El Salvador Encounter is a faith-based delegation experience where participants learn from the Salvadoran people about their lives, histories and hopes for the future. A major focus of the encounter is to reflect on the meaning of working for justice rather than working for charity, understanding one's role as a global citizen and humanizing the different issues that are present in our societies.
Encounters are 7 to 10 days long and offer the opportunity to explore a different reality while focusing on a theme chosen by the group. Participants learn directly from the Salvadorans about issues such as the impact of war, neo-liberal economics, U.S. foreign policy, migration, mining, the environment and a tradition of liberating faith.
The focus of the El Salvador Encounter program is not only to develop a greater knowledge of El Salvador as a whole, but also to develop an understanding of the people and to build relationships. The El Salvador Encounter program is sponsored by CRISPAZ. We have been leading tours and seminars to El Salvador since 1985. Our in-country staff can organize a delegation to meet the needs and interests of your group.
Every Encounter organizer and participant wants to know what they will be seeing and doing while in El Salvador. This section is designed to help you understand how CRISPAZ sets up your itinerary and to give you the information you need to fill out the interest sheets and communicate to our staff your wishes and interests for the trip.
All CRISPAZ El Salvador Encounters include: visits to martyr sites, grassroots organizations, a rural community, as well as speakers on history, politics, economics and more importantly current issues as well as a time for shopping for fair trade crafts and cultural activities. Unless you tell us otherwise, we will incorporate these activities into your schedule with your input on special interests and requests. This will form the core of your itinerary. If your group or individuals in the group have requests for speakers or have a particular interest in one of the areas of your core itinerary, please let us know and we will happily do what we can to schedule with those interests in mind.
We give special emphasis in all of our Encounters to the voice and experience of the poor and marginalized of El Salvador. Taking our inspiration from Monsignor Romero, we want to give voice to the voiceless. We encourage you to address with your group your level of interest in meeting with people who also represent more powerful groups and other sectors of society. It is our desire to provide for your group the opportunity to learn from various political, social, economic and religious sectors according to the interests of the participants. But, because your time in El Salvador is limited it isn't possible to hear a variety of perspectives or see a variety of approaches to every topic you learn about. Your interest surveys will help us understand your priorities.
In order to understand the priorities of the group, we ask you to choose a theme on which to focus your Encounter. This will allow you to deepen your understanding of a particular area of interest and see more than one group or organization who is addressing the issue. Some of the basic itinerary activities can be planned in such a way as to tie in to your theme as well if you want to further deepen your understanding of a topic.
If not, the basic itinerary activities listed above will be your general overview and your theme will allow you to deepen understanding on that topic. As the organizer, you can either set the Encounter theme, looking for participants who are interested in that topic, or, once you have a group together, reach consensus on the interests of the group and focus theme. Either way, we ask that you communicate to CRISPAZ what you would like the theme to be at the same time that you send in your deposit to reserve your dates. CRISPAZ will send you a reservation form in the initial inquiry packet. Please send this form with your deposit payment.
This has helped me incredibly. I only knew the country's background before arriving, and now I feel like I am part of this country forever. I want to go back home and share the stories of these people and my new second family in Arcatao to people in the U.S. and hope to promote some kind of change.
- Tara Cannon, Fordham University –NYC '12
"I was particularly moved by the call to authenticity as we encountered El Salvador. This is really integral that we take off our masks so as to as humbly, truthfully and openly listen, build relationships and reflect. The emphasis placed on how we individually (being agents of change) and communally integrate this experience is integral but will take time. I was struck by how we were truly blessed with love, laughter, truth and compassion by those we met in El Salvador"
- Valerie Sarma, Santa Clara University –CA '11
Santa Marta opened my eyes to the reality of Salvadorans living in the countryside. The experience I had in this community was humbling and made me realize that I must work towards human rights, and now I am especially drawn to El Salvador. I find the education issues in the campo to be the most compelling because every child deserves the right to learn and have proper education.
- Kristin Beckert, Loyola University- Maryland '11
My experiences of the last week didn't answer any of the great questions that permeate my mind regarding life and its meanings. Instead it renewed my interest in such questions and gave them new context. I've always struggled with the difference between charity and social justice, but my experiences here in El Salvador here have made the difference abundantly clear. Social justice is equivalent to empathy, and it entails becoming one with the people in need of aid. Instead of sympathizing with the child in the UNICEF ad and asking for donations we were able to spend time in an impoverished community. The message they shared with us in that community was deep and profound and cannot be communicated through ink on a page. The smiles, laughs, kisses, and tears shared with all the people I encountered will stay with me.¨
- Elizabeth Crosby
I feel like working with CRISPAZ really guided my entire experience in El Salvador. The meetings they set up for our delegation were always very engaging and interesting; they were moving/touching even when they were hard to hear. The organization did a very good job of creating environments where some light could always be found amongst the darkness.
