almost 2,400, developing an economy that is highly dependent on agriculture, especially corn. From its founding during the war when no strong government was present, the clinic has maintained an authoritative, governing role, and most decisions and programs for the community are implemented by the nurses, doctors, and health promoters who staff CAM. This engagement has thus far been extremely successful, including elaborate census work, sanitation initiatives (trash disposal), and even infrastructure (construction of latrines). A lot of this is due to the fact that nearly all the nurses and health promoters are actually members of the community of Guarjila. The chief doctor and director of the clinic himself is a Guarjila local. Thus, the norms and values of the clinic are aligned with the community, which are rooted in a reliance on teamwork and compassion, adopted nonetheless by overcoming the hardships of war. Demographically, the community is still largely represented by the mixed Spanish and American Indian people, characteristic of northern El Salvador. It is also worth noting that the prevalence of households supported entirely by single mothers has increased greatly, primarily due to many male figures leaving to find more sustainable jobs elsewhere. It must also be highlighted that the community the clinic serves is not only limited to Guarjila but also expands to seven other municipalities in Northeastern El Salvador (who nonetheless face most of the same conditions as the residents of Guarjila).
Share the story of the founder and what inspired the founder to start this project
If the history of Guarjila has shown anything, it is the resilience of the human condition. Surviving one of the most violent, longstanding wars in history, the people returned, reunited with what family that could, and showed that even in the most terrible conditions, people have the ability to act to make a change. For the people of Guarjila, this change came through the work of physician Sister Ana Manganaro and Father Jon Cortina, two individuals who took it upon themselves to build a clinic, empower a workforce, and serve a crippled nation.
Currently, the clinic is under the direction of Dr. Dagoberto Menjivar, who continues the work started by Sister Ana and Padre Jon. He follows their same mission, focusing on empowering the community through the clinics extensive and continuosly expanding programs. This specific mother-infant nutrition project, Dr. Dagoberto explains, was inspired by the enormous priority the clinic has given to pregnant and nursing mothers since its founding. Boasting a near 0 infant mortality rate, this project hopes to extend the clinic's expertise in this area, while also teaching a new generation the importance of a healthy diet and proper nutrition. The allure of free food is a global phenomenon that doesn't escape Guarjila, but Dr. Dagoberto hopes to capitalize on this draw by prioritizing healthy eating habits and nutrition for a growing generation. Along the way of course, he still manages to bolster the local agricultural economy and provide a source of income for many single mothers who staff the clinic.