Excelling Through Poverty
Fourteen years ago, young Eduardo Menjivar Valencia had no choice but to drop out of school and work on his parents’ farm near San Pablo Tacachico, El Salvador. Then, an unexpected opportunity transformed his life — one that has permanently lifted him, and his family, out of poverty.
A bright student with a promising academic future, Eduardo had excelled through the ninth grade. Still, his impoverished parents — neither of whom could read nor write — were unable to scrape together the $6 per day he would need to continue his studies at the nearest public high school. These expenses, for transportation and meals, exceeded his family’s daily earnings.
“They had already sacrificed so much to get their son to that point,” says Salvador H. Canjura, regional coordinator for the Salesians’ Central American Office for Development Projects. “As much as they wanted to see Eduardo continue his studies, it simply wasn’t going to be possible.”
Enter the Fundación Salvador del Mundo (Salvador Foundation of the World), or FUSALMO.
Founded in 2001, this Salesian-run non-governmental organization offers traditional and non-traditional educational opportunities for marginalized youth living in and around the country’s capital. Through recreation, personal enrichment programs, vocational training and more, FUSALMO has helped more than 265,000 boys and girls gain the skills they need to become productive, contributing members of society. When staff learned of Eduardo’s circumstances, they invited him to participate in an innovative program, known as the “CAP Project,” at Don Bosco High School in San Salvador.
The CAP Project prepared students to enter the workforce through short-term training courses and job placement assistance. Longer programs, such as the one Eduardo enrolled in, supported students as they completed their mainstream high school education.
Thanks to this opportunity, Eduardo completed high school, attended Don Bosco University in El Salvador on full scholarship (where he studied communications sciences), and earned his master’s degree at the University of Sabana in Colombia. While still a student there, school administrators invited him to develop new courses related to the use of technology in the educational sector. That experience, in turn, led him back to Don Bosco University where the 30-year-old now serves as Director of Virtual Education. He also plans to pursue his doctorate in the near future.
While his hard-earned successes are surely a cause for celebration, Eduardo does not take anything for granted. “If it hadn’t been for the Salesians and CAP, I would not be where I am today. Now, I can support my aging parents, secure in the knowledge that we have left the hardships of poverty far behind.”
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