- Veronica Bosco, Fordham University –NYC '12
"I would like to return to El Salvador. I've spent the last couple of years of my life searching for ¨it¨ and I've never felt so much definition in feeling like this – and I think it is because the experience gave me very holistic view of El Salvador, from the very bottom of the pyramid and up. I think it's difficult to see people struggling for a better standard of life, yet they are not in the position to. It has nothing to do with working hard – Salvadorans are some of the most hardworking people I know."
- Stella Tran, Santa Clara University -CA '11
I think the variety of organizations that we encountered gave me a better understanding of the healing and continual struggle for peace and social justice in this country. As a person who has had interest and involvement in social justice for many years, this trip definitely opened my eyes to the international network of solidarity and the incredible NGO network that exists in El Salvador. I could not say which NGO we went with that I found most compelling, but the interconnectedness of them made it clear how mutual support and knowledge of these organizations made this encounter unforgettable.
- Anne Brewka , Fordham University '11
This trip has touched me in a way that I'm not sure I yet can fully comprehend. My beliefs and my ideals have been questioned. I have learned about a people with huge hearts and grand hope for the future in the country they adore. I am returning home a new person, as coming here has helped me identify my strengths and my weaknesses. I would recommend this trip to everyone who has the chance to take it. It has been a one-of-a-kind experience that I am so thankful that I was given the change to take
- Emily Dougherty, May 2008
“This encounter was able to pull me out of my own reality and to grow in an understanding of “other”. I have witnessed the powerful ways that God is working in El Salvador through its people who encounter God so purely. In response, I feel called to more deeply contemplate how I can better give my life away for others, and to do this while holding closely the stories I have heard here.”
- Alexander Garoutte, Boston College STM, 2015
“This encounter showed the truth within this beautiful country and just helped to capture the struggles faced in the everyday life as well as struggles caused by a recent war.”
- Dana Parker, Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School, 2016
“It is an experience that I know will continue to have a great impact on my life long after I leave.”
- Rachel Withington, Clemson United Methodist Church Youth Group, 2015
“I now see the value of international solidarity. We each can make a difference by being international in how we talk, what we buy, how we vote and in the decisions we make as future leaders in our communities.”
- Alexandra Marshall, Fordham University, 2016
“Thank you for the opportunity to gain insight to the reality of El Salvador that is so very different from how it is wrongfully construed in the media. Poverty and violence are absolutely problems, but I now feel a responsibility to live the truth of the culture here that is dignified, intelligent, spiritual, and human and in solidarity with others who want to work for peace and justice.”
- Rhianna McChesney, John Carroll University, 2015
“It has been a blessing to visit El Salvador. I can only hope that I can do justice in sharing the story of the people of El Salvador. Feeling the story helps to learn the story. We could have all just read a book or two to learn the story, but it wouldn’t have allowed us to feel the story and stand in kinship and solidarity.”
- Matthew Bazar, Loyola Marymount Staff and Faculty 2016
“The media in both, El Salvador and the US, do not portray El Salvador in the beautiful light that they deserve. The community of Papaturro has incredible jovenes organizing the government, and stories like this should be told just as often as stories of terror and violence.”
- Kirsten Truskowski, Scranton University, 2015
“I’m not sure I can just yet, but know that my heart and desire to serve is strong and we will continue to seek ways to serve the people in El Salvador.”
- John Petrie, Mechanicsburg Rotary Club, 2016
“CRISPAZ was able to create and experience that changed the way I think about things and strengthened my faith for the better. I feel a personal responsibility toward the people I have met and those I didn’t meet to help them achieve the justice and peace that they have been longing for so long.”
- Maggie Longhran, Loyola Marymount Ignacio Companions, 2015
“I feel I have been shown so much more than a snapshot of reality. In my work with student groups every day I help to plan their activities and events, when I return from this Encounter, I plan on helping students to add a social issue component to their activities.”
- Patricia Cummings, The Jesuit Center at the University of Scranton, 2016
“I feel called to action. I want to go home and make this trip mean something.”
- Jordan Barnett, St. Ignatius College Prep, 2016
“CRISPAZ helped me “feel with the church” for what I am truly grateful. It has given me the fire to drive me for justice out of love for people who are oppressed.”
- Michael McGrath, Xavier University, 2015
“This Encounter allowed me to find passion in global justice, through seeing and learning about things we so often take for granted.”
- Casey Hendricks, Santa Clara University, 2015
“This Encounter has allowed me to experience the very powerful and painful side of immigration justice. It has motivated me to into how I can incorporate this type of social justice issues into my future career. Both in clinic and research domains.”
