Adventist News

El Salvador: Church Changes Thousands of Lives Through Literacy Program

BY GUSTAVO MENEDEZ, reporting from Soyapango, San Salvador, El Salvador

Thousands of people learned how to read and write thanks to the months-long efforts of Seventh-day Adventist church members in El Salvador and Hope for Humanity.

More than 2,500 held their literacy completion certificates high overhead during a special celebration held recently in Don Bosco Auditorium in Soyapango, San Salvador, El Salvador.

National Literacy Coordinator for the Ministry of Education in El Salvador Angelica Paniagua, applauded the efforts of the Adventist Church for its partnership and commitment in holding literacy courses throughout hundreds of communities across the Central American country. “I have no words to express our gratitude on behalf of the Ministry of Education in El Salvador to Hope for Humanity and the [Adventist] church because they are our main partner in the process of eradicating illiteracy,” said Paniagua.“Thanks to your help, the government’s partnership and other institutions, we have been able to lower the illiteracy rate from 17 percent to 13 percent.”

The day’s celebration was a time to thank the hundreds of volunteers who commit to teaching others how to read week after week, as the United Nations observes the International Volunteer Day December 5th every year.

<strong>Movers and Shakers</strong>Maitland DiPinto (left) and Wally Amundson

During his keynote address, Maitland DiPinto of the North American Division’s Hope for Humanity, was thrilled to see the fruits of the work of so many volunteers. “I am so impressed with the commitment of volunteers who invest more than two hours every day, four times per week, eight months every year and then begin the cycle again the following year to help transform lives,” said DiPinto. “This is not by chance, this is a real commitment.”

Literacy is a transforming process of life, emphasized DiPinto. “The person who learns how to read and write has a new vision in life, a new perspective.”

Wally Amundson, Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) director for Inter-America, who has been overseeing literacy programs throughout the Inter-American Division (IAD) territory in Mexico, Central America, Dominican Republic, and Haiti, said that it was the largest group of persons graduated in a single event held throughout the church in Inter-America. “We are excited because these literacy circles in different communities in El Salvador are like a springboard to merge people into the educational system helping them earn a high school diploma and pursue a national exam,” explained Amundson.

More than 6,000 persons have been certified through more than 650 literacy circles led by more than 520 volunteers, according to Juan Pablo Ventura, ADRA El Salvador director.

“The significant accomplishment of the program is the partnership of ADRA El Salvador and the church,” said Ventura. “It’s been challenging to link both and let the community know that ADRA is not only an agency that comes to the aid when disaster comes, but one that can be seen as an organization that can enable the church in the fulfillment of its social responsibility,” he explained.

Pastor Abel Pacheco, president of the church in El Salvador, is happy to see that the church has brought programs of this type to the community for the first time. “This type of service to the community has allowed us to establish ties and be known to communities, government agencies and private entities, as a people who care for their fellowman,” said Pastor Pacheco.

Among those who graduated from the literacy program was Fermin Requeno, mayor of the San Juan de la Reyna Municipal district in the state of San Miguel. “Knowing how to read and write has changed my life,” said Requeno. Requeno is now among the main promoters of education in his community.

Graduate Maria Elena Gonzalez, 70, works at a laundry service in a medical center in the Apopa municipal district and was among a group of 22 people who attended the literacy circle there.

<strong>National Literacy Coordinator</strong> for the Ministry of Education in El Salvador Angelica Paniagua [PHOTO: Menendez]

“My family was so poor and I wasn’t able to get an education,” said Gonzalez. “I felt so bad every time I went to the bank to cash my check because I didn’t know how to write my name, so I decided to make an effort and learn how to read and write.”

Each graduate was awarded with a brand new Bible.

Eradicating illiteracy throughout the territory is still very present in the minds of church leaders, said Amundson.

Although statistics vary from country to country, said Amundson, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Honduras have seen the illiteracy index go down significantly.

To date, Hope for Humanity has funded literacy programs in nine countries in the IAD. Among the 3.6 million IAD church membership, there are estimates of several hundreds of thousands of church members who do not know how to read or write.

“Literacy is a challenge in the Adventist Church in Inter-America and other parts of the world,” said DiPinto. “We say that we are people of the Word, but there are millions of church members world-wide who do not know how to read their Bibles or their Sabbath school lessons.”

IAD wants to implement more programs based in the church, said Amundson. “These literacy programs, which are led by the initiative and participation of church members, make the program successful because there is an infrastructure available to bring together various ministries of the church to form groups of volunteers.”

Pastor Pacheco said the church in El Salvador had set a goal for 2014 to turn every one of its 930 Adventist Churches into a literacy circle for their communities. So far literacy circles in El Salvador have 175 facilitators.

Hope for Humanity is the name of the North American Division’s annual ingathering program. The initiative funds literacy programs in many countries around the world. Since the year 2000, more than 100,000 people have learned how to read and write thanks to more than 10,000 volunteers.

For more information on Hope for Humanity, visit

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