- Andrea Maxwell, St. Mary Student Parish, 2016
“Before I came, I had done some reading and felt like I basically understood the plight. Honestly, I had no idea! And in all that we learned, I feel very small and almost ashamed of the bubble I was living in. I’m not sure where I see myself going with this information. I’m still processing it, but I can say that I'm leaving a changed person and will do my part to share the Salvadoran story.”
- Deanna Chappie, St. Michael & Sts. Peter and Paul Churches, 2016
“I am encouraged to believe that small steps matter.”
- Janet Walton, Union Theological Seminary, 2015
“This encounter really showed me that El Salvador is a country more than gang violence. I learned that these people are important and each person has an identity and a story.”
- Lilia Sciarretti, University of Dayton, 2016
“Living in the homestays and the town of Carasque made me open my eyes to simplicity and solidarity. I was overwhelmed by the amount of love and struggle of these people. The information about the massacres and other political issues was very powerful. The influence of Romero showed me the true power of God and his commitment to his people."
- Sophia Murray Carroll HS, 2015
“I believe, with my whole heart, in the beauty and grace that CRISPAZ offers its participants. Keep up the great work! It is absolutely beautiful and touching.”
- Sarah Cornwell, University of Detroit Mercy, 2016
“Encounter allowed me to find myself in a country far from home. Being a completely new experience, it is impossible to ever completely prepare for it. Thus, in a moment of vulnerability and exposure, the genuinely and honestly produced is absolutely unique. The solidarity concluded, thus, makes the connection with the Salvadorans absolute and complete. This whole journey is an emotional ride.”
- Patricia Bryan, Loyola University Maryland, 2015
“While here your heart can’t help but be moved. I want to carry the feelings I’ve felt here with me forever. I feel so passionate and want to help the injustice, dehumanization, etc. and change how I can.”
- Lily Deinhart, Mount Notre Dame High School, 2016
“Please continue to try and inspire kids to come on these trips. This has been the most eye-opening and life-changing week of my entire life.”
- Anonymous, Moeller HS, 2015
“This was an amazing experience and I learned so much about myself and the people of El Salvador. I can’t wait to take what I learned and share it with my community. The people of El Salvador will forever be in my heart.”
- Krista Pinyar, University of San Diego, 2016
“The homestay was a wonderful experience where we got to hear individual stories and really experience the community. That experience created a lot of positive, hopeful emotions.”
- Anonymous, Dominican University, 2016
CRISPAZ is thankful to the following delegations for participating in the CRISPAZ-El Salvador Encounter Program.
University of Santa Clara, Santa Clara, CA
Fordham University, Bronx, NY
Canisius College, Buffalo, NY
University of Dayton, Dayton, OH
University of Scranton, Scranton, PA
Loyola University, Baltimore, MD
University of San Diego, San Diego, CA
Xavier University, Cincinnati, OH
Boston College the School of Theology and Ministry, Boston, MA
The Dominican University of California, San Rafael, CA
Loyola Marymount, Los Angeles, CA
Michigan University, St. Mary's student parish, Ann Arbor, MI
John Carroll University, Cleveland, OH
St. Catherine University, St. Paul, MN
Union Theological Seminary, Manhattan, NY
Northwest University, WA
Holy Names College, Oakland, CA
Fairfield University, Fairfield, CT
University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
Davidson College, Davidson, NC
Stonehill University, Easton, MA
Seattle University, Seattle, WA
Spring Hill College, Mobile, AL
University of Detroit Mercy Detroit, MI
The Jesuit Center at the University of Scranton, Scranton, PA
The Ignatian Solidarity Network, Nationwide delegation
representing 22 Jesuit Universities, High Schools and Parishes.
Equal Exchange, Boston, MA
Archdiocese of Cincinnati Mission Office, Cincinnati, OH
Diocese of Scranton, Scranton, PA
Via Crucis, Mechanicsburg, PA
Wellsprings, Oldham, United Kingdom
Urban Catholic Teacher Corp of Boston College
Rotary Club of Mechanicsburg, Mechanicsburg, PA
St. Ignatius College Prepatory, San Francisco, CA
Brebeuf Prepatory High School, Indianapolis, IN
Elder High School, Cincinnati, OH
St. Francis High Shool, Mountain View, CA
Moeller High School, Cincinnati. OH
Luther College High School, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada
Purcell Marian High School, Cincinnati, OH
Villa Angela St. Joseph High School, Cleveland, OH
Caroll High School, Dayton, OH
Mount Notre Dame High School, Cincinnati, OH
Covenant United Methodist Church, Spokane, WA
St. John the Baptist Church, Harrison, OH
St. Michael's Church, Ft. Lorraime, OH
St. Rita's Church, Solon, OH.
First Congregational Church of Elyria, Elyria, OH
Clemson United Methodist Church Clemson, SC